Saturday, December 01, 2012

World AIDS Day

Here's what I just wrote on Facebook:
Today is World AIDS Day. I'm old enough to remember horrible jokes and the demise of a diet pill and a President who never uttered the word. I'm old enough to remember the obituary pages that were longer than most stories, the thin faces and waning hopes and strength of the patients. I'm old enough to watch as the first cocktail drugs offered a chance, thankful as people began to recover a bit of their strength, their appetite, the faith that they might live longer than another day. I'm old enough to hold out hope that even places afflicted far worse than we may yet see the same kinds of changes, the same kinds of hope, that I have seen. Today is World AIDS Day and because I'm old enough to remember, I have hope.
My most-read post is one I wrote four years ago that is critical of the late wife of the Rev. Rick Warren. I took some guff from folks in comments, but I stand by what I wrote at the time:
What is awful about this, a testimony of commitment to compassion and advocacy? Why, the simple fact that this woman had to see pictures of the ravishes of HIV/AIDS, especially children, before she realized that this wasn't something people "deserved". In other words, until she became aware this disease wasn't some plague visited upon gay folks for their perversion, she was happy to keep her eyes closed to the suffering they, too, endured. Indeed, she confesses she had to go to Africa to understand the suffering of those with HIV/AIDS; where is the awareness that thousands, tens of thousands, suffered here in the US precisely because people like her believed they deserved it for their perversions?

While I know there are some who think Kay Warren should be applauded for her advocacy for people with HIV/AIDS, don't count me among them. Even if her mind has changed; even if she no longer believes that gay men and intravenous drug users "deserve" what they get with HIV/AIDS, she wrote whole sections of the human race out of her list of those in need of compassion and fellow-feeling, and the dead piled up because people like Kay Warren had to see pictures of "innocent people" with the disease before she felt compassion.
I should add just a bit, however, perhaps as a confession, with this post serving as further penance for my own lack of  . . . what?  Awareness?  Action? . . . whatever it was that prevented me from seeing as fully as I should what AIDS is and what it has done to huge swaths of the human race around the globe.  In my defense, all I can say is before I lived in a place where there were many living with the virus, with a history of activism to bring attention to those whose lives were stolen from them while far too many in positions of power turned their backs on them, blaming them for their moral failings rather than loving them and working to ease their suffering; before all that, my support for those living with AIDS was limited, my personal investment nothing.

In 1990, I was one of a small group of people who worked to hang some panels from the AIDS quilt in Oxnam Chapel at Wesley Theological Seminary.  Far too large even then to display in any but a few spaces, there was a large supply of panels at the National Cathedral, just down the street; they loaned us a few, and we were hanging them because the Chapel service the next day would focus on AIDS.  As we hung them, one of the panels - it turned out either by accident or act of God - was one in memory of a former staff member at Wesley.  At the same time, I learned there was a then-current staff member who was living with the virus.  This person and I had spent a bit of time chatting together at a retreat earlier that autumn, talking about family dynamics, the cult of masculinity, and other issues.  Early the next summer, he died from pneumonia related to the virus destroying his immune system.  I remember sitting in my quiet room, crying.

In the two decades since then, we have moved quite a distance, I think.  For all there is still so much to do, we should also pause and remember and reflect upon how far we have come.  There are still large parts of the globe where the advances available here in the United States and other industrialized countries aren't available.  While WHO and the pharmaceutical companies continue to haggle over how to get help to those who need it most, I think we should remember and recall that it wasn't that long ago even the prospect of the kind of help we now have seemed impossible, the stuff of science fiction or wishful thinking.

There are, though, lost generations, quite literally.  Parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, countries like Haiti and Thailand and the Dominican Republic, even Russia still have huge populations of second-generation AIDS patients, children born with the virus because their mothers had it.  These same children become orphans when their mothers die, placing huge burdens upon the limited resources far too many countries have to deal with too many helpless and lost children.

Unlike most other health issues, there has always been a huge social and cultural component associated with HIV.  Unlike other pandemics, the effects of this virus carry on for years, perhaps even decades, taxing the social and physical and political resources of many countries even as some groups within all these countries continue to pour down hate and blame upon those who have the virus, insisting it is some kind of just punishment from some deity they call god for their wicked ways.  Their numbers dwindle, yet they still have loud voices.

On this World AIDS Day, let us remember.  Let memory become a tool we can use as we continue to work toward the day when we no longer need a World AIDS Day.  Give money or volunteer for any of a number of private organizations that help out those living with the disease.  Write a member of Congress to support funding for research for a cure.  Send a buck or two to an NGO working in a place the pandemic has ravaged so children and others left outside the borders of human compassion and care might be helped.  These are all things I've done, and will continue to do.

Because I remember how far we've come, I know how much further we still have to go.  The loss of so much potential, of so many smart, funny, thoughtful, insightful, talented people due in no small part to our own lack of compassion and self-willed blindness should be confessed; penance should be a part of our lives, making sure we no longer close our eyes just because, like Kay Warren, we might see those who suffer as not innocent.  Because I remember, I confess I was once callous, looking on, watching as something horrible happened that seemed remote, having nothing to do with me.  I confess I had to encounter the horror on my own to realize what it was.  Because I remember, I continue to do my small part so we might yet celebrate an end to this virus's ravages upon millions of my fellow human beings.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Because I'm Bored

Who said the following:
He was created of a mother whom He created. He was carried by hands that He formed. He cried in the manger in wordless infancy, He the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute.
What does it mean?


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Variations On A Pierceian Theme

Charlie Pierce:
It is a fundamental principle of this blog that I can write what is obvious to me, and that which happens right before my eyes, without having to find a "source" to confirm it, much less find a "source" on the other side. (This is the duck-on-the-head principle. If I see a guy walking down the street with a duck on his head, I can write that I saw a guy walking down the street with a duck on his head. I don't need someone else to tell me that they saw it, and I certainly don't need to find someone who will tell me, no, what you saw was a duck with a guy on his ass.)
Much the same, I am quite tired of the whining about "evidence" from a certain someone who never, so far as I am aware, evinces any ability to understand a single sentence I've written; he claims people think and believe things they have categorically denied ever thinking; a person who, at least until now, has shown not a moment of willingness to use a search engine to discover the riches of the internet beyond his tiny circle of favorite reads.

I've been doing this for a while now, and I provide links to sources, and sometimes spend a bit of time making clear whatever point I'm trying to make.  When some dope comes along who disagrees with me and says, "Prove it!", I can only surmise that person can't read.  My other favorite riposte, "Says you," has a special place in my heart, as well.

Suffice it to say that, should you stumble upon this site and spend any time reading it, you will discover all sorts of things, like links and evidence that make clear I actually am referring to real things.  You may not agree with me; that's fine.  You may not like that I take some things for granted that you believe should be argued for; that's OK, too.  One thing, however, should be clear: Disagreement doesn't mean I've failed, somehow, to provide evidence, demonstrated some failure either of simple reading comprehension or interpretation, or otherwise simply made a statement without any support whatsoever.  When I see a man with a duck on his head, that's what it is.  Similarly, when I read people saying Intelligent Design is a scientific theory, I don't need to defend my denial.  I don't need to make clear that some folk's obsession with the sex lives of others, abundant from the frequency with which they start talking about the, demonstrates far more about that person's neuroses than any alleged moral failings they seem to believe exist.

These are things about which I've written far too much.  I've made my positions clear, and have good reasons for holding the positions I do.  When someone comes along and says, simultaneously, that I have never done so, and in fact am a big fat hypocrite who does not live the way I say I do, without ever having met me, without once demonstrating any insight or thoughtfulness about anything, without doing much of anything other than insisting he or she is a far better person than the rest of the world, I see no need, not one, to do much more than chuckle.

Consider this my last word on this particular matter.  You read a post, then whine I haven't provided evidence?  As far as I'm concerned, you're insisting there's a duck with a man on its ass, and I feel no need to "convince" you of anything.

Virtual Tin Cup

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