It's been a couple of years since I last signed up to walk to raise funds for AIDS awareness. I stopped walking because in my last home state, the walk took place in Milwaukee. It was well attended, however, it was also a target for the Christian right hate groups to come out and all but assault the walkers. You might say I was 'chicken' when I stopped walking. But it was not fear of the hate groups which made me stop, it was fear of myself and my response to them that made me realize I needed to stay at home or risk either going to jail or getting the crap kicked out of me.
I became violently angry with the people who came out and stood, like a gauntlet, at the end of the walk site and jeered, pushed, screamed, sounded air horns, threw paper propaganda ... These people had been trained professionally on how to be as disruptive as possible and how to physically abuse the walkers without actually crossing the line of "Assault".
Now you might ask why I would get so angry about this and rightfully so. The truth is that many of the people who gave up their time and money to support this cause did so as families. There were children with parents who raised money and walked to fight the effects of AIDS. In the truest sense of community responsibility and of committment to a cause, these people, all of the walkers, were giving it up and doing the best they could in the name of humanity and compassion.
And there some idiot church leaders were with bus loads of 'protesters' confronting the walkers. Some of the protesters would come right into a walkers personal space and use their abdomens to push the walkers off the path. While other church people would condemn the walkers to hell or some other nastiness for supporting "Faggots and Queers". The sad thing is that many of these church members were African Americans.
And women. Two groups who are in the highest growing populations of new AIDS cases.
I did try to reason with some of them at first. This tactic did not work. These people were not there to be reasoned with. They were there to spew hatred and intolerance and express their ignorance to not only the walkers, but to the world.
By the end of that gauntlet, I was enraged. That was bad for me, physically and emotionally. I thought that I could do more by working quietly in my own community, or volunteering at Hospice. Yes, I could do that type of work, that SILENT work.
Whenever my husband and I went to serve dinners or help at hospice, we did do good work and were appreciated for it. But it was silent work - we educated no one, we did not alleviate intolerance or hatred.
This year I am walking in Indianapolis. Indianapolis is not known for its tolerance to much of anything - however, Indianapolis has found a way to exclude the type of protesters from the grounds of the AIDS Walk. For this I am profoundly thankful.
I know from friends that this vocal and violent form of protest against all things AIDS happens everywhere in the USA. It happens at memorial services for people who've died of AIDS. It happens at fund raisers.
It is a disgusting side bar to the freedom of speech that certain segments of our population can legally harrass (legally 'assault') participants in philanthropic endevors. This year I hope to complete my walk (without collapsing in an old lady heap) proudly and without having to encounter the negavity of past walks.
If you would like to support me, or to just make a donation to INDIANA AIDS FUND
I invite you to visit the links below and do just that. When the registration tent rings those bells for huge donation totals I want to be able to feel like the sound will travel around the globe. I am proud to be doing this - proud of all the people I know who have lived with AIDS, all of the people who work tirelessly to assist those whose lives have been changed by AIDS. And I am also proud of all of you who read this, are activists for AIDS education ... your hearts are big and no doubt, full.
ScribeSpirit Team page (for donations): https://www.kintera.org/faf/search/searchTeamPart.asp?ievent=160020&team=1486269