It gets better

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By John Pawlak

They say death is the great equalizer. We all feel pretty much the same after we die.
And when a loved one dies, the living all suffer the same pain of loss. And so it was for my friend when Bill died.  
My friend was inconsolable and there was little anyone could do to ease the torment in his heart. Bill had died of AIDS and Mark was his friend, his life mate, his lover. But not his husband.
As Tina Turner sang, what’s love got to do with it?
Mark and Bill had lived together in a loving relationship for more than 20 years (far longer than most heterosexual marriages I know.)  
The disease that took Bill’s life had been contracted by an infected blood supply, not by infidelity or promiscuity.  
Bill and Mark were faithful to each other and it was horrible irony that a simple operation at a veteran’s hospital would doom him to die years later.  
Bill had fought in Vietnam, defended our nation and our liberties.
Born in 1950, Bill belonged to that lucky generation that enjoyed the military’s last military draft.  He “won” the lottery and was shipped off to Hell on Earth.
He was “told” to go fight for his country. Paradoxically enough, he wasn’t “asked” about his sexual preference.  
“Don’t be asked, just be told,” was the mantra and Bill was in fact quite willing, even proud, to go serve his country.  
Bill never talked much about his experiences over there, but I know that his knee got shot up two weeks before his tour was over and that he suffered chronic nightmares for the remainder of his life.
It’s been more than 20 years since Bill died and Mark still lives alone, unable to come to terms with the death of his life mate.  
He mourns the loss with the same love we would expect from heterosexuals.  Pretty amazing for an abomination.
Prejudice against gays has been a disease plaguing this nation since its inception. There are many who would even suggest that the gods killed Bill to punish Mark.  
We’ve witnessed countless decades of intolerance, ridicule, abuse and even murder of people solely based on their sexual preference. But times have changed.  
The military now accepts openly homosexual recruits.  Several states have legalized marriage between same-gender partners.
Companies are working to protect the rights of homosexuals. Public schools are hiring gay and lesbian teachers. Communities host awareness days to not only accept diversity, but even to celebrate it.
As Woody would say, it’s getting better. Well, Woody would want this, but Woody would be wrong.
Earlier this year, Google aired a commercial for its browser, Google Chrome.  
The commercial discussed the “It Gets Better” campaign, a collaborative effort designed to address the epidemic of suicides for gay teens and the bullying of gay teens in schools.
Public figures, entertainers, sports icons, politicians and other celebrities looked into the camera and told us that things are getting better.  
Hang in there.
We’re making a better world.
And in the commercial, Woody (the cowboy character from Toy Story) says “You’ll be fine, partner!”
It gets better?
Having a cartoon character dare to express acceptance for people prompted an immediate outrage from regressive fundamentalists who loudly protested Woody’s participation in the video.
Yes, we certainly wouldn’t want cartoon characters acting human.
Then again, given the way humans act, you have to admire the inhuman characteristics of toons.
Presidential candidates attend openly gay-bashing church meetings in which ministers condemn the very existence of these people and publicly condone institutionalized bigotry.
Church members wave signs at military funerals cheering “God Hates Gays.” Schools have canceled proms rather than allow a same-sex couple attend.
Well, I have to believe that it’s getting better.
Even if it’s not, I just have to believe it.
If we are to survive as a nation, a people, a civilization, we have to accept the world for the beautiful diversity it gives us. We have to marvel at variety and celebrate differences.
Whoever you are, you’re wonderful as you are. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  

John Pawlak
Los Alamos columnist