How many of us are old enough to remember the first time anybody heard about the AIDS crisis?
It was Phil Donahue, hosting his pioneering talk show, who broke the story. I was waiting tables in the local Greek dinor, spelled with an “o”, and caught the episode hours before heading to work to serve the 3rd shift bar rush, already all too familiar with the population to whom this revelation would soon become paramount.
The year was, I think, 1981. My elder brother was assistant director at the local diagnostic laboratory. Though I urged him to take note of the Donahue show’s disclosure, he knew nothing, as yet – no official information had come through the “wire” – and, being a scientist, he wasn’t about to take seriously any press release that hadn’t been sanctioned by the hierarchy to which he was beholden.
However, eventually we all knew the truth. Behavior, in American society, would begin its slow, resistant slog through the paradigm shift which ensued. Condoms, so said my oldest male friend, felt like wet socks; this would take some time.
At first, the crisis seemed remote; we neither knew anybody, nor knew of anybody, stricken with AIDS. We wondered; we might have even suspected; but, none of us knew.
Gradually, the epidemic manifested. Sourcing its roots on another continent, we would soon realize that the infection was essentially world wide.
But, far less likely realized by the mainstream, one tiny country would be hardest hit: Haiti. And, what this illustrated would become far more revelatory in its implications than the disease itself.
Haiti was utterly infested with AIDS. And, the reasons were socio-economic; the island nation was a suppressed people, its vast majority of citizens living in abject poverty. And, the reason for this was, while simple, profound: the leadership of this country was among the most corrupt in the world.
Yes; during the 1980s, illiteracy in Haiti was a huge problem. French being the national language, the poor spoke Creole and efforts to coerce them away from their native dialect were allegedly unsuccessful. Communication, therefore, was impossible – but, so was advancement. Politically, this was enabling; pernicious corruption had led to a massive wealth monopoly amongst the power elite, from which nary a vapor would waft in the direction of the enormous, ignorant, remaining population.
There are those who call me prone to hyperbole. I’m guilty of seeing potential for the drastic in the most mundane. But, do we not see any writing on the wall?
The longer we allow the gulph to widen between the monopolizing 1% and the body of our own increasingly financially dependent population, the more infested we are likely to become – by despair, resentment, hostility. And, yes; even disease. Only, now, many of us wonder just which puppeteers have the latest virus in their bag of tricks.
The sheer square mileage of our purple mountains and fruited plains could be dwarfed, compressed in a small amount of time by an infectious agent – or, worse – some alleged antidote marketed as a preventive. There are far too many of us still willing to remain impressionable, malleable, and subject, forgetting that there is still strength in numbers. Come. Let us reason, t.o.g.e.t.h.e.r. Instead of rallying behind a single voice promising to protect us from threat, only to hedge its own invested bets, shouldn’t we rather band together as a unified flank, and protect ourselves?
© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 2/20/16 All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Sharing permitted via Re-Blogging, exclusively. Thank you.