I watched last night on HBO the film version of the famous Larry Kramer play of 1984 about the AIDS crisis in New York. That sent me for a time warp spin.
Curiously, although having read all the "right books" of the 80ies on AIDS and gay life, I had missed reading that play of Kramer (I prefer to read theater than attending it, do not ask). But I certainly knew of his writings, having read the infamously famous "Faggots". And of his activist career, including his participation in the founding of ACT UP.
The movie sent me tear eyed to those years in the US for my doctoral degree, when I faced with my own coming out, and when as a scientist I knew from the very first time I saw a TV report on "gay cancer" that this could only be caused by an infectious agent. That we had to wait 2 more years for confirmation is due to the way science works, but we all knew that this was going to be the final outcome, enhanced or not by external factors.
This certainly put a hold for a while on my relationships but it did not stop me to get progressively involved though volunteer work, starting at the Chase Brexton of Baltimore in its glorious early scrappy days. Activism was not possible as I was a foreigner and my ethics prevented me to do so, even though I knew much more about US politics and history than the average Joe. Still, it did not stop me from joining ACT UP marches when I knew they were going to be well behaved. And I will pass on the Gay Prides of the late 80ies, on the Quilts Memorial at the Washington Mall, on the Pro Choice gigantic rallies then, etc...
In addition of being trilingual and tricultural, I can also say that I have a 4th culture, the gay american culture which is where I came out and had my first relationships. And this include a lot of stuff, from a love for Broadway Tunes, to a Liberal heart forged in the bigoted era of the Reagan Bush administrations. It does not matter how much of a fiscal conservative I am, how much I prize a minimum of order, respect and education, private enterprise and free trade, for I cannot vote anyone that does not embrace gay rights, pro choice policies and some reasonable form of affirmative action. I cannot. There is a matter of principles and ethics that come from too many tears 30 years ago.
But as I watched tear eyed The Normal Heart, remembering brutally stuff I had not thought about for 20 years, something else came to my notice. Certainly the Republican administration of the time did not want anything to do with AIDS, gay rights and the like. Or as Julia Roberts points in the movie, more millions were spent on 7 victims of a tampered Tylenol jars than on the already thousand of patients in New York alone. But one thing I was able to see. Republicans of the era did not pretend to be gay friendly, and when they gave something, for as little as that was, they did not pretend either that they were dealing effectively and generously with the situation. I do not mean to make apologies for the Reagan people then, but at least we should acknowledge that they were coherent with their positions.
If I can be that understanding today with something that caused me great grief 30 years ago it is because 15 years of chavismo have gone by. See, in Venezuela we have a regime that claims to be liberal in excess, to be the salvation of human kind and yet its deeds are sorely lacking. As far as homophobia is concerned chavismo has nothing to envy from the nutty right wing of the US, they are of the same mentality that gave us "but some of my best friends are gay/black/woman". In fact homophobia inside chavismo is worse because for political needs it is fair game to use it, something that main stream Republicans did not go besides a possible occasional allusion to a difference (excepting Jesse Helms, of course). I actually had gay friends that were Republican (precious few, of course) and I could put up with it. Here, I cannot look in the face gays that support Chavez because I am afraid to lose composure. I cannot understand it. I broke lose with them even though my S.O. still sees them occasionally.
But that is not all. Let's look at health care. Certainly in the early 80ies there were too many problems in hospitals refusing to attend patients with the mysterious disease. Yet, calling it a genocide like Kramer does is a little bit of a stretch. Fear is one thing, intention is another. As such I am not going to qualify the disaster of public hospitals in Venezuela as genocide, though criminal it is. Yesterday I was writing about a documentary of CNN at the Hospital Clinico of Caracas. One thing I did not write was that I experienced personally the disaster there last February when the lousy attention my S.O. received would have cost him his life had we not taken him out of there to a private clinic. It was not AIDS, it was cancer, but the mess was comparable.
It is morally worse in Venezuela due to the hypocrisy of a regime that vaunts world wide its heath successes that are today proven nonexistent or voided. This hypocrisy, this "I do not care a shit about people in public hospitals while I send my family and relatives to private clinics" would make me again the activist, a Ned Weeks variation, if I were younger, if I did not have for my own Felix to care for already, if I had not burnt my eyes for so many years on a computer screen for you, if it were not a dictatorship, if it were a place where I could get a court order from a judge, something that could not happen in Venezuela where the whistle blowers are those put in jail, straight. The ACT UP of Venezuela today are its students, and they are abandoned by politicians, "main stream" just as ACT UP was judged in the US, by its main stream. Even if in the end ACT UP sort of prevailed.
I am telling you, the price we will pay for 15 years of chavismo is barely starting to be evaluated. Our tears are only starting. The 80ies may turn out to have been nothing.