Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise Posted by Picasa

World AIDS Day

Some of you may rembember a warm early September evening in Pingting's lovely garden a little over three years ago getting a slight buzz off marker fumes and fuming about the course of our American politics. Iraq hadn't yet been invaded and the official word was that every step would be taken to avoid it. Still, I remember a sense of resignation we shared. I remember how hard it was even to come up with words to fill the blank sheets of posterboard.

"Monkey the Bush" I didn't understand it then and still don't really, but it sounds good to my ear. I doubt the girl, living as she does in a rural town in Italy, had ever seen reference to Bush as "Chimp," she just called 'em as she saw 'em. (Hey, so did you know that those posters you made were prominently displayed on the parade route? I'm not sure they were, afraid the car was parked just a little east of the presidential fleet.)

I don't remember who said that change always happens on the margins and moves towards the center, but that's it. By the next January more of you along with so many others were in the streets crying out to stop the invasion. Now most Americans feel it was a mistake. But it also feels as if the sense of resignation has only grown in the country.

All those damn ribbons! I won't be wearing a red one on December 1st World AIDS Day. But in some small way I'll try to commemorate the day, at least pause a moment to turn my attention to the worldwide scorge of AIDS.

Today at Talking Points Memo Cafe Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School has a piece considering AIDS means for the military troops in Africa. The piece is worth reading, but what stuck out were the few comments. Nowhere in the post did Slaughter allude to AIDS being the fault of the West or make any recommendations about American action. But the comments bristled with "Who cares about Africa?" and "Why should we care?" Indeed, why care about AIDS at all? And this is at one of those "leftist blogs."

I'm one for pulling my covers up over my head when I don't feel like getting out of bed. But I'm old enough now to know that eventually I will have to emerge from my nest. The problem with a strategy of "Screw it all!" is eventually something will have to be done. I understand being angry and bewildered by American actions in Iraq, but the pendulum swing towards issolationism seems futile; another expression of American exceptionalism.

The slogan for this year's World AIDS Day is "Keep the Promise." It refers to a U.N. resolution a few years back--I don't remember. Here are a couple of links to find out: UNAIDS and World AIDS Campaign.

Politics is very important but too much attention paid to winning and loosing can cause people to resign themselves to inaction. A little focus on little things all along the edges where we can create something good is not futile. When we act to soothe the hurt, when we act to make someone else happy, when we pay attention to the neglected, it's never a hollow gesture. It's always our engagement that matters.

In the midst of the Vietnam War Thich Nhat Hanh travelled to the U.S. to speak to audiences about peace. He told audiences if they could take one peaceful step they could take two. And he said:
Those who are without compassion cannot see what is seen with the eyes of compassion.
My dear friends, will you take a little time on World AIDS Day to imagine what can be seen with the eyes of compassion.

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