On today's Oprah Show, she returned to Williamson, West Virginia...a town where she did a local show 23 years ago, in 1987. One of the town's local residents, young Mike Sisco had AIDS. Mike and his sisters went to the local swimming pool on a hot summer day and he got into the pool. The pool cleared out. People left by the droves. Remember...1987, West Virginia, AIDS.....very few people had a clue...let alone in West Virginia. So, back in 1987 Oprah went to Williamson and did a show where all of the old included clips here are recorded. And today, Oprah was back in Williamson. Visiting with members of the audience that day along with Mike's three sisters. It was one overly powerful hour on television. If you're gay, or know someone who is....if you have AIDS or have known someone who has, this one will strike at your deepest emotions.
Growing up in Idaho wasn't much different than West Virginia. People were hateful. Many continue to be. It used to be outward, unabashed hatefulness. Today, it tends to be cloaked in the careful picking of scripture and words and phrases and sentences that don't play on soundbites quite as vehemently as they used to. But the hate still exists. I have said all along, that simply because its not legal to ask African Americans to use a separate water fountain in this day and age doesn't remove the position of one's heart. Folks in Idaho, West Virginia and many other places in our country still continue to harbor a complete disdain for those different than they are. They phrase it in such pretty sentences as "I love the sinner but hate the sin." Believe me, I'm used to hearing that sort of sentence....delivered from the pulpit while sitting in the pew listening carefully. I want you to listen to Jerry Waters back in 1987 and then listen to Jerry Waters today....one of the most vehement haters in the 1987 group who said that Mike Sisco "repulsed" him. Jerry Waters is a vile man. Even today. And speaking of repulse, his semi-sort-of apology to Mike's sisters repulsed me. He is one of those small town people with a sassy animated side to him who hates gay people.
The show continues picking out audience members who spoke way back then and interviews some of them today. Starting with Mike's three sisters, one of whom is also a lesbian, it asks such questions as "Do you regret making such hateful comments 23 years ago?" And "Do you have anything you'd like to say to Mike's sisters today?" Time does, indeed, march on. Emotions change. Knowledge comes and goes. Some attitudes evolve for the better. Some are simply not as overt as they used to be. And don't miss the video clip on Steven, the guy from California....who says that he watched the show way back in 1987. And that it encouraged him to come out. To be honest about himself. I'm thinking that this final 25th season of Oprah is going to be really powerful.