There is a moment in Homeland, on Showtime Channel, when Damien Lewis, as Brody, sits at a table in a cell, supposedly in CIA headquarters, his feet chained to the floor, his hands chained to the table. Brody had been imprisoned for eight years in an Arabic country. Flashes of that experience make Damien Lewis look like Edmond Dantes in the Chateau d’If. Brody had long unkempt hair and beard and wild and suffering eyes. Now, in the CIA prison, Brody is battered by a CIA operative, Carrie, played by Claire Danes. This man was battered first by the Arabs and now by the CIA, and his face is raw with his pain. As the scene moves forward, he begins to weep. I have never seen TV like this before.
“Unresolved pain is another recurring Homeland theme,” says June Thomas, the writer on Slate’s online discussion of this program—unresolved pain from the 1947 war, from the endless Palestinian conflict, from 9/11, from Brody’s eight-year imprisonment and torture.
None of the characters in Homeland seem to have gotten past any of the horrors of their pasts, and none of the histories of these people seems to be resolved. Damien Lewis’s face, which seems stunned by his own suffering, by the sheer amount of pain his tormentors are willing to inflict on his body, is the face of that suffering.
And now, four days after the 2012 election, in which LGBT people have won historic victories—marriage equality in three states has won, an anti-marriage equality constitutional amendment defeated, a lesbian elected to the US Senate, and others—it is not time to dust out hands and say, We won that one, and move on.
We are in the midst of a great victory, but we cannot forget those who have been damaged and injured by the way things have been. By personal hatred and bullying that left generations of gay men and women psychologically and spiritually and physically damaged. By professionals in the American Psychological Association and in the American Psychiatric Association who, until the early nineteen seventies, insisted without any evidence that gay people were sick and made whole generations of American citizens emotional cripples. By the damage that even now is being done to gay Americans by the churches and by religious people. By the refusal of power brokers in our culture up until very recently to help gay people have children by adoption or by AI. By all those long years when we couldn’t get married, couldn’t get our books published, couldn’t write the truth about ourselves, couldn’t express the truth about ourselves, had no political power.
The pain our people have suffered must now be remembered in this moment in which we have won great victories. We must find a way to resolve the accumulated pain from the past. And those who are celebrating today’s victories must include those who suffered the pain of the long struggle, but who have not been able to share in its victories. They are us too.