Friday, December 01, 2006

The AIDS Quilt

I saw parts of it yesterday. The real shock is when you start reading and studying the individual quilt squares, the longing and the grief and the celebration of lives which were cut too short. And the enormous amount of creative energy that just floods out of the quilts. I cried.

Today is the World AIDS Day. We have grown used to AIDS, we are no longer frightened to death by it, just because people with AIDS can now live longer if they get the right medications. But in many parts of the world the medications are not available, and AIDS is still the greatest human catastrophy happening right now.

This is what we have to juggle with, the enormity of the problem on the one hand and the acute personal grief of each death caused by AIDS on the other, a patchwork quilt in some odd dimension. It is difficult to keep both in view at the same time, and losing sight of one distorts the way the problem should be treated. Yes, AIDS is a giant which eats people like popcorn. Yes, AIDS is the death of a young woman (left herself a widow by it) in Africa, leaving her children parentless and possibly infected themselves, leaving the grandparents or older siblings responsible for more and more children, causing many children to end up careless altogether, on the streets. But also: Yes, we can starve this giant if we really want to. I hope we want to.