This week the national and local media will be memorializing the tenth anniversary of the terrible attacks upon our country.
In the LGBT community, we of course remember Mark Bingham, the young gay man who was the hero of Flight 93. We salute the gay priest who lost his life with hundreds of firefighters and thousands of citizens when the Twin Towers gave way, reigning destruction and death upon an unsuspecting nation.
Months later, we saw how many within the LGBT community, like so many Americans, came together to work with millions to repair and restore the lives of those challenged by the disaster. We were even able to make a social point, that the legal disparity of gay couples compromised their rights in accessing support for their own loved ones.
Sadly, we also saw the disgrace of greed corrupt one young gay man, unfortunately right here in South Florida, falsely scamming the American Red Cross and gay rights groups for financial support, illegally acquiring funds after claiming he lost a domestic partner that never existed. That story, of Patric Ian Henn, will air on CNBC Wednesday, September 7, on a show entitled American Greed: 9/11 Frauds.
We still live the story of 9/11 everyday, not only in the wars our soldiers continue to fight, but in the emotional landscape at home. We face increased security checks in every public building as well as airports, and alert ourselves to suspicious incidents as possible acts of terror. Our lives were changed that day forever, our psyche of invincibility tempered. We now recognize anyone anywhere at any time and in any place can become the victim of a random act of terror. Now that I am turning 60, I think of the 1960’s. This is not the way I thought life would be when I was a teenager at Woodstock watching Jimi Hendrix. “All we are saying,” we sang repeatedly, “is give peace a chance.” We were the flower children trying to end a war in Vietnam.
Today, our children are trying to get their iPad to sync with their iPod and iPhone. It’s a different era and a different reality, but the enhancement of social media in Middle Eastern nations will liberalize and modernize socially backwards societies, exposing younger generations to the blessings and burdens of more participatory and democratic governments. The expanding freedoms in those countries will be the greatest shield for Americans in our country.
As the world merges together with common aspirations and mutual goals, we will all come to see that we have much more in common than we do apart. We will reject the false pariahs of hate and discrimination. That identical principle has been the force within the LGBT community as well. We have shown we are entitled to be partners within the circle, rather than outcasts. So too have now millions of citizens living under dictators in the Mideast start to rise against the bonds of injustice which strangled their societies.
Our losses on 9/11 were neither black or white, rich or poor, Jew or Gentile. They did not come from red states or blue states. They came from every state in the world and impacted the lives of every country and each of its citizens. This week, as we approach a sad but necessary tenth look back on the tragedy that befell America and shocked the world, ask yourself what you can do today to help make the world a more caring, loving, peaceful place tomorrow. Ask yourself what you can do to create a world that will prevent future generations from having deal with the horrors of hate instead of the harmony of hope.
Ask yourself, as President John Fitzgerald Kennedy asked the nation in 1961, not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. And then your life as an LGBT American will have a purpose greater than yourself. You will have served your country, freedom, and the future.