Monday, June 19, 2006

AIDS is a societal problem, not a religious agenda.

I get very angry each time I see the possibility of legislative action which discriminates against anyone. Even though our society is full of offensive people who have committed very offensive crimes, even these people are protected by laws which guarantee their rights will not be violated while police investigate their actions, or while they are incarcerated, or after they have served their prison sentence. Yet our country, which also guarantees the rights of humans, is embroiled in a battle of religious agenda against free thinking people when it seeks to undermine the rights of others based on sexual preference or disease and illness.
The very framework of our constitution is in jeopardy when we are coerced into thinking that we will not voice our opinions for fear of alienating people who wish to legislate another group into oblivion.

I do not know many heterosexual people who will talk about AIDS. I do not know many heterosexuals who will admit that they know someone with AIDS or have lost a family member or friend from AIDS. Especially here in Indiana, but true in Wisconsin as well. I am finding that more and more often, it is a topic that people do not want to talk about. And I don't mean the intolerant fundamentalist types most people associate with AIDS ignorance and condemnation. I mean EVERYONE. The few tolerant humans I have met here do not talk about it and tend to give a polite cough and change the subject when it comes up. At best they contribute nothing to the topic.

A very good friend who has lived with AIDS for over 20 years, speaks eloquently of how he continues to survive somewhat well. I attribute his longevity with HIV/AIDS as having to do with 2 factors: one, he was in the absolute right place (job wise) when he was diagnosed and he had better information than many. He was fortunate to be working with a major pharmaceutical company who was in the forefront of developing AIDS medications. Two, he takes care of himself and keeps close to his medical team.
'Taking care of oneself' is a strange term. Does that mean that one is careful in action? Or that one makes certain they see their medical professionals regularly?
Health care for many people in America is a tenuous thing. People cling to jobs that degrade them, underpay them, take them away from their families all in order to maintain some form of health insurance. People who live with AIDS are compromised in their health everyday. They suffer from numerous maladies, not the least of which is tolerance to the medications they must take to survive. And what if they can not afford these medications? Or if they are too unwell to continue working? Will the USA legislate them to suffer because the religious agenda condemns people with the AIDS virus?
I do not know how my friend stands straight after seeing the devastation in the gay community. I believe that the grief of losing so many friends, lovers, acquaintances might actually cause one to be beat into the ground. Sometimes that is how I feel when I think of how many people that have been killed because of ignorance, lack of medical care, lack of will, etc. I do not know how it must feel to take so many meds each day. I do not know how it feels to have to watch each morsel of food that one eats. Frankly, I feel very fortunate to know him, hear his life stories and see his courage.

I am shocked at the people (intelligent, medical people) who are saying that HIV doesn't cause AIDS. I do not know what they are thinking. I have read some of these theories, especially lately and am really amazed that anyone in the medical field could be that irresponsible.

AIDS is growing fastest these days among the African American female population.
There are many reasons for this; little of which has to do with the sexual orientation of African American women. Yet, in the populations of African American churches, AIDS, fundraising for AIDS and people who have AIDS are not just ostracized, but they are condemned. My personal experiences with Fundamental activists have been so ugly, I point my finger at our law enforcement agencies which stand idly by while people who have obviously been trained to be disruptive and volatile all but physically assault those involved in AIDS fundraising events.

As far as fundraising or advocating, that is in an individual's heart. The amount of people (at least in the USA) who do either thing is small. The number of people who believe in and volunteer for anything is small. The number of people who care about educating themselves beyond the mandated public education system is rather small compared to the overall population.

The United States government has created a political platform based on HIV/AIDS
and those who live what has been termed "high risk" lifestyles. This platform is the gravy to a populace who increasingly prefers ignorance over education, condemnation over compassion, and fundamentalism over fiduciary concerns.
AIDS is an epidemic. It is not a passing phase in the blink of human development.
In the US alone, medical care for those with AIDS and insufficient health care could amount to staggering sums of tax dollars. But instead of education, political agenda attempts to sway the minds of the ignorant with abstinence based rhetoric rather than actions which would decrease new AIDS infections. Instead of educating the youth of this country with honest information about AIDS prevention, we stifle the young and the religious with talk about unrealistic views and 'innocent' victims. Instead of providing realistic preventative measures, we expect people, even those who are incarcerated, to be cognitive of the benefits of abstinence.

This is not a wise recourse for a country which built itself on the foundations of freedom and pioneering spirit. We can not continue to be a world leader while turning a blind eye to the source of eradication of a disease. We can not continue to be a financial giant when we ignore the consequence of letting a viral epidemic empty the coffers of the federal government while pandering to a small, but vocally intolerant segment of the population. We can not ask of other countries to do anything which we in this country aren't fully prepared to do ourselves.

In the 1950s it was taboo to talk of things that were 'not polite'. Over the last 60 years we have expanded our conversations to include even the most personal of subjects. Yet, in 2006 it is still not 'polite' or acceptable to talk of our deceased friends, our afflicted friends, lovers who have died, family members who have died of AIDS. The caveat to this is the Ryan Whites, the millionaire basketball players, or those "innocents" who got AIDS while having dentistry work done or receiving a blood transfusion. If I must be subjected to Erectile Dysfunction ads while watching a movie or checking my emails, then YOU, whoever you are, can listen while I talk of those who have been sacrificed to the politeness which this society masks itself in.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Marble

The Marble

On a recent walk through an old horse carriage roadway (now an utility easement unavailable to vehicular traffic), my husband came across a lovely antique marble. The marble isn't even round, in the way of antique marbles, it has variations to it.
It is a cat's eye green marble and what was probably once clear glass is now slightly milky. There are some scratches in it; who knows how long it may have lain in the dirt of the carriage way, or how many fierce rainstorms tumbled it through the ravine? It is a lovely reminder of times gone by, of childhood played out and transferred to the indifference of adulthood.

Much of this country can still boast places that cars can't go. Where people rarely go because their cars can't take them there. The particular easement that my husband went walking on lies at the bottom of a steep ravine, or canyon, which until recently had been full of scrub trees. In the 1940s, electricity lines were run to the community the ravine is part of, effectively shutting of the rights of horse drawn carriages to use it for transport of goods and ice delivery. And for the most part, other than the Amish people, after the 1950s the United States became a car culture. Indiana, home of the Brickyard Race Track and almost the car center of the country, claims the highest number of cars to people in the Midwest.

Within the past 3 weeks, the utility company which owns the easement rights to the old roadway, began to clear cut most of the canyon area in order to avoid falling trees from damaging their utility poles and lines. The people who live on the canyon have enjoyed a rare bit of wilderness as their private back yard for years.
Now that many of the trees have been felled, they also realize that this action may allow them to not lose their electric power next time a large storm comes through their area. They are sorry to see the trees go though and wonder if they will ever see the number of song birds that had graced their lives before the trees were taken down.

"Trees are the poems that the earth writes upon the sky". That is a line which I created and used within a watercolor painting of a tree shape that I did some 10 years ago. Before I began the painting I came to realize that as much as I loved and valued trees, I did not know much about them. I bought some books.
The favorite of my tree books is like a Roger Tory Peterson bird book. It is called "Trees of the Eastern United States" and like a bird book, it shows maps of where specific trees are more prevalent, characteristics of those trees, leaf shapes, bark texture and average height and girth for each species. I study these books on a variety of occasions, especially when a particular tree catches my eye. When preparing my sketches for the tree painting, I spent hours in the forest on the shores of Lake Michigan drawing saplings and learning how the different species of tree grew. If I thought I loved trees before, once I began to know them, I felt an entirely different kind of love for them.

Back to the marble and the trees. When we cut a tree down, we may do so for a variety of reasons; the tree may be a nuisance tree, destructive to house or person.
A tree may be diseased or infested with parasite which threatens the health of many trees. Sometimes trees are cut because they are in the way of someone's plans. I can understand cutting trees for all reasons other than the last one. I could never see that a tree was 'in the way' of a plan of mine. In fact, it seems to me that trees should be part of every plan when considering building something.

As I turn the green marble over in my hand and look for the milky essence of it, I think of how many trees may have bore the initials of perhaps the owner of the marble. I consider how many of the trees might have been climbed by boys and girls as they tried to see their canyon from a higher vantage point. I think of the green leaves and the smell of thunder and lightening on the air turning the trees to giant wooden lungs for this planet. I can not turn a tree over and over in the palm of my hand as I can turn the green marble. But I can wonder at how trees are the grace of this planet and how they dance in the breeze and bend with the winds of storms, and of change.