Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Martyrs and Clowns

Today I am seeing reminders of the loss of two great men in the causes of gay rights and peace-- Harvey Milk and Tom Fox. In 2005 on this date, Tom Fox was abducted while doing peace work in Baghdad. He was found dead months later. In 1978, Harvey Milk was gunned down in San Francisco for the sole reason of his public and political gayness. 

Both of these men and their movements have figured prominently in my understanding of myself as a queer person of Quaker faith seeking justice and safety in my life and the lives of my fellow humans on this planet. Both of these men stand for me as examples of what the natural extension of the work of witness and truth telling can be. Yup, it's death. We speak truth to power, we could die. 

When I was a kid, I had a personal relationship with a Jesus who I knew had died for me. He was my intimate imaginary friend. He was my externalized conscience. And, as I learned more about him in Catholic school, at mass and in conversations with my mother, he was my true savior. Without him, how could I be? And could I ever be him? Would I want to be? Was I good enough? Usually, the answer was no. 

These modern day martyrs echo that feeling for me. Are these men inspiring to me? Cautionary? Daunting? All of these, and more, maybe. It is the death of the privileged in the work of justice-love, the visible, the front and center, that makes for our common understanding of martyr.  And these voices, bodies, risk-takers, wily spirits in the world go far toward this justice-love they so seek. They are beacons and calls to us, they demand a response from we more comfortable, we less willing to risk for what we believe. They are, so I can be in this world, now.

Beside this, I have been seeing some really overwhelming examples of creative actions done by groups that shock, amaze, impress, and make me laugh. The stuff that's reaching me as I make my way around the interwebs is brilliant: naked ACT UP occupiers, clowns against Nazis, men in heels, singing civil disobedience. All of this makes me feel like I could be a part of this bigness, this creative hullabaloo.  Check it out: Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

Clown Protest at KKK Rally

Occupy Homes Singing Protest
image from NYT article

You can't make this stuff up, and I wouldn't want to. These actions give me so much hope, and give me a model of action and change I can work with. I am not meant to be a martyr. I am meant to survive and survive. And thrive, if I'm lucky. These clowns for the cause, these holy laugh a minute rollers, who speak to our better natures through inspiring risks of playful honesty bring out a whole different level of awe in me. Are they daunting? Inspiring? Invigorating? All those, and more. And could I be one of these multitude of jesters, tricksters, subverters? Perhaps the answer is, yes.

We need our clowns and martyrs, and we need to know that they can be all of us. Clowns can die, too. Martyrs can rise again. I am glad to be reminded today of the many faces of this arch and muddle toward justice, and the many paths leading toward justice-love.