Occupy Wall Street and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell may mark the beginning of the end of an era of complacency, fundamentalism, and a privileged few.
The moment I realized I was gay, I also realized that I was going to get to make my life up. That is, if I wasn’t going to lead the life I was raised to live. My new life became a creative opportunity.
I also grew up in an era when the best things about being gay were that you didn’t have to serve in the army (provided you were courageous enough to be out) and you didn’t have to get married. I find I am gaining my rights, but am I losing my privileges in the process?
The phenomenon of the first baby boomers turning 65, my oldest brother among them, has me examining my generational heritage. As an activist, I am thrilled by the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and I cheer whenever a state grants marriage rights. However, as a hippie-generation Vietnam War protester, I am perplexed by how traditional this all seems.
Actually, I’d like to see the end of marriage: civil unions for all who want them, and marriage as a religious or social rite. As to the military, I know it sounds pie-in-the-sky and more than a bit naive, but I’d like to place metaphoric daisies in all the rifles and refocus on slogans such as, “War Is Unhealthy for Children and Other Living Things!”
Occupy Wall Street has done something I had begun to doubt would happen; they have taken on the mantle of activism and brought it into the 21st century—and with consensus decision-making, non-hierarchal structure, and no immediate goal other than to make it clear that complacency is no longer acceptable.
Our economy is top-heavy with military expenditures and underweighted toward art, nature, education, and their intersection. If Brazil and dozens of European nations, for example, can see arts funding as vital, then so should we. When I sold a house years ago and had $30,000 in capital gains tax, I despaired that I was possibly paying for one tire on a fighter plane. If I could have fed children or underwritten chamber music for toddlers, I’d have written that check with joy. I am one of those people who wouldn’t mind paying taxes if I could earmark my giving. Therefore, I use every loophole available and give money to works that make my heart sing: Friends in Deed, the Trevor Project, Doctors Without Borders, the Nature Conservatory, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Lambda Legal, to name a few.
Fuck the military budget. Fuck wars that solve nothing. And, please, enough with religion. I list myself on Facebook as a “free-range Buddhist” because I fear dogma, structure, and “us” and “them.” My great-uncle Joe, who was born in the 19th century, used to rant about burning down the churches and synagogues because they fomented hatred. Today, he would have added mosques to his list.
Call me unrealistic, call me an anarchist, call me bohemian, call me anything but a fundamentalist.
I am willing to give up the barefoot wedding in wrinkled linen on a beautiful sandy beach for the simple freedom to love and live and not kill. So let’s take a break from tradition and look at creating something new. The American dream is prime for reinvention: two cars and 2.2 children is outdated. John Lennon’s dream: imagine all the people living life in peace.
I have been impatient for post-gay culture. I have been looking to a younger generation to forge new visions of relationship, cooperation, and peace that transcend gender, sexuality, and race. We need to be pro-choice, pro-love, pro-peace, anti-homophobia, inclusive, and progressive. Occupy Wall Street may be the beginning of this new age.
And perhaps those of my generation who have survived AIDS and other challenges have the opportunity and the obligation to embrace being radical role models and do our part to help reclaim America’s good-guy image on the international scene, to present a 21st century model for strength: honesty, integrity, diversity, compassion, a willingness to correct for error, to make amends, and to support the well-being of all Americans and all human life.
—Photo The Washington Times (Susan Walsh/AP)