National Commentary

Facing the New Fascism With Fierce, Better Angels

Russia’s amazingly cruel and evil invasion and slaughter in Ukraine has clarified in unusually stark fashion the parameters of the world’s newly reconstituted Fascist International that it spearheads: Putin’s Russia, Xi’s China, and anti-democratic Trumpians with their menacing Western corporate financial backers in the U.S. and abroad. Add evil Rasputins like Russia’s patriarch Krill and similar western charlatans like the pro-Putin Franklin Graham and other so-called evangelicals.

We are challenged to look at this singular organic entity, this gray, soulless, faceless lamprey-looking fattened reptile, through the lens of the unspeakable atrocities now being witnessed in Ukraine. This, beyond the visage of any sloppy Ted Cruz, is what we’re up against, my friends.

This incarnation of angry cruelty and rage carries with it the hatred of women and any form of non-male chauvinist conformity, including homosexuality. It slithers forward with “don’t say gay” and kindred offenses to demand a creativity and joy stifling obedience. Such is this blind and devouring menace.

As we join the Ukrainian people in a fierce resistance to all this, it is useful to recall strident affirmations of our core human identities from earlier times, including some of my own as one pioneer among many of the modern LGBTQ movement.

Writing in 2010 from my activist experiences dating back to 1969 in my collected essays entitled “Extraordinary Hearts,” I cited a quote from my friend (now deceased, RIP) Larry Kramer in his play, “The Normal Heart,” where his character Ned Weeks exclaims as the AIDS epidemic unfolds,

“I belong to a culture that includes Proust, Henry James, Tchaikovsky, Cole Porter, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Alexander the Great, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Christopher Marlowe, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Tennessee Williams, Byron, E.M. Forster, Lorca, Auden, Francis Bacon, James Baldwin, Harry Stack Sullivan, John Maynard Keynes, Dag Hammarskjold…The only way we’ll have real pride is when we demand recognition of a culture that isn’t just sexual. It’s all there – all through history we’ve been there, but we have to claim it, and identify who was in it, and articulate what’s in our minds and hearts and all our creative contributions to this earth… That’s how I want to be defined: as one of the men who fought the war…”

Then I added on, “To my mind, such a noble and heroic breed are homosexuals! We’ve been an indispensable glue and momentum for the maintenance and advance not only of civilization, but of civility, itself. Nature has put us here for a reason.

“Strip us of our rightful role, replace a zeal to create and contribute to a more just and compassionate world, reduce us to ‘blithe indifference,’ and the entire world becomes angrier, more paranoid, more selfish and cruel.

“Assess the wider social impact of one hundred thousand of the most creative souls in the world, who found their way to New York, the creative capital of the globe, to make their contribution, wiped out by AIDS, most long before they’d come close to achieving their full potential.

“How would the world be different today had that not happened. Would the outcome of the razor-thin 2000 presidential election in the U.S. (considered by many the most significant watershed for all the chaos that’s followed) been the same? You can’t remove that many homosexuals without making the world a less cheery place.

“For too many who survived, the cynicism and indifference imbued into gay culture in the 1970s, and the unaddressed ‘post-traumatic stress’ consequences of the AIDS era, turned them away from humanitarian ideals, to parrot their straight oppressors as harsh individualist libertarians, anarchists and jaded arch-conservatives.

“Gay people will never ‘fit’ in straight society. Nature provided us to transform it, not conform to it. We’re meant to be neither the mindless hedonists of the urban gay culture of the 1970s nor new Ozzie and Harriets. Nobody said this would be easy. It isn’t.

“But we can speak to each other from the vantage point of, as Abraham Lincoln (one of us) put it, ‘the better angels of our nature,’ to love not lust, to urge one another to tackle fears and become important to the mending of an increasingly dysfunctional world.”