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Grampa Franz with my mom Carol in Belgium, 1999

I cannot remember exactly when we heard the news but I know I was sitting in the lobby of the Sita Guest House in Varanasi, India when I read the email.  My Grandfather had passed away on November 5th, 2009.  We were fortunate to have seen him a couple weeks before we left for our travels and were certain he would pass while we were away.  Nothing really prepares you, but I knew at the time I was saying goodbye.  Despite his severe dementia, I knew in some strange way that he accepted this as our final parting as well.

It was humbling to be in the presence of someone who – in no small way – has left his mark upon hundreds and maybe thousands of souls.  Someone who has influenced his children and on down the generational line.  As a professor, he had shown people another world in his yearly pilgrimages to Europe and beyond.  I guess it is this legacy that I have chased, all the while forgetting that his legacy came at certain costs, too.  Even still, his task was accomplished quietly – with humility and grace.

It is impossible to quantify the gifts David Lincoln Franz bestowed upon the world.  I’m certain that if I tried I would soon realize that to any magnitude, I was measuring greatness…

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Today was my first day home in two months.  I was out of the apartment before 7am and headed to Murray’s Bagels for breakfast.  A quick haircut and a coffee in Union Sq. to follow.  Walked to Beth Israel Medical Center to meet Sue.  Sat in the waiting room and listened to my neighbor chatting with his son.  He was in his 60’s.  He was saying things like, “A man kissing another man, disgusting!”  “Putting a ring on another man’s finger?”   “Two men married?  I don’t understand it!”

In 1909, I may have been able to say, “Black men able to vote?”  and “Equal rights for women?”  In 1964 I would have been labeled a racist/sexist.  I was born in an era that thought beyond such negative thinking and close-mindedness.  I’ve traveled the world to determine for myself what truth there may or may not be in stereotypes (and yes, there are many truths within stereotypes).  I was raised in a well educated home with strong values and unclouded by religious dogma.  Am I free of negative thoughts and feelings altogether?  No.

So why am I particularly offended by opinions held by anyone who watches FOX News?  People who voted for McCain/Palin?  People who consider O’Riley or Limbaugh prophets?  Well, I usually don’t care.  They embarrass themselves with ignorance.  I’m ashamed of anyone who, 45 years ago, was not allowed to vote and was not allowed to eat or drink in the same places I would have been able to and yet still believes others do not deserve equal rights in the United States.

I’m not saying that the man next to me in the waiting room is wrong for having his feelings about homosexual men (I do not agree with him either).  I’m going so far as to saying that anyone considered a minority in this great country who had great people like Martin Luther King jr., Elizabeth Cady Stanton, John F. Kennedy jr., and Rosa Parks fight for their rights CANNOT turn a blind eye to equal rights for others.  Shame on you if you believe that benefits should not be extended to families of same-sex partners.  Shame on you, unless of course you are willing to give up your own rights.

So welcome home.  Land of the free and home of the brave.  I’m unbelievably happy to be home after 2 months of travel.  I was quickly reminded of how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go.  In FDR’s inaugural address in 1933, he uttered the famous line, “…let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”  The unknown equals fear.  Back then the unknown was the great depression.  We again face similar challenges, so the speech is worth a read.  Today one of the ‘unkowns’ is still equal rights for all.  Wake up America!  We can do better.