On this anniversary of September 11, 2001, I’m grateful to reach out to all who’ve heard Mark Bingham’s story and are drawn to his simple message of bravery and love. Being Mark’s mother has been in turns difficult, frightening, whimsical, beautiful, and downright fun. Mark taught me, by his example, simple, profound life lessons.
He demonstrated love, loyalty, and courage throughout his brief life, and especially in the manner in which he died: alongside newfound friends, fighting bad guys, against impossible odds.
I’m basking in the memory of the muddy, joyful and bellowing event that kicked off my summer. The Bingham Cup is the LGBT biennial rugby tournament that began in San Francisco in 2002, played then by a half dozen teams of mostly gay men. This past June, though, nearly 30 teams vied for the Cups and Plates as “VI Bingham Cup” came to Manchester, England.
Our hosts, the Manchester Village Spartans, treated me royally. I was honored to share the spotlight with two icons of rugby who now dedicate their lives to antibullying education: Gareth Thomas and Ben Cohen. It was a great time in Manchester.
Unfortunately, Manchester also is linked to an ugly phenomenon that impacted Mark’s life and mine: terrorism. England, whose ideas of law and justice defined civility for the world, now copes with its new immigrants. Newcomers from Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Turkey, and other Muslim nations are mostly peaceable.
Most of us can cite Muslims who are our close friends, neighbors, or classmates. Mark certainly could. He was aboard United Flight 93 on 9/11 to attend the wedding of a Chi Psi buddy, a Muslim. We know that many Muslims are peace-loving human beings. Still, like many 9/11 family members, I am concerned that on both sides of the Atlantic, our eagerness to accept multiculturalism causes us to embrace influences that threaten the very democracy we strive to uphold. We have let ourselves become victims of our own political correctness.
Some of those immigrants in Manchester flout British law with Islam as their excuse. And political bantering and suspicion of government here in the U.S. have caused us to weaken federal agencies such as the CIA and the FBI, whose reason for being, despite their detractors’ opinions, is to keep us safe.
We have much to learn from our Muslim world neighbors: loyalty to a cause; unshakable faith. But the version of Islam dictated by sharia runs counter to our democratic ideals and the First Amendment rights we cherish.
In a world of about 1.7 billion Muslims, between 5% and 10% — perhaps more — are gay. That’s a frightening statistic: 85 to 170 million Muslims, most born into a culture that views their homosexual acts as worthy of painful execution. And it’s no idle threat. We have seen the grainy Internet footage of terrified young men lined up on Saudi Arabian gibbets. I recommend the books of Bruce Bawer and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ali’s book Infidel describes her struggle to overcome her oppressive upbringing in Somalia.
We are all in this together: Christian, Jew, Sikh, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, nonbeliever. The paleontological record is strong evidence that we are brothers and sisters, and children of the earth. We have a collective heritage, and we face a collective destiny. Let’s face our destiny resolutely, determined to shape it.
Let’s preserve our constitutional republic by exercising our rights to vote, to assemble peaceably and to speak freely. Let’s oppose ideologies that threaten those rights.
There has never been a better time to be gay and American. Because the United States is a constitutional republic, our LGBT community enjoys rights that are protected by law against the majority and its tyrannical “majority rule.”
There is much at stake for us in the upcoming election. I’m pleased that the president who ordered the takedown of Osama bin Laden is the same man who has — using his word — “evolved” to the point that he, and now the Democratic Party, proudly include marriage equality in their platform. I am sorry to learn that the Republican candidate doesn’t believe in human evolution — Darwinian or Obamian.
Mitt Romney and the Mormon Church reject homosexuality and, of course, same-sex marriage, pointing to conflicting Biblical prohibitions while ignoring their own history of no-traditional “plural” (polygamous) marriage. arol Lynn Pearson — a respected LDS author whose husband was gay — speaks of a multitude of LGBT Latter-day Saints who, despite abuse, nevertheless cling to their religious faith. I have great hope for them. I see Ms. Pearson, controversial former LDS bishop Kevin Kloosterman, and other brave LDS leaders as evidence that Mormonism, and the human family, are evolving. Whether we believe in evolution or not.
ALICE HOAGLAND’s son Mark Bingham was on board United Airlines Flight 93 and was among the brave passengers who foiled the September 11 hijacking but who perished in the process, with the plane crashing in Shanksville, Pa. She has worked ever since to keep Bingham’s memory alive and to address our unfinished business regarding 9/11. Please visit www.withyoufilm.com for a glimpse at a documentary on Bingham’s life and www.911day.org, the website of My Good Deed, an organization dedicated to service and remembrance for those affected by 9/11.