Sunday, March 18, 2012

ACT UP is 25

My picture from a 1994 march

AIDS may be out of fashion, but it hasn't gone away. The medical profession reminds us that the "cocktail" is only a stopgap, not a cure. The disease has not gone away at all, and infection rates are on the rise again.

There probably wouldn't be a "cocktail" if it wasn't for ACT UP making life miserable for those in power and for medical professionals. The movement began 25 years ago this month out of desperation. AIDS by 1987 had already killed thousands of people and thousands more were dying, frequently in miserable and degraded conditions. The policy of the Reagan Administration was one of malign neglect. AIDS was seen as a way to rid the country of a nuisance population. There was talk in those days of "innocent" victims as opposed to most who somehow deserved what they got for being queer. That a lot of other victims were minorities and drug abusers was considered a bonus. Most other countries, including Haiti, had more advanced and pro-active AIDS policies than the USA at the time.

That nuisance population decided not to go quietly. ACT UP decided to kick the ogres in the shins, and to keep kicking them until they got their attention. ACT UP sometimes resorted to extreme measures. Their most controversial act was to disrupt a Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral (Cardinal O'Connor and the minions of the Archdiocese in City Hall successfully blocked the City Health Commission from distributing safe sex information). At the time, the action was considered a fatal over-reach by ACT UP alienating supporters. In retrospect, it may have been a bold move that announced to the powerful outside the walls of the cathedral that ACT UP was not afraid of them and would follow them into their inner sanctums if necessary. Indeed, policies on the local and national level slowly began to change not long afterward.

ACT UP's tactics continue to shape dissent today, most notably in the disruptions by Occupy of official political events.


Promo for a new documentary on ACT UP and the response to AIDS.

Hat tip to Joe Jervis of JoeMyGod.


The Bizarre Rabbit sends us this old ACT UP tribute to Cardinal O'Connor.


Frank Bruni writes a very fine column in the NY Times today based on the movie advertised in the Extra above. It's a good essay, though I think his conclusion is a little too optimistic.

1 comment:

JCF said...

Oooh, I saw that Cardinal O'Scumbag poster in a progressive bookstore (remember those?) in Portland OR back then!


When I see how righteous anti-Popoidism bleeds over into anti-religious fervor over at places like JoeMyGod, I wonder about the effect of ACT UP's Mass Disruption for Good & Ill (so to speak). Because of the EVIL of O'Connor, I can't regret taking militant action against him and his Popoid minions.

...yet at the same time, it also had the effect of equating the cultus w/ the (Popoid) cult. Jesus-in-the-Eucharist didn't give anyone AIDS, didn't stigmatize AIDS (or queers OR queer sex), didn't slow-track AIDS research or treatment (rather, in Viaticum, Jesus traveled intimately with his dying brothers&sisters).

Yet in going after the mass, I wonder if there wasn't a sort of "Curse God and Die(?)" dare going on. Destroy the Holy-of-Holies, and be done w/ religion---ANY religion---once and for all?

Just my "FWIW" thoughts.