And it gave a name to a nameless anger I’ve reserved for awhile.
“The poor homosexuals — they have declared war upon nature, and now nature is extracting an awful retribution.” Pat Buchanan, 1983.
I hadn’t expected much when I applied for Brian Malloy’s free ten-week course. There wasn’t much to expect aside from the title: Writing the AIDS Generation. Yeah, if there was any generation I’d feel alienated from, it would have to be this one. What truly dismantled the notions I conceived before walking into that meeting room in the Quatrefoil Library, however, is something that has stuck with me, and probably will stick with me until I die. I’ve read and seen depictions of the AIDS plague and the volatile protests, but I never imagined sitting in a room full of people who more or less did just that. It seems my inner fury, directed at a government that should have helped these people, came to a boiling point that first class.
That said, my anger intensified following a couple more of these sessions.
It started with my first prompt. My first prompt was to make two lists, both revolving around the first half of 1981. The first list asked what you were doing, where you were living, what job you had, what school you attended, where was your partner/spouse, etc. The second list asked what global issues, government crises and dilemmas, trends, groundbreaking achievements in all professional fields, you thought would occupy the minds of the American people. A generation, if you will. As I prepared my list, I found a startling gap between what I imagined my mother was experiencing in her personal life and the general discourse that is 1981. It seems rational that my mom would be occupied with the birth of my older sister more than Bobby Sands’ tragic hunger strike. Fitting into a new church congregation over Secretary-of-State Alexander Haig’s ambiguous assertions of “being in control”. Concerning over my dad leaving for duty than Princess Diana’s royal wedding gown. So much can happen in one year. How in the world would my parents, any of my friends, give a passing thought to a marginalized community on the precipice of a horrific plague?