Department Of Before I Go Any Further….

Happy Star Wars Day, y’all.

 

 

May4

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Department Of Justice Served Cold

While the “Klingon” proverb declares that Revenge is a dish best served cold, I think that justice is best served steaming from the oven. But as that great philosopher Mick Jagger Simone de Beauvoir said, you can’t always get what you want. Keeping that in mind, last week provided quite the celebration for fans of hot dishes.

Backstory.  Dateline: a long time ago in a galaxy far far away (read: Davis, California, summer, 1978). I am a student at UC Davis, and it’s a muggy eve with not much to do after my summer job shift at the library has ended. Friend and fellow student RM invites me to go with him to visit his friend, MH.  MH and his girlfriend (real life working people, not students) share a studio apartment in Davis.  For reasons unclear to me, RM thinks I might enjoy watching MH and his girlfriend practice for an upcoming backgammon tournament.

The apartment is small; as MH and his girlfriend set up the backgammon board they gesture to RM and I to take a seat on their bed.  We do, and my heel bumps against the hard, metallic edge of something under the bed. I reach down and remove – an axe? Yep, that’s what it is – from under the bed, and tentatively hoist the rather hefty chopper over my shoulders.

“Uh…expecting lumberjacks?” I ask.

“No,” MH replies, “But if the East Area Rapist shows up, we’ll be ready.”

 

 

EARjpg

 

 

Frontstory. Dateline: last week. Two days in a row, while driving On My Way To Somewhere ® and listening to the radio, I found moiself pounding my car’s steering wheel and yelling YEEEEEEEEESSSSSS !!!!!   as I heard

Day 1: on an NPR newscast that authorities in California had arrested the suspect known as the East Area Rapist/Golden State Killer, and then on

Day 2: on a BBC World News program announcer crisply and dryly   [1] broadcasting the news of the conviction of Bill Cosby for sexual assault.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Department Of Worlds Yet To Be Discovered

While listening to a Planet Money podcast, titled The Blue Pallet, I was once again struck by a sense of perspective-inducing humility vis-à-vis my knowledge of the universe and my place in it.

I do try to keep up with the latest discoveries in astronomy, and give a hearty cheer whenever I hear the announcement that another NASA satellite has discovered another exoplanet. But I found myself floored when I tuned in to what I expected was just another podcast, and heard the following:

We are going to bring you deep inside the pallet world…..

Why is this the first time I am hearing about a world of which I hitherto had no knowledge?

 

 

planet

Yeah, fine, more planets, but can they find a new (and blue) pallet?

 

 

 

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Department Of Pot, Meet Kettle

Surely, IMHO, there are few books with a more apt title than the one I just finished re-reading:  And the Band Played On  (20th-Anniversary Edition). Award-winning journalist Randy Shilts’ classic, hailed by many as a “masterpiece of investigative reporting,” is subtitled, Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic. As for the band that played on…and on…and on…what a frustrating story, so magnificently told.

IMHO there are very few heroes in the book, other than family and friends carrying for the desperately ill and dying in such trying and confusing circumstances, and also those compassionate physicians and research scientists searching desperately for a cure.  [2]

As for far too many of the gay rights “advocates” and almost all of the politicians and religious “leaders” back then…. Here’s my cheer for y’all:

Gimme an I, gimme a C Gimme a K, what’s that spell?

Both of those “sides” were the proverbial opposite sides of the same coin when it came to tactics of blame and denial. Time and time again, the gay rights advocates and the Christian Right  [3]   reminded me of each other, as they both clung to their ideology/party line in the face of the facts, and with seemingly little willingness to look at the faces of suffering/dying human beings.

 

 

 

shame

 

 

 

Certain business interests,   [4]   political conservatives (read: the Reagan administration) heavily influenced by (and politically beholden to) the fear- and hate-mongering rhetoric of Jerry Falwell and his ilk, and the growing ranks of politically active Evangelicals – all ignored the alarms raised by scientists and epidemiologists (and in some cases even their own family members, who knew someone affected by AIDS or were themselves at risk).

Conservative politicians targeted public health agencies for budget cuts, and in effect stuck their fingers in their ears and sang la la la we can’t hear you at any mention of anything related to (what was considered then to be an exclusively) a health crisis affecting homosexuals. Reagan even forbid his Surgeon General from answering reporter’s questions about the epidemic.

Any concern about individual human health, as well as that of the society at large, was suffocated under a blanket of shaming/bigoted rhetoric about how AIDS was a “gay disease,” and that gays had brought “the wrath of ______( insert name of favorite deity)” down upon themselves by abandoning “traditional family values.” Meanwhile, traditional values of compassion and empathy, of caring for the weak and vulnerable – and of listening to the scientists and doctors talking about the treatment and transmission of disease – were nowhere to be found.

Imagine something, anything – a disease, or a natural disaster or a series of coal mine explosions or terrorist attacks – taking the lives of over 20,000 Americans, and the President of the USA saying nothing about it[5]  And meanwhile, people were dying.

 

 

disappointed

 

 

Then and now, the rhetoric and actions (or lack thereof) of the conservative political, business and religious communities came as little surprise to moiself. But I expected more of others.

On the other side, there were a growing number of (both gay and straight) physicians who, before they began putting the pieces together of the puzzling array of symptoms and illnesses which would come to be known as AIDS, had been saying that “something is going on/something must be done” about the alarming increase in the number and variety of diseases infecting sexually active gay men – diseases about which doctors found the afflicted to be alarmingly casual (Gonorrhea? Syphilis? Shigellosis? Hepatitis? Salmonella? And amoebic dysentery and amebiasis and giardiasis and campylobacteriosis and a variety of intestinal parasites and …? Just give me my pill/penicillin injection and I’ll see you later….).

And yet far too many gay rights advocates would broke no criticism of either the industries marketing the commodification of anonymous/promiscuous/unprotected sex (e.g., the sex clubs and bathhouses) – which were fertile grounds for both the transmission of existing diseases and the “breeding” of new ones – nor the patrons of such businesses.  Those who pointed out both the psychologically numbing and physiologically deadly dangers of bathhouse-type hook ups   [6]   were seen as betrayers, and were often isolated and vilified, even (or especially) when the warnings came from those of “their own kind” (e.g. playwright and activist Larry Kramer).  And meanwhile, people were dying. 

 

“This is going to be a world-class disaster. And no one is paying attention.”
Dr. Marcus Conant, dermatologist, founder of the San Francisco AIDS project, and one of the first physicians to diagnose and treat AIDS , as quoted in And the Band Played On)

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Department Of Since That Was Not Exactly The Feel-Good Post Of The Year…

 

different

 

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Department Of Reasons To Keep Your Superpowers Hidden

Dateline: a recent evening, at the dinner table, discussing with MH the Superhero movies we have yet to see.  I confessed that, unbeknownst to him, my dear spouse, I have hidden something all these years: I am a Superhero.

MH (flashing a prove-it smirk) “And what is your superpower?”
Moiself: “I can smell fear.”
MH: ???
Moiself: “The problem is, it smells like farts.”

 

 

 

 

super

She who smelt it, dealt it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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May your super power be socially acceptable if not impressive;
May you relish the occasion when justice is (finally) served;
May the 4th be with you;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

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[1] You know the conviction is real when you hear it from the mouth of a Brit.

[2] When some of them weren’t fighting over “first discovery” credits.

[3] Whose ascendency to political power – something evangelicals had long eschewed and/or held in suspicion – was  in large part fueled by appeals to homophobia.

[4] E.g., for-profit blood banks.

[5] Ronald Reagan infamously refused to say the word AIDS or even publicly acknowledge the epidemic’s existence until late in his second term. By that time over 36,000 Americans had been diagnosed with AIDS, almost 21,000 had died, and the disease had a reported 50,000 plus cases over 100 countries.

[6] The promiscuity so prevalent in many 19702-80s era gay (male) communities, often presented as  an in-your-face reaction to the repression and stigmatization of gay relationships, reminded me of a five year old’s tantrum – a tactic admittedly effective at attention-getting, but ultimately self-defeating (“You callin’ me a perv? I’ll show you some perversion that’ll curl your hair….).