The limits of dreaming
It’s really easy to get caught up in our disappointments.
For instance, I’m one of the people who is very sad that the health care reform that is going into effect this October is not a real socialized medicine plan. I want a single-payer system, just like every industrialized country other than us. And saying that everyone can go to an emergency room regardless of ability to pay isn’t providing health care! I never want to read again a news story about a 12-year-old child dying of complications of a toothache because emergency rooms don’t treat ordinary toothache, and by the time the complications become life-threatening, it’s too late. I don’t want people to have to hold bake sales and kickstarters to pay for cancer treatments. We spend way more money on our medical system than any other country in the world and we have the worst coverage.
I’m disappointed that only 13 states (plus the District of Columbia and a couple of counties in other states) currently have marriage equality. I’m disappointed that we’re more than a decade into the 21st Century and there is controversy about the fact that courts say that the law ought to treat gay people the same as straight people. I’m disappointed that only two states have banned so-called “gay reparative therapy” for children. Further, I’m disappointed that kicking one’s children out of the house for saying they think they’re gay isn’t considered felony child abuse, subject to arrest, imprisonment, and having the rest of one’s children taken away.
I’m disappointed that I’ll never get to read that new Dirk Gently book (and whatever other books might have been written) because Douglas Adams died at age 49. And while we’re on the subject, I’m disappointed that Charles Dickens died before he finished the Mystery of Edwin Drood, and that Mark Twain died before he finished the Mysterious Stranger.
I’m disappointed that Doris Day has never won an Academy Award.
Not all my disappointments are big, societal problems, obviously.
My point is that it is easy to get lost in the weeds of disappointment. While some of our disappointments can be quite serious issues, even life-and-death issues, it’s good to take several steps back from those weeds to remind ourselves that there’s an awful lot of good and lovely stuff in the garden of life.
When I was a deeply closeted teen-ager, the very best future I could hope for was that maybe I could hide my non-heterosexuality and possibly find a woman who found me tolerable. I thought it much more likely that I would live out my life alone and unloved. I never dreamed I would meet and fall in love with a man who loved me enough to promise to stay with me the rest of my life (and did). Or that, after his death, I would meet and fall in love with another man who loved me as I was, and that we would not only be able to live together, but do so openly, and eventually stand in front of an assemblage of our friends and loved ones, exchange vows, and legally be pronounced married.
When I was in high school, two classmates who were accused (in separate incidents) of being gay were threatened with expulsion, kicked out of their homes by their parents, and wound up living with relatives in other cities. While many families still kick out their kids (or send them to therapy) if they admit to being gay, we also read stories of kids coming out in high school, junior high, and even elementary school with the full support of their parents. Many schools have straight-gay alliances and policies supportive of non-heterosexual kids.
When I was in my 20s, I was working on a science fiction story in which the President of the United States was an openly gay man, but I set it rather late in the 21st century, and even then, he had only become President because he’d been appointed a second-tier cabinet member, and in the course of a cataclysmic disaster, he was the only person in the line of succession left alive. We don’t have a gay president (and we don’t have any gay cabinet members), but we did have an openly gay man seeking the Republican nomination for President last time around. He appeared on the primary ballot in six states, and in some of them got more votes that candidates who got a lot more media coverage. More importantly, this last election cycle sent six openly gay candidates to the U.S. House of Representatives, an openly lesbian candidate was elected to the U.S. Senate (winning a statewide election), plus 74 openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual candidates were elected to state legislatures, and dozens were elected to city councils, school boards, and other government posts across the nation.
To sum up:
Just 40 years ago, the best future for myself I could imagine was I would be good enough at hiding my true feelings so no one would ever suspect I was gay. It was inconceivable to me that I could actually marry the man I love!
Just 35 years ago, it was inconceivable to me that ordinary schools would allow gay kids to attend openly.
Just 30 years ago, it was inconceivable to me that an openly gay or lesbian person could win elected office other than representing a “gay neighborhood.”
So, which thing that we thought was impossible years ago is going to happen next?