If you ever for a moment doubt the importance of declaring a site as a landmark, preserving at least some part of it, or placing a sign at a spot of historical significance, go to The Stonewall Inn this month, in New York’s Greenwich Village. There, hundreds have converged in vigils and left remembrances such as flowers, after a gunman opened fire early Sunday morning, June 12, at Pulse, an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, murdering 49 innocent souls and injuring 53 others. Places imbued with meaning from the past continue to maintain a powerful pull in the present.
The Stonewall Inn, in the days since this horrible massacre, has been a peaceful place, drawing throngs of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people and supporters. Its role at times of celebration and grief personifies the power a place holds when history occurs there and as it continues to represent meaning, a haven, or presence for subsequent generations. There, one can reflect that in 1969, law enforcement targeted gay people for arrest and harassment, while in Orlando earlier this month, police risked their lives to stop the violence of a shooter armed with assault weapons to kill many, many people.
Historical places show us how far we have advanced as well as the deep fissures and obstacles that still exist. We live in a different, better world, we might say. Yet in some moments, we question how different.
Unfortunately, too many neglect the history and either do not know or grasp its significance – how others have endured death, wounds, emotional scars, jailing, and both setbacks and victories in various places across the land to win what some take for granted today. We need to be vigilant about that history, about all of its painstaking, brutal, hard-won steps. [Read more →]