This Saturday, February 11th marks the anniversary of the death of a lead figure in an event unique in British history. Mark Ashton (1960-1987), founder and leader of the tiny group, Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM), died just days after his diagnosis of AIDS. In return for their support of a tiny Welsh mining community raising funds during the miner’s strike, Welsh Miners led the 1985 Gay Pride March in London. This ‘unknown’ story was made into a heart-warming film in 2014 starring Bill Nighy and Imedla Staunton.
My grandparents lived through WWII, a war against an ideology, an ideology based on bigotry and prejudice that started with stigmatization and evolved through marginialization to criminalization, incarceration and almost ethnic extinction. The weapons of that ideology were fear, a fear that bred ignorance, an ignorance that bred hate and racial / ethnic division. Those who sacrificed their lives or surviced that conflict fought for freedom. Freedom from Prejudice, freedom from Ignorance, freedom from Bigotry (it’s easy to remember, it spells PIG). That freedom comes at a price and the price is the freedom of any individual or group to choose between bigotry, fear and hate or tolerance, love and peace. It’s a simple choice. We have the freedom to choose. Choose wisely. “Be as wise as serpents and as peaceful as doves.” An unrealistic ideal? No! The world CAN change and only we can change it but that change starts with ourselves. Identifying and owning our own prejudices and fears so that we can let go of them.
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)
R.I.P. Mark Ashton (19 May 1960 – 11 February 1987)
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