Tuesday, August 20, 2013

After Dark, August 20, 2013

The World We Face
...or, how things have changed and not
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Things have changed..

When I began my professional career nearly 40 years ago, there was a joke about one of the biggest theatre companies in this country, "All the men are Gay and all the women are drunks; all the women are drunks because all the men are Gay." People spoke of the company in terms - and I kid you not - of having a "faggot mafia" and that they turned straight actors Gay and you couldn't work there if you weren't Queer. 

At the first party held in my honour - after I won a writing award in Edmonton - as I got blasted on cancer-treatment pot provided by a researcher at the party - a woman began making passes at me by sharing gossip about everyone in the room: who was fucking whose wife, who was a hopeless alcoholic. Then, in whispers, she pointed out an actor and hissed, "He's a homosexual." 

I would be quickly reminded that the building that dominates its landscape is a Church - huge, new and ugly as a train-wreck.

A few months later, at the Banff Playwrights' Colony, the big butch writers made awful jokes about how the ballet dancers' quarters was one big faggot fuck-fest. Worse, I was so deeply and fearfully in the closet that I did not even get that a beautiful, blond playwright was actually interested in me! 

That's how it was. Really.

Now, we can count straights among our allies, we can count on even Harper's folk to protect us, we can count on outrage from all if we are assaulted - in policy or in public. Things are by no means perfect. I am still estranged from friends and close relatives since I came out at 35 years old. If I went back to the village where I passed my adolescence, I would be quickly reminded that the building that dominates its landscape is a Church - huge, new and ugly as a train-wreck.

But in my chosen worlds - theatre and journalism - I keep few secrets. I came out in my reviewing quite publicly when I was writing a pan of a highly esthetic production of Hosanna which I said looked like, "Faggot-Chic". My editor said, "You can't use that word unless you're one." And four days later there it was in print. (Though I wouldn't use that particular word anymore, I do feel much freer in my reviews and writing since that day.)

We are all lucky. We are lucky to live in this world.

Meanwhile, mainstream press and governments are, despite pious pronouncements, doing nothing.

However...in the world of Nikolai (The Government Inspector) Gogol and Pyotr (The Queen of Spades) Tchaikovsky a holocaust is brewing. 

All the signs are there: laws that virtually mirror pre-war Germany's; vocal and, often, violent harrassment of a minority with the unspoken approbation of the state; attempts to hide the growing horrors when the world is invited to visit; calls to the protection of tradition, to the protection of values, to the rejection of influences of outsiders who don't understand; regulation which will break apart families and remove the "unfit" from their loved ones...the number of atrocities grows each day, as does their intensity. Meanwhile, mainstream press and governments are, despite pious pronouncements, doing nothing. 

Now the question: what are we, as artists, journalists, citizens of the world, going to do about a First-World nation that has gone rogue? 

As Russia has closed in on itself, even with the Sochi Winter Olympics less than two seasons away, the IOC has joined the ranks of the neo-Nazis. Anyone - athlete or referee/judge especially - who displays support for the so-called political cause of human rights will be ejected from the Games. 

So what do we do?

If we can't get to the Russians (where the very vast majority - reportedly over 80% - support Putin in this) then we must get the companies who not only support Putin/Sochi/Russia by pouring billions into the economy, but are terrified of their brands becoming tarnished. Like McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Panasonic, Samsung, Omega; companies which have nothing to gain and everything to lose if their sacred names are linked - loudly and publicly - with state-approved violence and murder. Twitter and Facebook are there for that...for them...for all of you. 

Remember how it was here. Remember that, in Russia, it is that way still and getting worse by the day. It is not, as Kushner hoped, Millenium Approaching or Perestroika; it is, unless we all do something, Kristallnacht.

(If you are on Facebook, please join this group and take the actions - and read the articles - suggested there: HitSochiWhereItHurts)

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