The Stonewall Riots, and making history

June 28th, 2009
Let’s say you’re at a bar having a drink with your friends, and the cops arrive. They want to arrest everyone and haul you in to the police station. Your name will be in the paper, even though none of the charges filed against you will stick. But most importantly, you can’t finish your drink with your friends. This has been going on for some time, years in fact, and you and your friends realize that it will go on for many more years unless you do something.
Whatever you decide to do may have no impact on the future at all.
Or it may eventually lead to some of your fellow citizens just like you getting the right to marry the person they love and having a happier life.
It was July 28th, 1969 at a dive bar in lower Manhattan.
You and your friends decide to show force against the police after they arrive. Others join in. Even people not in the bar hear what’s happening and go against the police. But you all are not fighting against the police, you’re fighting against an idea that you’re somehow inferior to everyone else, that your humanity is worth less.
A small group of people at the Stonewall Inn in 1969 did what they thought was the right choice for that particular moment. As a result people celebrate the event every year with a parade full of happiness, followed by another year of being left alone to drink with one’s friends unmolested.
The stonewall riots mean something special to me because I’m gay. But they mean much more to me as an American, because those people were protesting a right that, like it or not, was given to them as members of their country. And they mean the most to me because, like it or not, we’re all the same species of animals given a special gift of being alive at this very moment on this special planet, and we need every advantage we can get to allow our time here to be happy and fruitful.
Here’s a tweet I wrote yesterday while thinking about the riots:
[INSERT IMAGE OF TWEET - http://twitter.com/swamibooba/status/2381052281]
It’s true, I love those kinds of historical events, especially when they change everything. This one did. Most important events in history happen the same way. A small group of pissed off colonists decided the best thing to do for the livelihood of their neighbors was to separate from their mother country and start off on their own.
Or when about a dozen people made a fateful decision to not only support and follow a strange wandering preacher, but to stay with him until everyone else wanted him dead – and then did the riskiest thing possible by telling others about what the preacher said about life and love.
Or when a small country looked down upon by everyone else because they descended from what were considered barbarians produces a ruler who figures he has a slim chance of asserting his right to the throne of a huge nearby island. So he  and his small army act on it and wind up establishing a stable country that at one point has the largest and wealthiest empire in the world. And the country is still around, a thousand years later.
These are big events, sure, but at one point a small group of people decided hey, maybe we can do this! and they pulled it off knowing that it was the best decision given the circumstances.
Events like the Stonewall Riots happen all the time. It may not be a six-day riot involving drag queens beating up cops (I would love to be able to have seen that!). But because those gays, lesbians, and even heterosexuals fought back years of oppression and cruel treatment – it inspired others to take that anger and frustration and change people’s minds and bring a little more peace into the world.
If anything can be learned from this event, and the celebrations that have happened after – is that it could happen to you. At some point you may be with a small group of people just like you, for whatever reason, and forced to make a choice. And within a few minutes – just like that, because time isn’t on your side, time is never on your side – you all agree to do something that may be dangerous, but at least you all know that it’s the best you can do. There’s no time to think of the act’s effect on the future, but you know it may do something.

Stonewall_riots

Let’s say you’re at a bar having a drink with your friends, and the cops arrive. They want to arrest everyone and haul you in to the police station. Your name will be in the paper, even though none of the charges filed against you will stick. But most importantly, you can’t finish your drink with your friends. This has been going on for some time, years in fact, and you and your friends realize that it will go on for many more years unless you do something.

Whatever you decide to do may have no impact on the future at all.

Or it may eventually lead to some of your fellow citizens just like you getting the right to marry the person they love and having a happier life.

It was July 28th, 1969 at a dive bar in lower Manhattan.

You and your friends decide to show force against the police after they arrive. Others join in. Even people not in the bar hear what’s happening and go against the police. But you all are not fighting against the police, you’re fighting against an idea that you’re somehow inferior to everyone else, that your humanity is worth less.

A small group of people at the Stonewall Inn in 1969 did what they thought was the right choice for that particular moment. As a result people celebrate the event every year with a parade full of happiness, followed by another year of being left alone to drink with one’s friends unmolested.

The stonewall riots mean something special to me because I’m gay. But they mean much more to me as an American, because those people were protesting a right that, like it or not, was given to them as members of their country. Those rights are part of a rule of law that strives for peace and stability to make life easier to live. And they mean the most to me because, like it or not, we’re all the same species of animals given a special gift of being alive at this very moment on this special planet, and we need every advantage we can get to allow our time here to be happy and fruitful.

Here’s a tweet I wrote tonight while thinking about the riots:

My favorite historical events are the ones improvised by a small group of people using their wits to do the right thing for that moment.

My favorite historical events are the ones improvised by a small group of people using their wits to do the right thing for that moment.

It’s true, I love those kinds of historical events, especially when they change everything. This one did. Most important events in history happen the same way. A small group of pissed off colonists decided the best thing to do for the livelihood of their neighbors was to separate from their mother country and start off on their own.

Or when about a dozen people made a fateful decision to not only support and follow a strange wandering preacher, but to stay with him until everyone else wanted him dead – and then did the riskiest thing possible by telling others about what the preacher said about life and love.

Or when a small country looked down upon by everyone else because they descended from what were considered barbarians produces a ruler who figures he has a slim chance of asserting his right to the throne of a huge nearby island. So he  and his small army act on it and wind up establishing a stable country that at one point has the largest and wealthiest empire in the world. And the country is still around, a thousand years later.

These are big events, sure, but at one point a small group of people decided hey, maybe we can do this! and they pulled it off knowing that it was the best decision given the circumstances.

Events like the Stonewall Riots happen all the time. It may not be a six-day riot involving drag queens beating up cops (I would love to be able to have seen that!). But because those gays, lesbians, and even heterosexuals fought back years of oppression and cruel treatment – it inspired others to take that anger and frustration and change people’s minds and bring a little more peace into the world.

If anything can be learned from this event, and the celebrations that have happened after – is that it could happen to you. At some point you may be with a small group of people just like you, for whatever reason, and forced to make a choice. And within a few minutes – just like that, because time isn’t on your side, time is never on your side – you all agree to do something that may be dangerous, but at least you all know that it’s the best you can do. There’s no time to think of the act’s effect on the future, but you know it may do something.



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