Originally printed in the Midwest Ursine, October, 2001 - Reposted on September 9, 2005
Mark Bingham looked like a hero to begin with. He stood tall and well-defined. He was a champion rugby player. He was a public relations wunderkind, in command of his own PR firm in San Francisco. When he led a group of passengers on United Airlines flight 93, mid-flight out of Newark, NJ, to disarm the box-cutter-wielding al-Qaida terrorists and save the flight from intended mass destruction, he became larger than that.
He was a hero. Just like Audie Murphy was a hero. Just like the Tuskegee Airmen. Just like the Japanese-American soldiers who fought in the Pacific Theater against the Imperial Japanese Army.
There were also heroes flashing across our television screens. Just how many gay men served in silence in Vietnam, while the scoreboard on the Huntley-Brinkley Report tallied every dead, wounded, MIA and POW to this six-year-old? How many of us were among the tallies?
In the Gulf War, two people I’ve been close with were medics stationed in Saudi Arabia. They were both gay men. In the deserts of the Persian Gulf, sexual orientation was pulled rank. When a SCUD missile landed a half-mile away from your station, you were no longer some gay medic in the United States Navy. You made a sacrifice for your country. You could be a hero.
President George W. Bush made it clear that we are at war. On Monday, December 3, 2001, the President declared his third State of Alert for the holiday season. He urged all of us to go about our lives, but just be alert.
Yet, President Bush and his fellow conservative cronies have balked on making Mark Bingham a hero in the official sense. Is it because our country is not ready to embrace a gay hero? This is the same American cautionary ideal that disallowed President Truman to herald the return of the Tuskegee Airmen because America wasn’t ready to embrace African-Americans as a part of post-WWII society.
Instead, this nation is willing to scream for the blood of an ultra-conservative, unholy mastermind of terrorism, who claims no national citizenship, but the bloodline of a wealthy businessman back in Saudi Arabia. A man, considered even more megalomaniac than Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qadaffi and the Ayatollah Khomeini combined, is more important than the gay man who tried to save an airliner that the followers of this bratty son-of-a-bitch hijacked for the purpose of mass destruction against a nation in peace?
And, we wave our flags from our cars while this country feigns ignorance towards gays. Bullshit! If this country has any dignity during this “war,” give the gay survivors of the dead of September 11th their due and their benefits! Make Mark Bingham a decorated hero! Bring us in line with the 21st Century for once and for all!
Chuck D of Public Enemy said it best: “most of our heroes don’t appear on no stamps.” I, for one, echo such sentiment. I, for one, believe that all Americans can learn from Mark Bingham. He is, after all, what this country is all about. Right, President Bush?
(c) 2001 Tillery Publications