08/01/2013 02:17 pm ET Updated Oct 01, 2013

Considering Hope

As our president wrote -- it seems so very long ago -- hope is audacious. When I wrote here about Born This Way, the not just courageous, but riveting, new film by Shaun Kadlec and Deb Tullmann revealed glimmers of hope for gay people in Cameroon. Then just hours after the film won the Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Documentary Feature Film at Outfest, friends became concerned because no one had been able to reach one of Cameroon's most prominent LGBTI rights activists, Eric Ohena Lembembe. His home was padlocked. Through a window they saw his body; his neck and feet broken, his face, hands and feet burned by an iron.

Eric, who had worked closely with Human Rights Watch, also wrote several chapters in a book overviewing worldwide gay rights. This brutal murder followed the news that Michel Togué and Alice Nkom, lawyers fighting for gay rights, have been burgled, and had death threats on themselves and their children.

These attacks remain "unchecked by the government."

Like race relations, the road to gay rights is rocky. In 1939, for example, the D.A.R. (a pack of women in 'mob caps' called Daughters of the American Revolution) did not want Marian Anderson, one of the great singers of all time to sing at Constitution Hall: Anderson was black.

So, Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the D.A.R., and her husband, F.D.R., met with Walter White, head of the NAACP (a new force then; brave as Alternatives-Cameroun) and declared Miss Anderson would sing in a major open event at the Lincoln Memorial. Seventy five thousand black and white Americans showed up. Then what happened? We sat appalled, strangled by the Zimmerman trial. How did we just sit and watch?

And then, President Obama did speak out about Trayvon Martin in the audacious voice of the reflective writer we elected. Ah, Hope puts her toe in the heavy door of our undistinguished time. It was hard to find Obama's powerful talk on television, but worth the search, for he revealed himself again, the leader we gathered around. The presence who offered us a rare, engaged commitment to what our nation is all about. The President's talk refreshed me. Yes, he's with us. I felt there'd be a follow up of electric exchanges on television but there was only evidence of history's bipolar condition -- the obsession over that trial, the obsession with the masked jurors. (If we didn't like it, we could go read Kafka.) But then there was the big story, as someone put it on Facebook, rather well: "A young woman married to a man gave birth to a real baby." We held our breath until it was named. We do care about life. See?

Hope sighed.

Tears in the NRA's eyes took on the lustre of regal pearls. Just as America loves to see it: There'll always be an England to distract us from changes we would prefer not to acknowledge.

"Trayvon Martin could have been me," the President said.

And I saw a picture of Eric Ohena Lembembe. He could have been the brilliant star of Fruitvale Station, and, like Oscar Grant, the young man shot there, he could have gone on and with his intriguing partner; raised a kid who needed a loving home. Perhaps TV would spare a segment and we'd all have stood there eager to hear the name the kid wanted to be called. They'd have lived a life filled with the audacity of hope; rather than snuffed out by hatred's tyranny.