Reflections

Peace in Our Time

Note: I’ve linked to this post several times, so some of you may have already seen it, but I haven’t fully shared it in a long while. Despite the melancholy tone in most of this post, I need the uplifting message at the end, especially on this day when most of us reflect on what was and could be. This past year, and every year since a certain political party anointed a soulless savior, has seen an increasing cultural divide in this country and, really, much of the world.

Some people are behaving very, very badly. People with power, acting against other people who are somewhat powerless, marginalizing them, demonizing them, invalidating them. And this is inspiring a legion of morally-bankrupt, factually-ignorant sheep to join the soulless savior’s cause, bleating inanities as they tear at the fabric of decent society, clawing and ripping. And some of them, few in number now but growing, pull out a gun and desecrate even further, cheered on by that dark savior who then lies about his cheering.

Sound harsh? It shouldn’t. It’s the truth. And don’t even start on how all political parties are the same, how all politicians lie. There is no comparison. What we are seeing now is nothing less than one political party distorting truth and reality to such a point that the foundational cracks may become irreparable if the decent folks don’t make their voices heard. At this point, more than ever, silence is inexcusable.

So, I will continue to speak. Loudly and hopefully clearly. And I will share my stories about invalidation and marginalization, like the tiny tale below, and that is my singular resolution for 2020…

 

Friends,

Okay, taking a bit of a break from my normal routine of making fun of myself and my life circumstances, wherein we all have a good laugh and them move on. Just read a multi-post discussion on Facebook concerning whether or not to attend one’s approaching high-school reunion (whatever year-increment it may be).

First, let me say that I have never attended any of my reunions. Initially, I had no desire to go back. I could not WAIT to get out of that place, what I considered a hell-on-earth situation. I actually don’t have my high school diploma, because you had to go back to the high school after the graduation ceremony and show your cap in order to get the diploma. No interest in doing that. I don’t have my senior yearbook, even though I was on the yearbook staff, because you had to go back after graduation to get it. I ran like my butt was on fire and never looked back.

I graduated in 1983, so it’s been a while. Over the years, I did eventually contemplate going to a reunion. Just to see. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as my memories made me think. Then I would surreptitiously troll the websites where people were planning the reunions, and I was always marked as “unable to locate, can’t find him”. Hello? I’ve never had an unpublished number, my last name is pretty rare, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to track me down. Apparently, nobody wanted to try real hard to find me.

So I would go back to my dark place. The pain of the high school years would come bubbling up, and I would avoid the reunions.

See, I was this odd dichotomy in high school. President of my Junior Class. Student Council president my senior year. Hey, sounds good, right? People must like me. Yay. But I was also gay. A horrible secret that had to be hidden away in the early 80’s, and really, for years after that. And I guess I didn’t really hide it that well, because some people knew, or suspected, or were just hateful.

Picture this, especially those of you who were there in those days at Broken Arrow Senior High at the old campus. The main hallway that ran east/west, with what seemed like hundreds of classrooms. I hated that hall. Because there were so many times when I would be walking down that hall, just trying to get to my next class, when somebody would spit on me and call me a faggot. It became a daily challenge. Would I get to class without having to wipe spit off my face?

Shocking, right? Should be. But it wasn’t shocking in that time and place, it was perfectly acceptable, and there was no one to protect you. Wait, let me qualify that. There were a few friends who knew, and supported me, who did what they could out of love. That was my spark, that’s what got me through. But I still don’t want that damn diploma. I didn’t graduate, I simply managed to survive. I don’t need a piece of paper for that.

Flash forward 25 or so years, and now we have Facebook. It’s a fascinating thing. Thrills me to see former classmates posting about acceptance and love for their gay friends, it seriously does. And then I accept a friend invite to find that someone I remembered as being progressive is now a member of some “God hates fags” group. What is wrong here? What fundamental thing do I not understand?

Then I have to remember. It’s not about me. It’s not about what I personally hope or wish for. Every human being has their own free will. That’s the “human” part. Set aside those wants, or hopes, or wishes. Free will, to each his own. End sentence, next paragraph.

This is the test, to live with that.

Let me rephrase, the test is to make the BEST of that.

So, to bring it back around, do you go to your high school reunion when you have baggage?

Depends on the baggage. How much do you have? If you’ve got enough that you have to check some of it in and pay the service fees every time you travel, you’ve got too much. Get rid of it, learn to fly with just a carry-on. I believe I discarded my first piece of luggage somewhere outside the Broken Arrow city limits. There should be a diploma and a yearbook inside. And maybe a skinny tie or two.

Sometimes you have to get far away from something before you can actually see it for what it was. And what it wasn’t. And then you can slowly go back, if you choose. But now the choices and decisions are your own. You pick your classes. More importantly, you pick your teachers. It’s an open campus, you have your own car, there aren’t any bells ringing, and lunch lasts as long as you let it…

Welcome to the You-niversity. Would you like some coffee with that?

Peace,
Brian

 

Previously published in “The Sound and the Fury” and “Bonnywood Manor”. No changes made from the original post, although I obviously added that long-ass but heartfelt new intro. The editor in me really wanted to clean up the origin story, as I usually do when I re-post something dusty, but in the end I decided to leave intact my thoughts from nearly 10 years ago about a time 25 years before that. In the years ahead, I hope that stories like this become a relic of the past…

 

(Note: The suitcase image is the work of Israeli artist Yuval Yairi, with more info here.)

 

62 replies »

    • Sandra!!! Well, I didn’t get a comment from your prior to this, so I checked things out a bit. I don’t have any comments pending approval. (This sometimes happens when folks include links in their comments, not sure why.) I even checked the comments that WordPress had marked as SPAM, scrolling through hundreds of missives where some people are trying to entice me with naked photos of women riding tractors. Nothing from you there, either.

      So, I’ll just have to visualize what you sent me. I’m sure it was beautiful and charming and uplifting and wise, as you are all of those things and more, and that I probably teared up at just the right moments, because you can do that to me, and I once again rued my decision to avoid Facebook, even though I would be able to talk to you every day if I didn’t have a burr in my underwear about using that platform.

      Did I hit the right points? I hope so.

      Like

  1. Very apt for to end the old year on. A couple of lines from Steely Dan seem apt: ‘California tumbles into the sea, that’ll be the day I go back to Annandale.’ Glad you could get the hell out of that small town with their broken narrow minds. Here’s to a more inclusive less fractious new year. Please.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, kind sir, for once again zeroing in on exactly what I was going for with this post. But I must warn you now that, whether you meant it to be such or not, your use of “broken narrow” in place of “Broken Arrow” is brilliant, and I must steal the wordplay. If you don’t see me using that phrase in a future blog post, you need to come over here and kick my ass, because I should be doing so…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel your pain, as we here in the UK have gone through several years of divisiveness and hatred, ramped up by the party that conned the sheeple into voting for them and their bigoted vision of what our country should be, but not what most of us believed it to be. Hard times to bear, but I wish you a Happy New Year, Brian, with thanks for all the enjoyment your writing gives me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, GP. And although I don’t comment on your posts very often, I want to thank you for what you have been doing for so many years with your site. You have created a terrific and worthy and heart-warming tribute to those who have served…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It breaks my heart to look back and see how bad we, as a society, were. I thought ‘gay’ meant happy until I hit university. By then people were simply people. Or actually complicated people. My parents never taught me to hate and I continued the trend. Don’t get me wrong, I hate things, activities and some actions but people are too complex to use such a generic term. I need a reason to hate, just as I need a reason to love.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad that your parents never taught you hate. My father tried to do so, but I chose instead to look out the window and dream of better, much to his annoyance at my inattention to his doctrine. And for the record, your last line (“I need a reason to hate, just as I need a reason to love”) is superb. Those words were immediately transferred to a long-lived document I keep of my favorite comments. So don’t be surprised if those words resurface on Bonnywood in a future post. Because they should…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Lynette. And speaking of 20/20 vision, I’ve had an idea percolating in my head about using said vision for a series of posts this year. Not sure where I intend to go with it, but I’ll sure try my best…

      Liked by 1 person

    • And I trust, Donna, that we will hear your voice as well. Your own posts are quite powerful, showing an admirable combination of inclusion and progressiveness that I have yet to achieve, because my anger sometimes tips the balance toward divisive rant, and I know that I need to soften the edges a wee bit to better package the message…

      Like

  4. Awesome post!

    He is not my president. I am horrified that anybody would stand up for one constantly proves
    he has no character, no boundaries, no brains. Being sly is not the same as being smart.

    Now…on to a bit of fyi trivia…my son graduated in 1983.

    I’m not really sure what ‘happy’ means, or even if it is a good goal,
    so I’ll just say

    Wishing you joy and peace in the coming year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s just terrible how that president is the face of a nation that he does not represent. It will take us a while to overcome the damage that he has done to our image in the world. But then, that’s one of the reasons why we blog, right? To balance the bad with decency.

      Your son graduated in 1983? Very interesting. Your onion layers are slowly revealing themselves… 😉

      I love your comment about what “happy” really means. Do any of us really know?

      As for the coming year, I hope your poetry continues to be a shining light when I sign into WordPress and see what my friends have proffered up for perusal. You have quite the nifty gift…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. As usual there I am, holding your ghostly hand, as we race down that transparent hall and into the sun. I graduated six (five? Damn. My math has finally deserted me….lessee. FIve. Yep. The next year (I was almost nineteen), saw me kicking over the traces and running from that other ‘prison’ – life at home with family. They didn’t and still don’t, to my knowledge anyway, teach LIFE SKILLS in high school. Not that PC crap that passes for it now (I think – no kids, no involvement in that whole mess). You’ve sparked another blog post with this one of yours. Life skills ought to be practical, common sense, useful skills – not home ec (the requisite for girls of my generation in Utah) or other fluffy crap. It should address the real issues… which sadly no one (save yourself) cares to acknowledge. Like how to survive hatred and bigotry and shaming… Maybe the future will bring some of this to our society. But I fear not. Because we keep re-inventing the wheel, over and over and over…especially those nations who are ruled by narrow minds and ugly characters and who aren’t afraid to fly their loathsome banner high. Happy New Year’s Brian!! I’m expecting your call one of these days if you actually do make it up this way. I’d wait until Spring (if such a thing exists any longer) though. It’s COLD here, and not just physically. Frozen soul and spirit are my New Year’s ‘gifts’ – courtesy of our ‘leaders’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love the imagery of warm ghostly hands and transparent hallways, so much so that I’m saving this comment in my mystical inspiration folder, so that someday I can craft a story around those images. As for the rest of your words, well, we may be five years apart, but time (and progress) moved much more slowly during our formative years, so we essentially went through very similar social traumas, give or take a few variances. That mess sticks with you, and it’s one of the many reasons why we click as we do.

      And even though our formal “education” did not teach us many practical things, I think it’s much worse for kids in current times. Here in Texas, the mandated curriculum is so geared toward standardized testing that there is little time for little else, which is one of the reasons why kids roll off the assembly line with little significant preparation for the actualities of life.

      Of course I’ll call if I’m ever in the area. And I’m one of those Thoughtful Callers who gives you plenty of advance warning, so you will have sufficient time to give the abode a good dusting and rid the fridge of anything that has turned… 😉

      Like

  6. Er, My proofreading hat needs adjusting. I graduated five years prior to your own passing of that goal. I was there with you all the same, giving silent and invisible support. I just have NEVER understood hatred of someone who merely is more brave and flies their freak flag high. But then, everyone has a freak flag, don’t they? Makes it even more incomprehensible why some judge others because the color of the flag or the orientation is different..

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t know if I lived in a bubble or if growing up in SoCal was the difference, but I never saw that kind of BS toward gay people.
    Of course there was other BS. I got followed around for a week, being called a slut, by a group of girls because of a guy I kissed at a concert🙄

    I and mine fly our (to borrow Melanie’s words) Freak Flags high! We will get in the faces of any and all cruelty! I will defend a gun totin’ bible thumper as long as they don’t spew hate & violence. To each their own. Yes! But with compassion and kindness. It’s not difficult.

    We’ll make 2020 good for those around us! Maybe we can cause a big enough ripple to reach many!💌💃🏼🥂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you brought up defending everybody, as long they don’t spew. I’m a firm believer in Free Speech as well. But I’m also a firm believer in owning what you say and do, and that ownership angle is what many antagonists and bigots don’t get. Sure, the First Amendment keeps the government from coming after you (in most cases), but it doesn’t prevent other folks from calling you on your BS, the most important being your employer. Don’t say it unless you are willing to accept the consequences.

      And I’m all for these ripples of which you speak. Let’s make a bunch of them!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I was in high school in the 1960s. Was anyone gay then? Of course they were, but it never entered anyone’s mind so there was no discrimination on that count. I’ve never been to a reunion. My graduating class had 720 students.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Odd bit of trivia: At one point during my senior year, the class tally was at 666 students, and it hung there for a while. You can imagine how that did not sit well with the school administrators, and they were quite industrious at getting some students to transfer out or transfer in. By graduation day, the mark of the beast had been eradicated… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh my, what an interesting observation…. that the place so beastly for you had the “mark of the beast” during your senior year! I found your letter to “Friends” when I searched WordPress for posts on the subject of “Peace.” The letter left me feeling less than peaceful! That may have been back in the 80s, but the hate goes on, doesn’t it? And with this current USA administration, it seems to be even worse than ever! I’d love to see our nation ready for the leadership of Pete Buttigieg, but I dread the thought of what that person he’d run against would say and do about and to him. Do you think our country is ready for a person as bright and as forward-thinking, and as open as Pete?

        Liked by 1 person

  9. You know how much I loved this post, and I love it still. I love more that you shared it again and it’s gathering so many thoughtful and considerate comments. Keep speaking the truth, Brian. The world needs your voice. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Yo know that if you wrote about cooking while drinking tequila laced egg nog or how to comb a cat or suntanning without burning, I’d buy it, distribute it in the streets, and shout from the roof tops about it. But *this* one, this post, is very important. On a large scale-important. I love the “you-niversity”, and am glad that you’re past the awful part of those days gone by.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. You almost had me in tears. High school was rough on me, but I never had that kind of horrifying experience.

    It’s remarkable that you still gave back to the school by leading the student council and being on the yearbook committee. And that you didn’t become bitter. And kept a (marvellous) sense of humour.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Though my high school years were not ideal, I am grateful for them in one respect, in that it toughened me and yet kept me tender when it comes to the plight of others. And really, as I’ve mentioned before, you cannot truly appreciate life if that life has always been easy…

      Liked by 1 person

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