I am on vacation this week. No daily grind, no work, no responsibilities. Just what I needed!
My husband and I (and our five dogs) have been coming to the same vacation spot for the past four years. But this year is different. Our country is different. You can feel the change in the air.
Unfortunately, we cannot escape the horrific happenings in our country during this vacation. As gay men, we find the videos of chanting neo-Nazis to be chilling.
The Charlottesville rallies have brought a disgusting hatred into our national consciousness. But it is not this overt sense of hatred that I feel in the air. The horrors of Charlottesville are not being shared here on the beach. Rather, it is a sense of overt kindness that I feel. Strangers are reaching out, in subtle ways, to share personal feelings and signs of support for each other.
We went to dinner a few days ago in a French restaurant. It was small, the kind of European-style place where the tables are placed very close together and the bustling servers are choreographed carefully to avoid bumping into each other. We were seated next to an attractive straight couple in their 70s. Before long, we were chatting about the French onion soup, dogs, Pittsburgh (where they and my husband are from), other good restaurants to try, etc. Then, quite unexpectedly, one of them mentioned something about the circumstances in Charlottesville. “We are Jewish,” she said, “and this is terrifying.” This was not typical strangers-chatter. Perhaps sensing that this gay couple would be sympathetic, she shared something personal and we ended up having a much more meaningful conversation. By reaching out, this woman was reminding us that we are not alone this week.
I was walking one of the dogs to the beach yesterday. This dog, Lucky, is two-legged and walks with a wheeled cart. He attracts attention wherever he goes and I get asked the same questions over and over: How did he lose his legs? Can he walk without the wheels? Did I adopt him after his legs were amputated? A man came over and asked these same questions. When I told him that he had only two legs when I adopted him, the man said, “That is very kind. We need more people doing kind things like that right now. That is, if our country continues to go down the same dark path where it seems to be heading.” Again, this was not the usual banter I encounter when making small talk with strangers.
I have found people saying hello more readily as we pass them on the boardwalk or when we are strolling the shops in town. I am used to gay strangers saying hello – when you are a minority in a particular environment and you recognize someone of the same stripe, saying hello confirms solidarity. What I am finding now, however, is that it is not just the gays saying hello to us. Those in other minorities – African American, Jewish, differently-abled ― they are saying hello to us gays, too.
‘Hello’ becomes a tacit acknowledgement of support and mutual respect.
Perhaps the circumstances in Charlottesville have done more than just mobilize and strengthen the alt-right movement. Perhaps it is bonding together those of us who are being targeted. We do not have to be isolated minority communities.
It may be cliché, but one way to do something (when you feel helpless in the severity of our country’s current circumstance) is to show support and solidarity with a simple ‘Hello.’