Friday, September 28, 2007

Preface to ICP 16 for Ogre's Politics and Views

A few weeks ago, I quietly passed into my 23rd year of HIV infection. In the past, I have been keenly aware of the anniversary, but this year, it passed by unnoticed—at least on any conscious level. It was not until some days afterward, when I noticed the set-in of a slow, insipid and dangerous funk that I made the connection. It would seem that no matter how much I am occupied, my subconscious mind is always aware of my HIV status. It sets me apart and I am not one who likes to be in a position of being emotionally isolated. It is one reason for my funk.

As the International Carnival of Pozitivities’ deadline for October approaches, I am trying to sort out how our global human community can be approached as allies in the fight against HIV/AIDS. I have seen, in my own “gay” community, that those who think themselves HIV- often distance themselves from those who are known to be HIV+. In a broader society, this isolation and its reasons are broadened as well. Suddenly, I am not just HIV+, I am also a man who has sex with men, who loves his male partner and who can not pursue his own happiness to its fullest extent due to constraints within the legal system. Granted, this is a much better world than one where I would have been burned at the stake (one apparent origin of the word “fag”) or stoned to death, or, hanged, merely for experimenting sexually like in Iran, a nation whose leader was recently ridiculed for saying that there are no gays in Iran.

We know from the Kinsey reports that diversity of sexual expression is a given of our human nature. Why should it become such a divisive issue? If we take the concept of the Kinsey scale, it states that human sexuality can be represented on a scale from exclusive heterosexuality to exclusive homosexuality. We have all seen examples of both. Hyper-masculinity in men often is seen as an indicator of exclusive heterosexuality. Extreme femininity in men is, likewise, seen as an indicator of homosexuality. Whether the hyper-masculine man has exclusively female sexual partners and whether the hyper-feminine male has exclusively male partners is not at issue. It is the perception of their masculinity or femininity that often is enough to cause them problems in our society. A feminine man who exclusively has sex with women (and who, according to a recent survey, makes the best husband for heterosexual females) can often find himself the victim of homophobic violence because of the perception that he is gay. (I do not speak of women's sexuality here because I do not consider myself an appropriate expert to do so, however, similar stories of bias based on perception have been recounted to me on many occasions.)

Yet, these people are at the extremes. In any statistical analysis, we find that there are outliers and extremes, but 95% of a given population usually fits somewhere in-between, under the so-called Bell curve. Sexuality, as another inconvenient truth for us all, is fluid for the vast majority of our citizens, whether their sexual conquests follow their sexual desire or not. In fact, studies have proven that the most homophobic of men are often those who exhibit penile tumescence when shown nude male images. It seems that the shadow of our own natures determines how much we like or loath ourselves and others who we see as similar or different.

I was born in 1959 to a Republican father and a Democrat mother. I have lived in the United States all but one year of my life (not counting extensive overseas travel for work). In the span of my life, I have identified as a male, a North Carolinian, a southerner, a Republican, a Union High School Spartan, a UNC Tar Heel, a Democrat, a gay man, a gay man with HIV, an American, a Francophile, an Anglophile and a world citizen. I am fiscally somewhat conservative while socially progressive. However, the media in this country and politicians would have us believe that we only have two categories of people in the US: Crazy Far-Left Liberals and Stubborn Ultra-Right Conservatives. This oversimplification is an insult to us all. We are all much more complex than the spin would make us appear. If we agree 100% with all of the politicians that we support, we probably are living within an unrealistic world.

Over the course of my life, I have never seen a more schismatic state of US society than exists right now. We have been divided by politics in a most disturbing and detrimental way. Our government is virtually at stalemate over issues that are important to us all and that have bearing on our individual lives and our pursuit of happiness. So I find myself asking how we can focus on the way forward. How do we approach each other from different ends of the spectrum to work for common goals? It would seem that a small minority of the US population is happy with our government right now. How can we fix that as citizens who care for our country and the problems it faces?

When I approached Ogre about hosting the ICP, I had in mind a post he sent me at the Tar Heel Tavern when that was the only blog carnival that I knew. I knew his political views were quite different than mine, and I was very surprised by the beauty of his submission. He sent in a photograph taken of the Earth from space (no longer available or I would link back to it). It reminded me that despite all of our differences, we are living on this big blue marble together and that we are more dependent on one another than we care to imagine. If one idiot decides to fly a plane into a building, we all suffer. If another idiot decides to use nuclear weapons, we may all perish. If we continue without changing our approaches to the environment, your children and grandchildren will be living in a potentially lethal and frightening world where people fight for water and famine is the norm. I don't want to think that I spent my last years on Earth making it worse for those to come.

So, how do we change our world so that the schism grows smaller and we identify the items that are critically important for our survival as a species? I am not sure that I have an answer to this question, except from my own experience. If I look closely at myself, I find that I am less contained within my own boxes and labels than I like to think I am. While I can argue that I am progressive to desire and work for social and cultural equality for all, I am also fiscally conservative depending upon the issue that is at hand: for example, building a bridge to nowhere when that money could save the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer or heart disease is just plain stupid. Save that money to help us all by researching cleaner fuels or air scrubbers so that your children and grandchildren will have a chance at survival in the future.

There is no stasis in my stance. My views are dynamic and can not be easily categorized. For example, I supported the war in Afghanistan because of the Taliban’s treatment of women, for their destruction of ancient holy Buddhist icons without regard to the sensibilities of Buddhists and for their apparent support of Bin Laden and his terror cells. I strongly opposed the war in Iraq because of the concept of pre-emptive war against a country for which we had no proof of ties to the exporting of terror. Either way, now that we are bogging down in a two theater war with rumblings of expansion of that war into Iran, I support the troops who are serving in those wars. I support the families who have sent their kids, moms and dads, many of whom are gay and lesbian and have proved their mettle on the battlefield, to fight for our country no matter why. However, I strongly urge our leaders to exhaust every possible act of diplomacy before resorting to violence again.

I can imagine that many of the ICP's readers are wondering what this has to do with HIV/AIDS. I can also imagine many readers who are living outside the US wonder what my thoughts have to do with HIV/AIDS around the world. I see it like this: as much as we might want to think we owe nothing to anyone else in the world but to ourselves, we are at a cross-roads where our actions can dramatically worsen the world or they can begin the climb back to teamwork and tackling the issues that face those often seen as "the least" of us. In fact, we, as humans, are the sum of all of us and more. We must address the issues of global warming, genocide, famine, access to clean water, and communicable disease. If AIDS had been affecting all of us in society for the past 25 years as it has affected those of us infected, we would make it much more of a priority than we have so far. Imagine what a pandemic of fatal influenza, like the much feared bird flu, could do to you and your loved ones. Would anyone watching millions die sit back and claim it not to be their problem?

So, as a preface to the ICP October edition, I present this piece of rambling rumination on HIV/AIDS, politics and where I fit in this world. I know that I am on the surface of earth as is everyone who is reading these words. I know that we all have much more in common than how we differ. I know that most of us are moved to compassion for one another by connecting in a human way with one another. I know that HIV/AIDS was first identified in the gay community of the US, but that it is not a gay disease at all. It is a human disease. I know that it is not a punishment but a pernicious possibility.

I hope that you will read the collection of articles that has been put together by those who represent the current world of HIV/AIDS. We are as diverse as the tapestry that makes up humanity. Perhaps some of us got here by making an error in judgment at a specific point in time. Perhaps we are here from no fault of our own. Either way, can we have compassion and care for our fellow humans long enough to stop an illness that currently infects over 40 million people worldwide? Twenty-six years into this pandemic, the consequences of our actions will determine whether we will see exponential growth of AIDS rates around the world or a slow and steady decrease in new infections. Perhaps the most important question of all is this: Would you have this happen to your child or grandchild? I hope you would do all in your ability to prevent it from happening. Please help us fight for a cure so that we can focus on other, happier endeavors.

Finally, many thanks to Ogre for his time and effort and willingness to open up his blog to this forum. I hope that you will read and comment on what you find interesting.

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3 Comments:

Blogger warrior scout said...

i am humbled by the depth and thoughtfulness of your words. there are so many incongruities in our lives and our nation's policies that it is mind boggling. yet we are complacent and keenly numb which is enabling of the worlds behaviors. we can and should set the tone and the pace to the treatment of hiv/aids. and so we do by choosing politics which are determined by dollars. hooray for us.

9/28/2007 09:40:00 PM  
Blogger enigma4ever said...

you always make me think about things harder- and it is not just that you make me look at HIVAIDS with fresh eyes and open heart..it is more than that...it is your deep awareness and your depth...thank you ron...I need to write more and write more of my AIDS stories for you..I too worry people put this in the back of their minds...there is so much going on right now...but I know that so many things have been left behind..from children to 47 million souls with no care...

I think that 23 years shows that you really take good care of yourself...you deserve much credit for your care....many hugs..

9/29/2007 02:39:00 AM  
Blogger Paul Decelles said...

Thanks for a wonderful meditation. It seems that it easier to simplify people by putting them in little boxes. And sometimes we do that to ourselves don't we.

(HUGS)

10/09/2007 10:24:00 PM  

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