By Forest Riggs
The old adage states that “ behind every dark cloud there is a silver lining” —or, at least we are led believe there should be. These days in mid-January 2017, it is getting increasingly more difficult to see any silver linings—mostly what we get is pure tarnish!
Tarnish by definition is “ to lose or cause to lose luster, loss of brightness and dullness—usually the result of oxidation or actions and/or events that take away joy and happiness.” Over the past year and now barely into a New Year, we have seen so much tarnish that the silver linings have seemingly vanished—at least for now.
The LGBT world suffered a huge loss and shock in June when a crazed gunman took dozens of lives in a popular Orlando LGBT nightclub. There were school shootings, bombings, deadly fires and murders from one end of America to the other. Brexit divided Great Britain and even the Great Barrier Reef saw its largest loss of live coral ever, from bleaching.
The year started with the Zika virus and just seemed to continue on a downhill spiral from there. Not to sound like Debbie Downer, but as the year waned it became harder and harder to find anything to celebrate or to make us joyful.
That black, crepe-laden chariot of death rolled along over the past year and taken so many lives. In th
e past few weeks it has made us fearful to turn on the news or check-in to the internet; it seems every day there is another report of death—both celebrity and otherwise. The list of folks that rode away in the dark chariot is long and unsettling.
There were so many losses during 2016. Those that were taken came from all walks of life—Merle Haggard, Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Jo Cox, Gene Wilder, Alan Rickman, Prince, Leonard Cohen and so many more. As if the previous 11 months had not wrought enough death, the very end of December became a surreal nightmare of loss: George Michael, Zsa Zsa Gabor and her adopted son, John Glenn, our own Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher and her beloved mother, Hollywood elite Debbie Reynolds.
Let’ s face it, 2016 sucked!
As if all the death and loss was not enough, the bitter Presidential election cast a dark pall and divided our great nation. Even now, as we approach whatshould be a great and happy event—the inauguration of a United States President—there is great unrest and discord dividing our nation. In 1858, President Lincoln brilliantly said “ a house divided against itself cannot stand,” and no words were ever truer. As we approach January 20, we are wobbly and faltering, weakened by unrest, fear, anger and distrust.
The LGBT community is fearful of what the new presidency and political appointments will bring. There is great fear the hard-won rights of equality and understanding will be set back 50 years, as cabinet posts are filled and justices are added to the Supreme Court. Only time will tell, but it does not look bright. Cerebral people see no silver lining during this time, only tarnish.
“What is the answer?” you ask. I don’ t know. I don’ t have it. I am at as much of a shocked state of loss as everyone else.
I do, however, know one thing and that is that the human spirit is strong and resilient and nothing stays the same, not even tarnish. Life, like fine silver, can be polished and the brightness and joyful luster returned. The polishing starts within each of us—individually, then collectively—and our efforts will return things to a shining brightness. There is no magical formula for removing the tarnish (if only it were that easy). It requires work and, like elbow grease and silver polish, we must put forth effort, stand strong and clean the tarnish of the past year.
Emotions have run like an unbridled horse over the past year with all the deaths and political unrest, and now people are emotionally drained and tired. Not just celebrities or well-known people died this year; friends lost loved ones and family members. I lost two very dear and special people in my life, and at the end of the year. In truth, everyone has their personal tarnish, and then there is the other stuff—the news-making tarnish. No matter what term you use to describe the losses and feelings, it is tough. “ A tough row to hoe,” as the saying goes.
I think we need one huge January White Sale to wipe the slate clean! Things will change in the next few months, some good and some bad. Change is inevitable. In the end, it is not so much the change as it is how we deal with it.
I am grateful for a tight-knit LGBT community on Galveston Island. We take care of each other and that is what is most important and reassuring in these times of stress. Who knows?—maybe there is a silver lining behind all the dark clouds. We should all be a bit more unsinkable like Molly Brown, as portrayed by Debbie Reynolds in the 1964 movie. Hang tough and make good things happen.
A resident of Galveston where he can be found wasting bait and searching for the meaning of life, Forest Riggs recently completed a collection of short stories about his beloved island and is working on a novel.