Today I listened to Terri Gross interview LGTBQ activist Cleve Jones. I have to drive a lot for work. It wears me out sometimes, but there is also the huge gift of being ALONE in the car and getting to listen to incredible stories like his.
My heart broke listening to Mr. Jones talk about the AIDS crisis in the 80's, how Reagan wouldn't acknowledge what was going on, how the gay community had to fight like mad for healthcare, for research, for legitimacy, for love, just to be acknowledged as human. Had that epidemic been visited on straight white folks, we would have been all over it.
He said the pain and grief of seeing most his friends die is still with him every day, but he finds ways to be joyful. The AIDS quilt was his idea, and came about when he and other activists wrote down the names of people who had died from AIDS and plastered their posters all over a government health building in SF. Putting those names on something as "wholesome" as a quilt seemed like a good way to subvert the denial going on. Then he said something that almost made me pull over:
"The artistry of it was the thing I was least prepared for."
He wanted the names, the protest, the statement the whole thing would make, but he was blown away by the beauty that emerged.
What about us, now? I'm undone to think of all the gains we might be losing and I'm MAD about hate crimes, about all the folks already being marginalized in this post-election time, about the denial of facts. But Seth Godin said recently that the most important question now is "What are you working on?"
And maybe, just maybe, the artistry of the thing will surprise us. There will be beauty from ashes. I hope so. That's what keeps me going.
P.S. A Secret Santa left me a storybook of Lifesavers on my porch tonight. Whoever you are, thank you. Made my day.