Sunday, February 5, 2017

Is That All There a Holocaust?

Another International Holocaust Memorial Day has come and gone, with a new "leader of the Western world" and his partners in denial choosing to “de-judify” it altogether. While it’s factual that many others perished in the Holocaust, you'd be right in thinking it's incumbent on those who publicly mark the day to actually acknowledge by name all groups who were persecuted to death. Is the Holocaust on its way to becoming something else…like just another aspect of war?

Holocausts and stuff…I’m reminded of delivering one of my best friends’ eulogy when he succumbed to AIDS. Steve loved the very best of everything – especially literature. For him alone, I drew on Hemingway’s “A Farewell To Arms”, and how Papa H. likened the dead soldiers to becoming nothing more than concrete numbers and dates on roads and regiments. And how honor and courage seemed like obscene abstractions. (I lost my audience in that little chapel early on: neither an ashamed mother nor a motley collection of homosexualists drew comfort from my words. But the non-denominational celebrant at least claimed to get it.)

Come as you are. Or are not.

 The fact that the modern skinhead haircut was pioneered by queer AIDS activists as a Holocaust reminder is something apparently forgotten by gays and fashionistas alike. Analogies don’t always work because nothing is quite the same as anything else. But Shoah teaching principles aren’t as exclusively Judeocentric as one might think, and homosexualists can draw much from them. As we note that effects ripple from cause, we also note that ACT-UP was as much about honour and courage as it was about anger.

Perhaps all we take away from that Holocaust is that we’ll never meet the grandsons. Those nice Jewish and Gypsy and Black and Slavic boys we should be meeting. And that’s okay, because at least we’re relating the “then” to the “now”. We can, and should, remember “our own kind” as well. And also ask ourselves what legacy of theirs we’ve been deprived of. (Notably, our own kind weren’t liberated from concentration camps when the good guys showed up: they were transferred to other prisons to complete their sentences…‘cos, well, the law (for fags) is the law.)

Broadway initially felt a direct effect of AIDS because it hit their bottom line hard: a multi-million dollar business built on the back of homosexual creativity. The shows had much difficulty going on. But that particular loss was in and of itself. Schlagers, tits and feathers aside, it doesn’t address legacy or community: the cumulative knowledge and extraordinary talents of an era’s gay men weren’t handed on to homo replacements on Broadway or anywhere else. Our rate of replication couldn’t quickly assure that clever hands and astute minds would be replaced in a generation. Gay men worldwide lost our best and brightest across the boards, and as a generation or two of men on the planet we’re diminished for it.

Holocausts and stuff…we’re recovering but we’re exhausted. Better medical interventions and same-sex marriage don’t make the ever-increasing threats to our being go away. Legal changes by stealth and hubris are more threatening than ever. Political elites of all persuasions do their dirty deals without ever really acknowledging human rights – let alone bargaining for it. Thinking men and women everywhere are reeling from recent events worldwide. Many brothers-in-deviance are probably wishfully thinking our future is still just somewhere over the rainbow, at best.

Or is this the ideal climate from which the homosexualist can, or could, emerge to confidently and purposefully help reset the course of times that are a’changin’? Without hesitation, I say emphatically “Yes!” Our feminist sisters are also realistically seeing problems ahead for women, and they’re asking “Where are the gay men? We were there for you front and center when AIDS hit.” Are we forgetting our friends? Do we pretend to not hear the narratives about fags lives not mattering, or are we incensed enough to yell “Hell, fags’ lives do matter and dammit black lives matter too!”

And, most of all, aren’t we forgetting that being a victim isn’t an easy job, and you get no thanks for it? We don’t have to be pacifists to make that fundamental thought-leap to becoming the change we wish to see in the world. We just have to change our mind about ourselves first, and then see optimism and opportunity.

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