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AIDS is a common concern

I went today to the funeral of a friend. And I was very angry. I knew that there were people for whom this man's death was good news. Not because they knew him, not because they knew who he was, and not because he had done anything to them. But because he had AIDS.

For most people AIDS is a topic of academic concern. It frightens them. Of course. It frightens me, too. And it justifies their fear and hatred of people like my friend, of people like me. But for my friend, for his family, for my friends, it meant much more. So very much more.

The message people are hearing now is that heterosexuals should be concerned about AIDS because they too are in danger of being exposed. They should be concerned now because although they knew they were safe before, now they may not be. So, the thinking continues, they should be concerned not because people have been suffering from it, not because people are suffering from it, but because they themselves might suffer from it.

How insidious this line of thinking is. When I think that I should be concerned because I could be affected, I lose my ability to show concern when I could not. Our humanity dies when we cannot respond to the suffering of others unless we are threatened; we cease to be human when personal morality and judgment subjugate compassion, and distaste or lack of understanding kill sensitivity.

But haven't we, the gay community, brought this way of thinking upon ourselves, by adopting the pink triangle, the symbol of Nazi persecution of homosexuals, as the emblem of gay pride while neglecting to remember the Jehovah's Witnesses and gypsies who suffered the same fate? Do not the Jews, who remind us of the six million Jews but neglect the five million non-Jews who died, share our blame?

No. No, we are not to blame. For we carry the burden of remembrance. We relive the suffering they endured; no one can be blamed for remembering more keenly their own sorrow. But the suffering of the past should not make us blind to those who suffer now.

Perhaps it is unrealistic for me to expect heterosexuals to be concerned until they are directly threatened. Perhaps it is only fair for me to expect no more than that. But although I may be frightened, I refuse to lose my faith in human dignity. Your concern and your actions cannot help my friend. But with our concern and with our actions we can still help each other.

D. Daniel Sternberg '87->