I Remember…

I remember every tear, every minute of howling despair, every hour of rage, frustration and hopelessness. I remember the name and face of everyone I lost. The years I spent working my pumps till my toes would bleed to raise money for hospice and outreach projects. Then progress came – not a cure, but treatment to manage the living hell. Things got better, at least a little. Then the combination therapies and things got a little better still. And I started to hope. And then I saw what I feared most – that the young wanted to push it all into the darkness of history. Thinking as we once did, that they were 10 feet tall and bullet-proof.
And the monster came back out of the shadows… and again, the cycle repeated. Now so many live a dual mindset to HIV/AIDS – part of them accepts that the disease is a fact of life, something that will never go away… but they prefer not to think about it, nor confront the behaviors that keep the plague going. Another part of them refuses the disease, and rejects those stricken by it no matter how healthy they are otherwise. They live in denial, squeezing their eyes shut tight, putting their fingers in their ears, and shout the latest Gaga trype to drown the voice of those of us who do not want them to endure this hell.
We’ve endured enough of it for generations to come, yet we do not want your pity. We do not want your empty platitudes, nor hollow memes. We want you to learn from our torment, our mistakes, our losses. Learn, arm yourselves, and fight beside us. For 30+ years I have fought, the last 25 years as a positive person and long-term survivor. I do not want your tears, nor your anger, your empty praise nor your well-meaning but missing-the-point “respect.” All I want is for you to take my hand, stand beside me and make this the last generation to bear this burden.
Survivors of the 80’s AIDS Crisis

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Celebrate what, exactly…

My thanks to The Nation for the opportunity to read Frederick Douglass’ “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July” – a speech he gave before members of Congress in 1852. This is only the second time I’ve read it, and this time it stood out all the more.
 
It is not an easy read. There are too many uncomfortable parallels between that time and this – at least for those with eyes to see.
 
Most strikingly, Douglass’ words then could very easily be updated to fit so many ills of our nation and political system today. The strength and honor of our forefathers contrasted by the greed and cravenness of our present. The slave trade may have ended, but are the poor, the weak, the broken people of any color that much better served by what we now call “government.”
 
Then “religious liberty” was used to justify laws that forced judges and states to return runaway slaves to their owners, and provided harsh punishments for those who aided or harbored them. Today the same argument is used to divide families, to deny minorities equal justice under the law, even as excuse to deny service in the public marketplace, or to justify throwing your child in the streets because they – by Nature’s design – are something other than what your bigotry and craven interpretation of your myths define as “godly.”
Now, as then, violence based on race, creed, sexuality, and politics are considered “normal” in the nation’s discourse by the vocal elements of our society. Few speak out against it, fewer still fight it, and those that do are made mockery of by the crude, the illiterate, and the privileged with the media whoring for them and hanging on their every word. This is your America. It is not mine. Celebrate the slatternly creature you have created, if you will. I will not. Instead, I will mourn the dream of what she was meant to be.