Friday Firesmith – Of Plague and Pride

AIDS was a death sentence in the 1980s when it exploded into the American psyche. I met the first person in this area to have the disease, and the man was being treated by his neighbors and the rest of society as if his skin were radioactive plutonium. Dying slowly, unable to find a doctor who could help him, shunned and ridiculed, he only wanted to ensure his six-year-old daughter survived. A woman I knew was interviewing him, and the whole time I felt as if I was observing the first of many people to die of this mysterious plague. 

Rock Hudson’s death from AIDS stunned many people. Hudson was one of the Beautiful People living the dream in Hollywood. But he was also the gateway for the adoring public to realize sexuality was not always what it seemed. It took famous people dying from AIDS for the general population to accept that sexuality wasn’t the cause or the only vector of the plague. 

The death of one of their own prompted movie stars and big money to support the funding and publicity of finding a cure for AIDS, which led to a greater understanding and empathy of the Gay community. Closet doors swung open, and to the surprise of some and the shock of others, gay wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and simple, ordinary people, stepped out. 

While in the army in 1984, I met a fellow soldier, a cook, who was gay. When the military discovered this, all hell broke loose, and she tried to kill herself. The last I heard was she was in a mental hospital. We went from persecution to don’t-ask- don’t-tell, and finally, acceptance. 

Speaking up and defending someone for being gay would have gotten me kicked out of the army, but I regret not making a stand. More people died of indifference and ignorance than they should have. The same holds for men and women discharged from the military, some decorated combat vets whose sexuality made no difference in how they served this country. The disease of fear, ignorance, injustice, cruelty, and outright hatred stalked the military ranks no less than anywhere else in America.  

Like a virus, hate spreads from person to person, is transmitted easily, and relies on indifference and ignorance to propagate. 

Hatred pushed a friend of mine into near suicide; all I could do was watch silently. A reporter interviewed a dying man, a pariah, the American unclean, the unholy and unbearable, who would die wondering what would happen to his daughter. All I could do was embrace silence again. 

The time for regret is over now. It is now the time to speak up, to shout that love is love, that people are people, and that hatred is division. Equal rights are not a pie; you do not lose yours by allowing others to have theirs. You do not lose your life, freedom, dignity, or security by allowing other people to love as they please. 

Freedom to love is the most basic of all human rights. We should all say this, and it is worth fighting for. 

I’m saying it now. Let people love who they love. 

Happy Pride Month. 

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

40 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Of Plague and Pride”

  1. Showing a rainbow will get you boycotted by a certain group of haters.Time to join Bud Light, Target, Ford, North Face and Chick-Fil-a and others as the list grows.

  2. Thank you for writing essay! “Freedom to love is the most basic of all human rights.” 🏳️‍🌈🌈❤️

  3. As a believer in an Eternal creator, I cannot agree with your viewpoint. He says the practice of Homosexuality is an “abomination” to Him and in earlier times, the practice was met with death by stoning. You, as everyone else, have the right to believe what you wish but the consequences of some actions, such as homosexuality, brings about consequences that are immutable.

    • Where and when did the Eternal Creator say this? To whom?
      Did he speak to you directly or leave a message on you voice mail?
      Funny he didn’t tell Jesus to pass the word while he was here.
      He didn’t tell the bible writers to put it in there either.

    • Emmette, you are free to believe what you want. You are free to hate who you want. But everyone else is free to love. Do not presume to interfere with free will, or with love.

  4. “We went from persecution to don’t-ask- don’t-tell, and finally, acceptance.”

    I wish the last part was true, and may be official military policy, but for the public it’s obviously not.
    Religions need a bogyman, and Satan is too abstract, so anyone different is seized upon.

    I console myself with not-getting-any means STDs too.

    • Bruce, I think we’ll find more people in support of this piece than those who oppose it this weekend. We’ll have a few still stuck in the past,but I feel most people believe in love and freedom.

  5. This remind me of something I read just a few days ago. “I don’t fear the witches, I fear the people who burn them alive.”

  6. Mike, thanks for writing this. I read most of your posts here and yet this is the first one I’m commenting on.

    My journey to acceptance of my daughter’s sexuality began where @Emmette Middleton is. Thankfully I found a way to push against that teaching. We lost her to cancer 11 years ago and I’m so grateful to be able to tell you she felt loved and accepted for who she was by everyone who mattered to her… and I was one of them! 🌈 ♥️💚💙💛🤎💜 🏳️‍🌈

    @Emmette if you read this, I invite you to watch my TED talk about my journey.

    • I do NOT hate homosexuals, transgenders, etc, I just despise the practice that they seem to be addicted to. I will say that I have had some “homo” friends and have never had a problem with them. Just quit trying to ram this abomination down our throats. And…..thank some “straight” people for your existence…

    • Jim, the divide between one side of the family and the other side when my nephew came out was stark. We accepted him as who he was, as we always had. The other side condemned him. They may call it whatever they want, but it is hatred and it is fear.

  7. It’s quite apparent that you don’t read or haven’t read the Holy Bible. If you had, you would have a slight inkling of what it says about homosexuality…

    • The same bible that advocates slavery (including selling your daughter, Exodus 21:7), demands capital punishment for working on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:2), calls eating shellfish another abomination (Leviticus 11:10), rejects blind/lame/flat-nosed people from approaching the altar (Leviticus 21:20), and bans haircuts and tattoos (Leviticus 19:27-28) as well as cotton/polyester blends (Leviticus 19:19)? That bible? No wonder some people call it the Big Book of Pick-and-Choose.

      • HJ, thank you for that. I wasn’t up to looking all of that up, so good on you for doing the footwork, Now I think I will go eat some shrimp with a tattooed witch so we can plan to do some work Sunday while wearing polyester.

  8. during the “don’t ask; don’t tell” era I remember at least one of the guys in my unit who was almost certainly gay; I don’t think anyone cared; no-one asked as far as I know. I always thought the ‘logic’ behind the ban was flawed… supposedly it was ‘illegal’ because some clueless people assumed they would be easy to blackmail because of the supposedly ‘shameful secret’… the problem with that is that the only reason they could be blackmailed is because the government setup the stupid misguided law making their existence ‘illegal’.

    it’s not a choice, it is who someone is…

    now we have a bunch of people acting as if “woke” is evil… but “woke” is nothing more than having empathy for others; treating people with respect and dignity even if they are ‘different’. That should be the standard behavior that we all strive for but some people want to act like it’s ‘evil’.

  9. You mean the book with the talking donkey? the talking snake? the one that has no less than 4 demands by ‘god’ for his people to commit genocide? (Numbers 31, Deut 20:16-18; Josh 6:20-21 and 1 Sam 15:3) or commands you to beat your children (i.e. pretty much all over Proverbs); or where it says you can beat your slaves? (ex 21) – those slaves your bible specifically says you can have? (lev 25:44-46 and others)? —

    your bible also prohibits eating shellfish and wearing fabrics of mixed cloth; it demands the death penalty for anyone working on “the sabbath”; it demands that you cut the tip of a babies penis off when they are 8 days old… and yes… yes it does…

    but somehow you conveniently decided that none of that counts but this one very specific thing which you have to decided to obsess over…. – yeah, i read your bible…

    and even if I did believe that entity existed (which I most certainly do not) I’d certainly not be “worshiping” the narcissistic, sadistic, misogynistic, racist, homophobic tyrant described in those pages. There is nothing praiseworthy over a tyrant that would flood an entire planet or turn a woman into a pillar of salt for the ‘horrible sin’ of looking backwards as her home is destroyed by a lunatic.

  10. Oh, I want slaves, half a dozen, all female. I’d even make them go to church on Sunday so I could rest.
    Nah,just kidding, they’d probably nag me to distraction when they found I couldn’t say no. LoL

  11. Re-read the Bible, paying attention to such passages as Deuteronomy 23:17, 1 Kings (chapters 14, 15, and 22), 2 Kings 23:7, Job, and I Timothy. 1:10 There are probably a few other passages I missed.

  12. I do not care what consenting adults do with each other as long as it is legal.

    Since who one wants or does sleep with is such a small part of their lives, it does not affect my relationship with them. Of course, I might have an issue with those who want to sleep with my wife.

    • Tim, I saw an interview with Miley Cyrus who said she was okay with anything anyone wanted to do as long as they were adults and no one got hurt. I find that oddly sensible.

      • Her statement has been my mantra since before she was born. If it is legal and does not have anything to do with me, then I say “Go for it”.

  13. Why would anyone base their opinions on homosexuality from the Bible? Think about it, it starts with Adam and Eve who had two sons, Cain and Abel. Now Cain and Abel each had a wife. Where did they come from? Were they their sisters? Did they marry their cousins? It doesn’t really matter because it’s all made up. Not to mention, the real life issue is how many Christians are being imprisioned for sexual relations with underage kids. Many of who have online posts decrying how gays are hurting our children. The larger point being those that protest the most, most likely are guilty of the sin they accuse others of.

  14. Keith, your comment reminds me of the meme where two guys are watching a crucifixion from a distance and one of them asks, “What did he do?” The other replies, “He said people ought to love one another.” The first nods, “That would do it.”

    • @Richard – news flash: republicans are boycotting chick fil-a now because they are ‘too woke’.

  15. To be honest, most of the couples I know in same gender relationships are in a more healthy, longer lasting, more fulfilling and more equal relationship than the hetero relationships I’ve seen. Certainly better than any relationship I’ve ever been in. I know three lesbian couples who have been together for over thirty years each. They are all still very happy and very much in love. If these were hetero couples everyone would be quite congratulatory, I feel that way no matter who it is. One of these couples have been together over 40 years. Though thick and thin. It’s amazing to me.
    I believe love is love, equal rights for them is not fewer rights for any one else, they just want to be able to share their lives with the person they love, just as everyone else can. They want to be able to buy a home together and know that when one passes the other one will get to stay there. They want to know that the person who knows them best and loves them most will get to have the say about their final wishes both medically and for their final arrangements and they won’t be forced to stand by while a family who disowned them years ago does something they would never have wanted. Why is this so bad?
    These right wing uber religious people need to get over themselves, and stop depending on their big fairy tale book as a moral compass. I’d hardly look to a book which tells you to stone someone to death, or to mutilate your child moral in the first place.

    • Chick, we straight people ought to set a better example for relationships before we try to police other people. My marriage lasted 989 days. We don’t do well enough by our vows to keep other people from taking them.

  16. Mike, thanks for the column. Well done, and it’s encouraging to see all the positive comments you’re getting.

    • Ron, thanks for commenting. I’m not surprised the reception but I am tickled. I also think it’s time for those of us who are cis white males to start speaking up, and louder, for the rights we’ve always taken for granted.

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