This past Thursday evening a small group of LGBT activists met at a local restaurant in Columbia, South Carolina to celebrate with Jim Obergefell, one of the plaintiffs in the recent historical SCOTUS decision to legalize same-sex marriage in all fifty states in the USA. We were a jubilant group – full of laughter, chatting happily, enjoying the fruits of many years of hard labors, toasting with champagne given to us by the delightful wait staff who wanted to recognize our group for our “contributions to the state of South Carolina.” An amazing evening. Unimaginable in 1984 when our organization of the movement began in earnest in the state.
On that same Thursday last week on a different continent a world away six people were stabbed as they marched in the Jerusalem annual gay pride parade – stabbed by an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man who had just been released from serving ten years in prison for stabbing a gay man in another march those years before. Two of the people were taken to the hospital, and yesterday Shira Banki, a sixteen-year-old activist, died. An amazing event – unfortunately, still not unimaginable in any country today – but a tragic loss for the entire LGBT community which shares the sorrow of her family and friends in Israel.
Jim Obergefell and local activist Nekki Shutt served as co-Grand Marshalls of the Charleston Pride Parade two days later on a rainy Saturday in the low-country capitol of the state- but the rain didn’t dampen the spirits of the hundreds of marchers who had waited for the opportunity to step out for equality with pride. The music was loud, the floats were festive – and the entire atmosphere was electric with the possibilities ahead for the LGBT movement toward full equality.
That same weekend a Russian Military Holiday was observed in St. Petersburg, Russia. Several gay activists staged individual protests during the festivities because of recent government anti-gay measures and were taunted by the Russian Airborne Services who tore up the protesters’ posters. Russian police intervened in the confrontation and took the activists away, although the law permits one-person protests. One of the paratroopers had this to say: “We’re in Russia and not in America. Let them do what they want in America, but not in Russia.”
And finally, a report released today by an independent project called Airwars alleges that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria in the past year targeting the Islamic State group may have killed more than 450 civilians. The U.S. denies these numbers but said there are four ongoing military investigations into allegations regarding the deaths of civilians during airstrikes.
I understand why…no, I don’t. Not really. Life is so much better for me when I don’t read or listen to the news. Just let me drink my champagne in peace, but no…
How can one man love another man so much that he will try to change the attitudes of an entire country so that their love will have the same status in that country as those who love members of the opposite sex? And then how can one man hate this same love so much that he will stab a teenage girl to death simply because she chose to get out of her bed one Thursday morning and look in the mirror and say, Today I will be myself. I will be who I really am, and I want the world to see me as I am.
Life isn’t always filled with days that are good and bad or even ugly. Most of our days are just opportunities to go one way or the other – to choose to make a difference right where we are in this moment – or to let that chance slip away with a shrug of indifference. Jim Obergefell chose a path that led him on a long journey to the highest court in the United States. Shira Banki’s choice led to a much shorter journey – but one that was no less important. As for the civilians allegedly lost in Iraq and Syria, well, they had no choice.
My investigation is ongoing, but the preliminary findings indicate good and bad are always in a tight race for our best selves and some of us win or lose depending on the day of the race. Blessed are those that win more days than they lose, for they shall drag the rest of us to the finish line and we will be grateful.