Culture, Politics

The Arc of Justice

“The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long, but It Bends Toward Justice”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

“This disease will be the end of many of us, but not nearly all, and the dead will be commemorated and will struggle on with the living, and we are not going away.

 We won’t die secret deaths anymore.

The world only spins forward.

We will be citizens. The time has come.”

“Angels In America”

In the 80’s, I protested two Presidents, picketed two Presidents, blamed two Presidents for ignoring my brothers dying all around me from AIDS.

In the 90’s, I supported the President, but was disappointed that he couldn’t magically make it all better.

In the first decade of this century, frankly, I tried to ignore the President, even as he made the AIDS epidemic a centerpiece of his foreign policy.

Today, after almost 30 years of the AIDS epidemic, I welcomed a President to join with us as a volunteer.

As part of the September 11th Day of Service, President Obama chose to volunteer at Food and Friends, an organization started 25 years ago to provide food and nutrition to people with AIDS.  Today, the organization serves people with all life threatening illnesses – an institution built largely by the gay community, and now shared with the entire community.  Erik Hower, the Board Chair, Craig Shniderman the Executive Director and I had the honor of welcoming President Obama as he arrived.

I struggle to quantify how far we have come, because to do so, I have to take stock of where we started, and how horrible those days were.  Struggle to take stock of a time when even in hospitals, food was left in the hallway because of the fear of a person with AIDS.  Struggle to recall the depth of fear we felt as the disease cut through our friends.  Our own sense of personal vulnerability.  My own sense of my personal vulnerability.

I struggle with the memories of great people lost — great leaders, great thinkers, great friends.  In my first outline for this piece, I began to catalogue many of them.  But I couldn’t go through with it.

At the same time, I take heart from the inspiration of the people who stepped up and filled the vacuum with their own leadership.  There were heroes among us.  Today, when Food and Friends delivers a meal to a woman struggling with breast cancer, or an elderly couple struggling to stay in their home as one of them faces dementia, we honor the legacy of 25 years of heroes.

Today, the President of the United States volunteered to fill containers with soup.  Any by doing so, bent the moral arc of the universe closer to justice.

Obama F&F

We have become citizens.  The time has indeed come.