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xmag.com : October 2001 : Darklady

Words fail me.

I sit, staring at my keyboard and monitor, a million thoughts and feelings jockeying for position. But no string of words seems capable of conveying their meaning.

What words can explain how it feels to travel to Washington, DC, visit the Supreme Court and catch sight of the Jefferson Memorial before returning to New York City on a cool night? What words can capture the thrill of riding to Queens in a yellow cab driven by a Middle Eastern gentleman with limited English language skills and apparent high-speed record-holder aspirations? What words can paint the shimmer of Manhattan's nightscape lights against a black sky at midnight after a hard rain? More to the point, what words exist to communicate the gut punch felt early the next morning when that skyline was tortured into a visceral ache of international proportions?

There are none.

And that is why we talk and we write. And, hopefully, why we think.

I thought plenty during my two-day rental car solo drive from New York City to Des Moines, Iowa, where I was finally able to get a flight home. I thought about the people and the values that I hold dear. I pondered concepts of friendship, love, loyalty, and patriotism. I admired the beautiful landscapes that I drove through and wondered what kind of people lived in them...how they lived their lives. I thought about what it means to me to be an American, especially
as an outspoken advocate of the First Amendment and of responsible, non-
traditional sexual lifestyles. I thought about the people along I-80 West who displayed flags or other symbols representing their anguish and their willingness to be identified as Americans. I thought about the frightened men and women who propose that some civil liberties should cease to be acknowledged in order to achieve something they consider to be "security." And I wondered what would be left of being an American were such a level of "security"
ever achieved.

"During this time of crisis, I urge others to remember how precious are the rights that make us free."

Then I felt fear. Not for the first time during this virgin voyage to the East Coast but now from a new direction. I did not fear attack from foreign religious extremists willing to do the unthinkable to achieve their twisted purposes. This time it was domestic extremists that tightened my gut. Ideologues who, in a vain attempt to magically make the country risk-free, would remove the very freedoms that make their homeland great, that inspire murderous anger in those who hate freedom.

Posting Air Marshals on planes is one thing...restricting speech rights,
blaming sexual minorities and atheists, issuing national identity cards, and eavesdropping on phone conversations are quite another. Shades of 1984 and the horror stories of life under the Soviet Union. If the goal is to demean our national values and play directly into the hands of those who hate us, then burn the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and have done with the charade. But if the goal is to live free, then we must also live bravely.

Americans are eagerly doing what we are good at doing: generously giving of our abundance. Whether in Manhattan, Des Moines, or Portland, Oregon, we all want to be involved, to take action, to do something, to make things better--to make things right.

Donating money, time, skills, and materials are ways to assist in rebuilding what has been destroyed while reaffirming support for the things that we hold precious. My favorite advocacy and lobbying organization, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (www.ncsfreedom.org), defends our natural right to be sexual beings: to speak frankly, live honestly, be good parents, neighbors, employees and citizens.

During this time of crisis, I urge others to remember how precious are the rights that make us free. While we're defending our physical lives, let us not
forget to defend those things that make our lives worth living as Americans.



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