I wrote this two years back but kept it mostly to just myself.
I suppose I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do with it. But there are a lot of fake patriots waving the flag today, so I thought now is the time.
This is not specifically historical, however, it is something that may have occurred throughout our history. The point is I want-no I need you for the purposes of this exercise, to lace up these boots.
Especially if you are heterosexual.
See I am writing this from the perspective of an empathetic straight male. I am not writing it as someone who assumes he knows what dealing with society as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community is like. I tried to envision a scenario where two young men, serving our nation, were denied the right to feel what is natural to them.
And the truth is, something similar probably did happen.
Imagine it is 1941. You are gay. Let’s call you Mike. Young, strong, good looking, and trapped in a society where if it knew the truth, would view you as an oddity at best and as evil and inferior at worst. But despite all of that you love this country. So when the Japanese sucker punch us that clear December 7th, in Hawaii, you are no less able, nor less willing to fight than your heterosexual counterparts.
You are no less talented. You are no less patriotic. So you enter the service. You join the Navy and ship to the European theatre. But despite your best intentions to serve, you know you can’t get caught because you would be court martialed, humiliated, stripped of your benefits and quite possibly subject to a tribunal.
So for close to three long years, while other guys go on leave and hook up with female “hospitality” workers, or play with strippers, you have to pretend. You have to lie about your very core, your very being. You do not get to enjoy one of the most fundamental of human rights-that is to live as you are. You have to be careful, every second of every day not to tilt your head wrong, or blink too slowly. Not to unconsciously wink, not to hug a millisecond too long or catch yourself staring at..
Wait, could it be? He might be..he might be looking at you the way you look at him. His name is Tony right? He looks at you and smiles, not in the “sandwiches just hit the poker table way” but in a soft way. A gentle way. But no. Can’t take the chance. Too much at stake. But you continue to pass each other in the mess hall, you bump into each other on deck. You say hi, and chat shallowly, and share the same space when you smoke. You can’t help but notice he has a Valentino quality to him-he is a strikingly handsome young man.
And you build a warm friendship. You play cards together, and laugh, and drink beer on leave. You exchange family stories and hopes and dreams. But you say nothing about your real feelings.
Neither does he. But somehow you suspect you both feel the same way.
And you wonder. You wonder how you could love a country that rejects you. You wonder if you will ever be able to experience the receipt of romantic love. You sense Tony looking towards your bunk. But at night, in silence, as you watch your colleagues stare at pictures of their sweethearts, and promise each other to be there for “their girls” if they don’t make it, you feel a crushing sense of loneliness and you begin to cry.
But not too loudly.
Then one June morning you stand on the precipice of your death. Next to you is Tony. You wrap an arm gently over his neck and pull his forehead to yours.
You bump helmets warmly. Then the gates open.
Mightily you struggle to navigate the sands and land on the beach. The noise is deafening. Suddenly you realize that the noises are screams. Your mind acts like a radio station barely picking up the signal. Your arms and legs are moving according to muscle memory, as you can not process conscious thought. Just then you see Tony, that sweet barely 20 years-old gentle soul, fall to his knees, and then you look up. The splash of red iron stings your eyes; that you know it came from his thoracic cavity crushes your spirit. For a split second, it is all too much. The tension causes a rippling sensation of fleeting discomfort in your chest, just to the left of your heart.
He is still kneeling, as if trapped in the sand. The subtle thuds of his flesh being repeatedly pelted by lead ring in your ears.
You dive for cover, next to where he is now lying face first. You notice there is still light in his eyes. He is not yet dead. You crouch and provide cover to your brothers trying to advance. But you know the truth. You were part of the first wave-you have done all you can do, and you will not be living past today.
It is only then, after the adrenaline eases, that you realize there is a hole near in your chest where your cigarettes should be. That was not tension. That was a high powered bullet. You barely even felt it. Come to think of it, in actuality, you didn’t feel anything after Tony went to his knees. You begin to feel dizzy and collapse next to him. Your head is facing his. Pangs of agony are periodically gripping you as bullets continue to enter your body.
Your mind tricks you into viewing the splatters of your own blood in an artistic context. You notice the red is darker than you expected, as it is coming from the recesses of your internal organs. But you try to find a peaceful beauty in your own death. You notice the pool of your red life force fill the space between your two bodies until it connects with Tony’s blood as well. As your life flickers something about that brings contentedness. You were not able to unite in life until the very end, but you will die as one.
Your breath grows weak, and your eyes begin to dim. Tony is fading, fast, coughing up blood and turning pale. He raises his left hand at first as if to crawl but then you realize he is reaching for you.
The world is now silent. Your mind eases and your burdens lessen as you smell warm cookies on a summer’s day back home. Your hear your Momma calling. But first, you let all of the tears go and with the last bit of strength you have, you grasp his hand.
The last vision you see on earth, is Tony smiling.
Now consider this:
There were hundreds of men on those beaches that were denied the chance to live their truth, yet loved us enough to fight for us to live ours.
They bled out like the heterosexual men did.
They cried out like the heterosexual men did.
They gave all like the heterosexual men did.
So now I come to ask, just exactly which of these hundreds of men, would you find it difficult, to
The ones that liked you enough to smile at you?
Or the ones that loved you enough-
To die for you.