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VIEWS Our lives do depend on it
by Mark Zubro

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I've heard whispers of hopelessness, rising in some quarters to a clamor of despair.

Despair? Not an option. I certainly sympathize, but I definitely disagree with those who see despair as our only option in light of their fears about what the orange monster and his willing minions have done and could still do to us and our country.

No question these are frightening times, but that does not mean we have to live in fear.

My perspective is twofold: historical and personal.

I remember sitting in our living room those horrible days in November 1963. My mother in tears on the couch as we watched his funeral. I remember looking out the windows of our dorm in St. Louis after Martin Luther King was murdered. We wondered if St. Louis would burn as so many cities were in flames that night. I remember turning off the television after Bobby gave his victory speech in June of that year. Then waking up in our apartment the next morning with the neighbor's television blaring with the horrible news of his death. I remember waking up on that day in November 1968 and realizing Nixon would be our president.

I remember being a frightened gay teenager in the 1960s, and a closeted gay teacher in the 1970s. In the 1980s working for LGBTQ rights, and then becoming president of the teachers' union in my school district for the last twenty years that I taught, and for the last twenty-nine years publishing very political novels and short stories.

I know, we all know, the horrors our community has been through for millennia. The 1950s when few of us dared use our real names if we were organizing or speaking out. People lost their jobs then and still could now in many jurisdictions in this country. We all know how in the 1980s the administration laughed at us and let us die.

Did that stop us from fighting? No.

The African-American community? Remember, from Dred Scott in the 1850s to Brown vs. Board of Education in the 1950s, they lost most if not all of their court fights; including the infamous Plessy vs. Ferguson that declared separate was equal.

A century or more of Jim Crow, did those years of horror stop the African-American community? No.

The horrors of a Holocaust are imprinted, or should be imprinted, on all of our memories. Should those memories stop us now or galvanize us? I chose galvanize.

Did any of us expect the current horror of taking children away from parents and putting them in camps? Maybe not in the specific, but are these people capable of such horrors and far worse? Of course.

Are things awful? Yes. Could they get worse? Yes.

So, do we sit and wallow in despair or do we fight?

In the book The Fellowship of the Ring this bit of dialogue takes place as Frodo faces the horror of what is happening and what is to come.

"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.

"So do I," said Gandalf. "And so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

I agree with this.

In my life I've been fighting since I was a teenager. I marched in the 1960s for Civil Rights and against the War. I worked on political campaigns. Then kept working for all these decades: LGBTQ groups, unions, writers' organizations, on and on.

Did we lose a lot? Yes. Did we win a bunch? Yes. Was it perfect? No. That didn't mean we stopped fighting.

And it's the same with the political situation now. I'm talking about the fight and never giving up.

Did we win some big ones? Sure. Nixon left in the middle of Watergate. Mandela went on to become President of South Africa. The Berlin wall fell peacefully. We won in court on marriage equality. Who among us could have predicted those would happen?

Crying, "It's too late, it's hopeless, all we have left is despair," strikes me as pointless. Despair strikes me as a luxury. Giving up and what? Crawling into a hole while the world collapses around us? That's not my style.

So as always, it's back to the fight. It has always been thus. I suspect long after I'm gone, it will continue to be so. Because we/I have not triumphed in vast glory with our side in wild cheering enthusiasm at final victories, I'm going to surrender now? No.

I'm here to suggest that the real triumphs lie in knowing we are doing the right thing, the very best we can. That we are trying to make the world a better place for others and ourselves.

I call it militant kindness. And we've got to be far better organized than they are.

Yes, they're going to continue to throw nonsense at us. They always do. And they will lie and continue to do so. That will not stop me.

And they'll tell us to be civil as they perpetrate atrocities. That will not stop me.

What do we do? We get up and fight again the next day. We can. We must. To be true to ourselves and to make the world a better place, do we really have a choice?

I don't.

Sometimes it is as simple and as powerful as voting.

So, yes, we continue to march, and fight, and confront them peacefully at restaurants and every chance we get, and vote in November.

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