Solidarity and What It Gets Us

I’ve been thinking about this since reading this tweet:

That every movement turns on itself eventually, that every fire burns out, that nothing can be sustained forever, are I think things we all know. That you can’t stay in the middle of the war forever, or it wins. But Jesus, this, we barely tried. A month ago seems like a fever dream.

I used to go to a long-established gay bar in the town where I went to college (long enough ago that the people inside were more often closeted than out) and a few years back a Facebook group for it sprung up. People would post old photos: Does anyone know who all of these people are?

Yes, someone would answer, name twenty people, and then add that seventeen, eighteen, nineteen of them died. In 1981, in 1986, in 1992.

They were beautiful, in the pictures: Dancing, laughing, their arms around each other back when there were so few places they could be free. I tell people about that world now, about the gaping holes in it, about the quilted names that stretched the length of Washington, and it’s like I’m talking about Valley Forge, it’s that far away.

We have this idea of solidarity, of times in the past when “we” were all united: 9/11 being the one that gets my back up the most, the first Gulf War, when everyone tied yellow ribbons around the trees to show support for the troops. And every time something horrible happens there are these pronouncements: This is what will make us new.

We have this idea that we will come together, change for good, that something will just HAPPEN to MAKE us different, as if we don’t have to decide to be different every single day. As if World War II was over in a minute, one Victory Garden and an episode of Band of Brothers and it was all done. As if we didn’t turn on ourselves then, too.

It seems like it took less time. Like April was a moment ago, May a moment ago. We’re not going to be left with anything from this but photographs with holes in them.