Op-Ed: Reflections on John McCain and 9/11

September 11 is a time to be reflective, particularly if you grew up and went to school in the shadow of the World Trade Center. They blew up the place I called home.

Years have passed, and I can’t help but think those frightening events on that day are lost to so many. I think about the fact that the average student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a victim of the Parkland massacre, was born three years after 9/11. 

Each generation has an event which shapes our lives. If you are pushing 70, as I now am, it was not the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1942. That was my dad’s. For me, it will always be September 11, 2001, when I was publisher of the Express Gay News of South Florida.

I am grateful that I can still be publishing a newspaper in a digital age. I am humbled by the honors that Equality Florida is bestowing on me and SFGN, announced this week on our page 2. Most of all, I am proud that I can still illuminate the good work and bold deeds of the LGBT community every week.

As a publisher, you have to deal with the fact that real news does not mean you support everyone around you. No. Your duty is to report on everything around you. That means not every story is pleasant, not every paragraph is proud.

Look, it becomes newsworthy when the director of a pride organization steals money, and you have to report he has been arrested and jailed. But you never forget all the volunteers who put the event together. It’s just that you don’t always write enough about the 99,000 pilots who fly around the pigeons and land their plane safely. You write about the plane that crashes because it hit those poor birds.

Sometimes, newspapers are like critics, who can find a little bad in the best of things. You think we are promoting scandals rather than substance. But we were not the ones who hired sexual offenders to work at a pride center playground. We were unfortunately the messengers who had to write about the mess. 

Don’t let a little bad in the news interfere with the overall good in our lives. Don’t ever lose sight of the bigger picture, where we achieve and accomplish, live and love, making a difference in our world. Of course, we have our warts and our wounds, in the community, just like at home. Don’t beautiful rose bushes also have thorns?

A little blister and bluster does not mean we don’t have our churches and temples, offering solace and spiritual strength to those of us who have suffered loss and are enduring sorrow. 

That does not mean we do not have our champions, volunteering time at HIV clinics or food banks, in bowling centers or at food lines. That does not mean we don’t have youthful LGBT competitors in swimming tournaments, raising money at weekend car washes to pay their way to the competition.

With the midterm elections almost upon us, we will tend to find ourselves decrying politicians and cutting down our government. But the truth is whether you are in the Dolphin Democrats or the Log Cabin Republicans, you are not making money. You are participating in a process which makes our community better and democracy stronger. 

As Barack Obama said last week, anyone who thinks voting does not matter ought to think about what has happened the past two years. We all make a difference in our own way. You don’t have to make headlines. You don’t have to get awards. You just have to make choices which make your life and community better along the way. 

Let us show up in great numbers this year, and make the rest of our community stunned and blown away by the voting ratios of our gay community. Let the world know we are a force to be reckoned with, at the polls, in our schools, and in our social and political congresses. Let’s help Equality Florida shape equality in Florida.

For voting, for your own life, my advice is to follow the guides of constitutional scholars I studied too many years ago, resting in books on the high shelves of my house I may never reach again. But their truth stands, their words have withstood the test of time, and endure in my soul. Be not injurious to others. Be truthful to yourself. The good you do comes back to you, but watch your ass. So does the bad.

On September 11, 2001, there were many heroes. One was a gay man that the late Senator, John McCain honored ever so gloriously, after his passing. His name was Mark Bingham, and in taking down the last set of terrorists who sought to fly their plane into the Capitol Building, he called upon his passengers to retake the cockpit.

His memorable and final words were, “Let’s roll.” Each of us, every day, has that duty, as citizens. America lost John McCain this past month. His words in this week’s newspaper show why he should matter to our gay community. He was a good man who recognized the inherent decency and goodness of Americans.

“If Athens shall appear great to you,” the great orator Pericles once wrote, “consider only that her greatness was purchased by decent citizens simply doing their duty each day.”

May you find that purpose and presence in your own lives. Here at SFGN, our goal is simply to shine a light upon it. Let me know if you think we can be doing more.

And to my Jewish friends, Shanna Tovah, Happy New Year. I really did mean to go to Temple last week. But you know, the Dolphins had this home opener…..OK it lasted two days, but what a game.


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