After literally decades of struggle and suffering, folks in the LGBT (etc.) community can finally point to some strong, concrete gains in their quest for social recognition, acceptance and respect. The notion of marriage equality is gaining support across the nation, the military’s “don’t ask don’t tell” policy is now just a vague memory, and even the Boy Scouts of America have begun reconsidering their homophobic stance. More than at any time in recent history, they can feel the freedom to be exactly who they are, and no longer worry about concealing themselves behind an artificial facade.
And they aren’t alone. From women serving in the military to Hispanics serving in Congress, from undocumented workers to fans of “The Love Boat,” the members of many previously disparaged or disempowered minorities are emerging from the shadows, finding each other and standing together to assert their unique and distinctive selves, and claiming their rightful places in the rich, spicy gumbo that is our modern American society.
But we still have a long way to go. Too many of our fellow citizens still labor under the illusion that somehow, they are not good enough just as they are, and that they must therefore deny their true nature, and represent themselves as something that they really are not. We, all of us, as Americans and as fellow human beings, need to reach out to these people, support them in their quest for identity, and create safe social spaces for them so they can fully embrace both their heritages and their destinies. Let them no longer feel reticent to share their strivings for self-realization and the achievement of their dreams, but let them come right out and declare their most heartfelt wishes.
Take corporate executives, for example. How much energy and effort they needlessly expend to make themselves seem caring and compassionate about the everyday lives of their employees, when any worker knows the hard bottom-line realities they must face every day. Let us tell them, “We do understand the pressures on you, you first-class fliers! We know how hard it must be to face the investors on those weekly conference calls, to couch the true nature of the marketplace in glib platitudes! Go ahead, come out and say it, CEO’s—as long as greater profit can be realized for shareholders (and greater bonuses for yourselves) by squeezing workers more tightly, locking down their wages and pushing ever-greater workloads onto them, by golly, you’ll do it.”
There now, isn’t that liberating?
And consider those unfortunate souls within the national security apparatus of the Obama administration, as they wrestle with the ethical dilemmas of targeted assassinations, drone warfare, indefinite detentions and unwarranted surveillance. How diligently they struggle to establish legitimacy, to stake the high moral ground, when (let’s face it), who shows any intention of stopping them? Who could, even if they wanted to? Some conservatives claim that the left is giving Obama a pass on possible constitutional violations, but after what they let Bush get away with, what did they expect? So why bother with pretense? Let us tell them, “Just lay it out for us, guys and gals—you’ve got the power, and you intend to use it, legal standing or no.”
These are but two examples. There are so many others, from the fracking industry to the gun lobby to the plutocrats who fund election campaigns and union-busting legislation—people who seem somehow ashamed to admit their real motivations and let fly with their true desires. Let us hope they learn one of the key lessons of the struggle for gay liberation—first, you have to come out to yourself.