I’m sure every generation believes that its own time is the scariest time to be alive — from Depression babies to World War II to the Cold War, the world tends to be full of fright. But it’s hard not to be unsettled by where the world stands today. First, political revolution and unrest in the Middle East began to swing back and forth between elation and bloodshed, reminding us that people and governments can engage in acts both brave and bloodthirsty.
Then the multiple catastrophes that befell Japan remind us once again that nature itself is always waiting in the wings with something that can never be fully anticipated or planned for. I was talking with a woman in my neighborhood about the horrific videos of the tsunami destroying entire cities; she said her children told her, ”Mommy, it’s just like that movie, 2012.”
Which is one of the reasons I’m no longer able to stomach large-scale disaster movies — highly detailed, computer-generated special effects of mass death and carnage don’t hold quite the entertainment value for me as they did when I was younger. It must have something to do with living long enough to see too much of the real thing.
From war to disaster to upheaval, from 9/11 to New Orleans to Japan, these terrible events always have the feeling of being something of the end — and there are no end of charlatans like Glenn Beck who will try to convince us that it’s so. But it’s never really the end, it’s another stop along the course of history.
People like to say that life goes on, but I think that’s too passive an approach for our lives. Life on Earth, after all, would go on perfectly fine without us should we screw things up royally enough to take ourselves out of the picture. It might take hundreds or thousands — even millions — of years, but life operates on a scale different from ours.
Instead, despite what life throws at us, we go on. On our scale, we keep moving forward, keep living.
I’ve been thinking of this in part because of some of the setbacks we’ve seen on the much more intimate level in Maryland. To be sure, there is absolutely no equivalence between an unprecedented natural disaster and a local political setback. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt on a very personal level to find that, once again, our lives as LGBT people are considered as officially less valuable, less important than those of our straight neighbors. It hurts enough that some of us can even lash out at our own community, seeking to place blame in anger.
But we go on. We keep doing the work because to create change in the world requires us to move forward, to not give up, and to remind ourselves that we have a cause worth fighting for. It may take more patience than we believe we have, more effort than we feel we can give, but we are going to win.
Knowing that, it’s important to keep our thoughts and support with those in Japan who are living and dying in circumstances that are nearly unimaginable, even as events play out through video on our monitors and screens. We have some time to get our work done. Let’s spare some for those whose time seems perilously close to running out.
The American Red Cross is one of many agencies taking donations to provide support to victims of the Japan earthquake and tsunami.
Sean Bugg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter (@seanbugg).