Views expressed in The Advocate’s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, Pride Media.
“For the first time in the history of our country, a majority of our people believe that the next five years will be worse than the past five years. Two-thirds of our people do not even vote. The productivity of American workers is actually dropping, and the willingness of Americans to save for the future has fallen below that of all other people in the Western world.
“As you know, there is a growing disrespect for government and for churches and for schools, the news media, and other institutions. This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning. These changes did not happen overnight. They’ve come upon us gradually over the last generation, years that were filled with shocks and tragedy.”
The above sounds like something President Biden could have said yesterday or this morning, but the words above are from President Jimmy Carter’s famous “malaise” speech, formally known as “The Crisis of Confidence” speech in 1979, when high gas prices and high demand led to gas rationing, inflation was high, and American hostages were being held in Iran. The United States was at a crisis point. No offense to 1979, but that all seems tame compared to where we are now.
As we roll, or tumble, into Pride Month, we’re on the heels of mass shootings again — children in Uvalde, Texas, and people of color in Buffalo, N.Y. — plus a do-nothing Congress that will do nothing about guns; a forthcoming Supreme Court decision that will likely overturn Roe v. Wade, with gay marriage next up in the crosshairs; queer kids, queer parents, and queer teachers under assault in the classroom; trans kids and trans athletes being demonized; baby formula shortages (kids are really getting slammed this year); monkeypox taking aim at gay men; and high gas prices, out-of-control inflation, and the war in Ukraine.
We will have televised hearings of the January 6 committee this month that will surely shock and anger all Americans — some rightly infuriated and others wrongly enraged. Oh, and another COVID-19 surge is upon us with a new variant that will peak this month, and likely one or more peaks to come. And travel in June and this summer is predicted to be miserable. CNN says we will “hate” it.
When we need to get away from all that has gone away, we can’t even get away.
This disaster of a mess growing steady, fast, and furious, like Billy Joel’s hyperventilating 1989 song, “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” that included this rapid staccato: “birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again / moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock / Begin, Reagan, Palestine, terror on the airline / Ayatollahs in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan.” This stanza from the song, at one time so serious, seems somewhat less important now.
America doesn’t need a malaise speech as much as it needs a discourse about high anxiety. The wheels on this country are coming off. Now that’s not to say that they’ll come off completely. We’ve been in dire straits before, and America has bounced back; however, we have never been this divided. At least in the days of Jimmy Carter, most Americans thought he was right.
In our community, we look forward to the annual arrival of June — at least most of us do. It is Pride Month for us, and an opportunity for us to exult about who we are, despite all of the arrows being flung at us by devious politicians desperate to reenact the homophobia of the 1980s and 1990s. These lizard-like legislators are using our community as a weapon, as a cultural dividing line, as an insidious punchline to bigoted stump speeches and ruinous legislation.
But we won’t be deterred. Or will we? To be sure, some of the Pride events around the country, namely those in San Francisco and New York, are just as divided as our country, pitting police against Pride. Both sides have their points, but it’s illustrative that even in the LGBTQ+ community, a division exists.
Now that I’ve brought your mood down to the depths of despair, let me try to reassure you that America and our community need a bright, billowing, beautiful Pride Month more than ever, with colorful rainbows on every street corner.
There probably has never been a better time to have cities and towns across the country adorn their doorways and windows with Pride rainbow flags and decorations. The eclectic mix of colors brightens the cloudiness that hovers over June 2022 in America.
And the parades, marches, events — whatever you want to call them, a chance for one part of the population in this country to dance, sing, rejoice and celebrate. Most of the rest of the country doesn't get this opportunity, but everyone is certainly more than welcome to join our party. It might be good to have a little bit of fun with gay men, lesbians, trans folk, drag queens, and leather daddies.
Some Americans still look askance at our revelry, and that’s too bad, particularly this year, when they should be lapping it up — somewhat of a pun intended. Our citizens are being beaten and punched and kicked and scolded — some more than others. If you’re out there and you're hurting and you're worrying and you’re afraid, don’t be afraid of us. Join us to let off some steam.
Some people might say, “Oh, I don’t want a bunch of straight people at Pride,” but I beg to differ. We need them as much as they need us. We’re going to need as much help as we can get when all of the midterm fires start trying to burn our community down. We need straight people, like Michigan state Sen. Mallory McMorrow, to support us. I’m not afraid to admit we need all the help we can get.
And America needs us. It needs our community to be bold, to be proud, and most importantly to be fun this month, and there’s no doubt we won’t let anyone down. As a matter of fact, we’ll pick you up if you are down.
May the pageantry of Pride perk up a pensive and problematic nation in the dismal month of June 2022.
John Casey is editor at large for The Advocate.