Now that all of the hoopla surrounding the 30th anniversary of AIDS has died down, there’s an opportunity for more sober reflection. In the AIDS Mastery Workshops that I created in 1985, there was an opening visualization which asked participants to go back in time to before they ever heard the word AIDS, look at what they were doing, what their lives were like, and how AIDS had changed their dreams and plans. Facilitators still begin these weekend workshops with that process. AIDS at 30 still has a day before, a day of diagnosis and the day when it sinks in. There are other similarities, but there are thankfully huge differences. AIDS has gone from, “odds are you’re going to die from this,” to a pretty sure bet that with the latest medication you can live a rich and rewarding life. And now in Germany, a man no longer has any trace of HIV, something that could not have been anticipated when Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart was first introduced at the Public Theater. For those of you who have not seen The Normal Heart, it chronicles the dawning of the epidemic among a group of gay men in New York, including Ned Weeks, the Larry Kramer character, portrayed in a transcendent performance by Joe Mantello, and how the group, the gay community and society responded.
Let me repeat the Seneca quote above, “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.” At this juncture in human history Progressives, among whom I count myself, must dare to dream of the America in which we want to live. And if we want that dream to become a reality we must also pursue that dream passionately, and against all odds we must dare to participate passionately regardless of: busy lives, family, friends, career, relationships, the fact that it’s not election time, whatever ugly public relations stunt the Republicans are up to. If we intend to restore progressive values to our local, national, and international interactions and to our democracy, we can envision an America without the waging of war; and intensify the work of ending racism, sexism, anti-unionism, among other -isims.
It’s important to remember that Our Voice is Our Vote, election or no election. Our present reality doesn’t give us the luxury of relaxing, When I cast my vote for Barack Obama on Election Day 2008, I did so because I thought he would be great for the country and I feared the terrifying potential of four long McCain/Palin years, which would only have served to extend the Bush Doctrine. How could my country repeat such a gross error of judgment? We had to know better. Einstein said that, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the true definition of insanity.” It speaks volumes about politics American style.
And yet America did something different. We went to the poles in great numbers to select the first African American president in our history; a president with a new look and a new outlook. My relief was palpable. After the swearing in, there followed a considerable period of hope; halleluiah! a fresh new era was upon us, and progressives needed that halleluiah moment. But the halleluiahs have faded and our great liberal hope turned out to be less than he promised. Some of us have become discouraged, sad or angry. And not just with President Obama, but let’s start there. The next Presidential election is still far enough away for him to deliver on his election promises so as to distinguish him from the Republicans. Click below to read more & take action:
Did Democrats think that they could rest on the laurels of 2008? Did they think they didn’t have to fulfill their campaign promises to be re-elected? Was it a lack of party leadership? Was it that they have had no clear take on what’s going on in the country? Did they miss the vociferous hatred on the part of the religious right and others on the far right? What did they think that guy we saw on the nightly news with a shotgun slung over his shoulder was saying about the President at the Obama rally he was stalking? What did they think was meant when Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term President?" Do they think they don't have to worry until 2012?
Democrats seem to have a propensity for turning possibility into missed opportunities. Remember that it practically took shooting themselves in the foot to let a Gore Presidency slip away in the wake of his popularity. That George Bush ever won the White House is a crime that left Obama to inherit huge disasters. But the right is still trying to sell the lies that would have their minions believe that Obama invented our wars, the deficit, and the fact that he is an American. Think about it for a moment. Is it possible that those accusations are in part meant to cover their racism? Can you imagine how offensive it is for Tea Partiers to even think about this intelligent, educated attractive African American as the leader of the free world? You may have a few things you’d like to say to them as well, because in the final analysis the fate of the future does not lie just in their hands, the Democrats’ hands or the President’s hands. The future lies in the hands of each and every one of us. And that’s just the beginning: we also have to look out for more Mitch McConnells, who just want all progressive and liberal types gone. So we have to be inventive and look at how daringly we are going to play our hands.
President Obama gave us the slogan, “Change We Can Believe In,” and though the Democrats blew the chance to create change through the strength of controlling both houses of Congress, they’ve become adept at overcoming, which means they are even better suited to create change, so let’s not count them out. In fact we must never forget how skilled and artful the Democrats have become over the years at misreading opportunities. The time has come to turn politics as usual into a government that is actually, rather than theoretically, “of the people, by the people and for the people,” including our “people,” and not just at election time. Reality lives between elections where the less glamorous work pleads with us, urges us, and demands us to become more deeply involved as we are called upon to look towards the future where America once again begins to live up to its original promise. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take work, and it’s going to take a massive effort. It’s been a long time.