I went to my second Braver Angels meeting yesterday and enjoyed it even more than the first. At the start, the moderator had us go around the room and tell our names, whether we were red or blue or some other color, and whether anything at a previous meeting or previous meetings had affected our views. Often people went off script to talk about a concern they had, but I found that interesting also. I let go of my need to have everybody stay within the one-minute time limit. Part of the reason was that I was enjoying people so much.

One person, who actually lives in my neighborhood and whom I like a lot, said that he misses the country he grew up in. He identified as red but other people, including some blues, echoed that feeling. I looked around the room of about 30 people and the look on people’s faces suggested that a number of them agreed. I even found myself agreeing.

At the end of the meeting, though, when I was talking to one of the organizers, I pointed out something that was better. I pointed to a guy–I’ll call him Daniel–who had casually mentioned his husband. I said to the organizer that no one in the room seemed upset that and no one called the cops. I pointed out that 50 years ago, homosexuals were often rightly afraid of being beat up. So that’s a huge improvement on the “good old days.”

Later that afternoon, I was telling a friend about that conversation and I told him something else that I had forgotten. I was in a men’s group in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and there were a number of gay guys in the group. They were certainly a little nervous about coming out of the closet and very nervous about, say, holding hands with their gay partners in public. That had given me an idea at the time. I thought it would a good idea to get a group of gays and allies together and, on a Saturday afternoon, walk down the main street in Monterey, Alvarado Street, with gays opening holding hands. I wanted to call it “Take Back the Day.”

I never did it. But I don’t feel bad that I didn’t because in the 30 years since then, look how far we’ve come. When I go on my afternoon walk by the ocean most weekdays, I often see young women holding hands or young men holding hands. It’s not a big deal. Thirty years ago, if they had done that, they might have gotten beat up. Fifty years ago, it would have been even worse.

Lots of things are worse today than they were. But some things are way better.

The pics are from the Stonewall riots of 1969, when homosexual men fought back.

Postscript: Now that I’ve had more time to think, I think the longing for the good old days happens for two reasons. First, during those good old days, most of us were children and we didn’t think about all the bad news around us; we were too busy playing. Second, we tend to take progress for granted. What was food like in the good old days? What happened when we got certain diseases? How did we get in touch with relatives when we heard that someone was sick?