Tuesday, May 30, 2006

When Death came to America

I came home from work tonight to find my family watching Frontline's documentary on AIDS, so I sat down to join them, munching on leftover ribs from the weekend's barbeque. In traditional Frontline gravitas, the story of AIDS unfolded with a focus on how American political cowardice, unscrupulous budget cuts and outright hostility screwed up everything.

What the documentary made me remember was my childhood in the late eighties and ninties, when AIDS really became ugly and obvious to middle America. I vaguely remember hearing about kids being kicked out of schools somewhere down south, but where I lived it was less direct. In my school fears of drinking fountains, public toilets and the giggly discussions of condoms were about as close as any of us got to the disease. There was a general low level understanding of all children that whatever your principle said, people with AIDS were not safe at all. Parents kind of skittered around the subject of getting it, merely emphasizing that sex would really kill you. Really. The AIDS quilt visited, but compassion for those you don't know is much easier when compartmentalized into an art exhibit. The rumors would circulate that some kid had AIDS, and even after you had school assemblies were someone with the virus talked and a few brave souls hugged them, you just didn't believe that kind of thing was safe. I remember wondering about French kissing in a very serious way.

When I went to college, my liberal single-sex campus enjoyed a kind of conscious distance from the disease, partly because it seemed impossible that lesbians could very easily get the disease, much less transmit it and partly because sex was like a controlled substance: you had to go out of your way to get it.

I didn't expect the documentary to affect me. Really, it all seemed like such a long time ago when we were all afraid AIDS would make another jump and become the airborn disease that you could get from toilet seats. Now its just the disease that makes orphans in Africa, and is extremely expensive to deal with if you unlucky enough to get it in the US. But seeing the hemophiliac children with their high-waisted jeans and bart simpson spiked hair, gaunt from disease, get kicked out of school by screaming mothers was truly heartwrenching, jarring me back to my memories of middle school ignorance and vague hostility. I could now see that it had been like Ruby Bridges all over again, but with righteous playing on fears of death, not simply discomfort. Remember those wonderful chain mail myths about dirty needles in movie theaters and vengeful women of the night leaving messages on motel mirrors? AIDS was the new boogie monster, scary but still unreal and disconnected.

And then the new drug cocktails came, and we forgot all about the guant people who seemed to be dying so very far away.

Thank you, Frontline.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Satan slips in

Ooh, I've been told off! Apparently I irritated someone with my defence of having Grisham in high school english classrooms. Sorry to crow about it.. I get so little excitement in my life.. though I did just check out Sir Thursday from the library.

*rubs hands together gleefully*

I wonder when I will get a full night's sleep.. not having to go to school in the morning makes be stay up until ungodly hours..

I'm Back

Ah, its good to have a nice shiny new degree.. now if only I had a job to go with it. ^_^

In other news, I have seen several of my old interfaith nunnery pals this month, and had a great deal of fun with them, one at a conference and the other just tooling around town and shopping. I wish all my days were spent so pleasantly among such lovely friends.