Thursday, March 2, 2017

Dreams remembered

For the last few days those moments just before waking have provided a continuation of the same dream. I don't remember most of it; Dreams often fade quickly. I can recall that just before waking, in an era in which people with education were suspect, a roundup of intellectuals and dissidents had begun.
I was trying to save people, including myself.

Every morning has seen an intention to write in this space. I have started many posts, and left them abandoned. I am certain of the cause; it starts, much as it always does, with reading the news. It just happened again as I began sipping my coffee on a beautiful late Spring morning during the last official month of winter. The news makes me wonder about the use of winter as a metaphor.

For many years, I have kept a file in the "pictures" section of my computer labelled "Dreams Remembered". It consists entirely of old, often fading, photographs of men together, or women together. They are part of a history intentionally buried. When such images were found, often I would guess after the owner of the photo passed, they were destroyed by concerned family members. A good number of them escaped attention even though the pictures seemed to show affection between the subjects. After all, people note, men and women were freer to show affection to each other in days gone by. Such photos depict good friends, or family members. Yet now, in a more liberal time, many such photos seem to imply other relationships were depicted. They may be mementoes of a more innocent time, but they are also stories lost, or destroyed. For those who can see what is there, they are dreams remembered.

Two civil war soldiers in a hand tinted photo from the Library of Congress, posted to the Shorpy site.
Lest anyone assume that over interpretation is involved, here's a relatively sedate photo in which closeness
is portrayed, but there is no physical contact. Poet Walt Whitman is on the left, Pete Doyle on the right.
Pete Doyle, it should be noted, was Whitman's lover.
Having one's picture taken in those days was expensive. There was only one copy per photograph.
Were these two friends sharing an expense, a memento of a friendship, or something more?

As the process of photography changed and the cost was reduced,
some photographs began to suggest a little more about the nature of a relationship. 

These dreams come to mind due to a four night drama program which has been unfolding on the Disney owned ABC broadcast television network. "When We Rise" is a slightly fictionalized story of three people whose lives intersected in San Francisco, and the parts they played in the gay liberation movement.  The first part was shown on Monday, just a few days after the newly installed U.S. Attorney General rescinded and abandoned the previous administration's policy that allowed transgender teens to use the bathroom of the sex with which they identify. The new Attorney General had promised, just a few days before, that despite his past record in the segregated South, he would uphold civil rights of all Americans. He was passed on a party line vote, "conservative" and reactionary Republicans outnumbering the Democrats. The mini-series episode that night portrayed a time, in the first years after the Stonewall riots, when gay men and women were considered mentally ill, were routinely denied the rights of Americans, were routinely dismissed from their jobs, thrown out of their homes, denied housing, and just as routinely beat up and/or killed by thugs and police alike. I remember all of it, and was not ready for the pain it brought back.

Anita Bryant, pictured above, was a singer and orange juice pitchwoman who campaigned to rescind a Florida law
which banned discrimination of the basis of sexual orientation. She famously said that she would prefer
"my child be dead than homo".

The second night of the mini-series was postponed due to the new President of the United States giving an address to the entire assembled Congress. The speech was remarkable for dropping Mr. Trump's confrontational style, acting like an adult instead of a raving lunatic. The immediate response from the press, which Mr. Trump had constantly belittled, castigated, accused of making up stories (i.e. the unfavorable ones), and declared the enemy of the American People, was overly kind, remarking that he suddenly seemed presidential. They didn't really discuss his misrepresentations, distortions, outright lies, and attempts to cover up what may or may not be the truth.

Last night's episode of 'When We Rise' focused on relationships being built by the story's participants, the elation of the election of a gay man (Harvey Milk) to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, his assassination 11 months later, and the rise of what was being called a 'gay disease'.

The episode ended with one of the principals holding a protest in which people in San Francisco began posting the names of friends and lovers lost to this new disease onto the side of city hall. I've been crying a lot. The memories of the death of dear friends, the men with whom I was forming my family, have been overpowering.

This morning, intent on resuming my post of thoughts arising from the old movies I've been watching, I logged onto my computer to discover news that the new Attorney General had been caught lying about his contacts with Russia. These contacts, as well as a number of others surrounding the new administration, seem to expand into an ever deepening well. There are lies upon lies. As the stories of investigations into these incidents become public, they aren't just denied, the press is accused of making them up to discredit the President. Also in the news were further stories about the new administrator of the Federal Communications Commission and his repeal of polices protecting access to the internet, programs which helped the poor afford the internet in their homes, and rules of privacy which had hemmed in internet providers ability to keep records of what sites and information anyone had accessed. All of this is, of course, in the name of fostering business growth and competition. Such information would never be used to assist in rounding up people.

Other news stories concern the President's travel bans, people being deported due to such criminal backgrounds as having traffic violations, people being detained for hours or days without warrants, people having their identification papers checked as they left a flight which started and ended within the United States, and so forth. When the travel ban was imposed to protests and legal actions across the country, Homeland Security backed the President. They will be getting 15,000 new agents. The Department of Defense will get billions, partially to fund new atomic weapons. Other areas of the budget will have to be cut; these include monies for health care, social security, education, and the arts.

The man in the center of the above photograph is Bix Biderbecke. He is one of the men who was instrumental in the development of jazz. He was an alcoholic who died young, at the age of 28. He was gay.

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