The crowd consisted almost entirely of white men; I saw only two black men in the audience.
Afterward I approached one of the speakers to suggest that the demographics conveyed a message about the supporters and primary beneficiaries of same-sex marriage.
It is not my place to judge my success, but during those years my self-declared goal was to make a stone weep, because maybe the weeping of stones would bring about change, real change—would make us understand that we have no future in the rape of the world, that we have no future in dividing and subdividing into nations and clans and fortified mansions with manicured lawns and access codes, that we have no future except through love.
Leaving my last class of the semester, I encountered a student so lost in her texting, so oblivious to the living, breathing, gorgeous, fragile world, that had I not stepped aside she would have collided with me.
For me, veteran of the AIDS era of terror and anger and heartbreak, her oblivion precipitated the past into the present.
Not even Dante could have devised a punishment so perfectly suited to the crime: the use of a weapon, to quote Cornel West, of mass distraction; a device that, by robbing us of our need to remember, facilitates forgetting.The assimilationists have won, those men and women whose highest aspiration was to be like everybody else, whose greatest act of imagination was picturing matching Barcaloungers in front of a flatscreen television and matching, custom-designed wedding rings.The evolution from ACT UP and Zen Hospice to state-sanctioned marriage is precisely analogous to gentrification—the creative outliers do the heavy lifting, and when a certain level of safety has been achieved, the assimilationists move in, raise prices, and force out the agents of change.How can we read our politicians’ and university presidents’ drumbeat emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) at the same time that they defund the arts and humanities as anything but pressure on faculties to train a docile pool of drones?Deans and professors promote the humanities as a training in critical thinking, but critical thinking leads to criticism, the last student activity university administrations want to encourage.My students were fascinated by Wojnarowicz’s raw frankness.One student, a father of two, wrote that I had not provided enough context for the book, teaching me that this history-changing event, the brutality and horror of AIDS, was more foreign to my students than the Vietnam War, no matter that the disease is still among us, no matter that his ignorance will become his children’s ignorance, which may lead them to be the next generation of HIV-infected.But since AIDS memoirs are among the best examples of the genre, I decided I had to foray into the minefields of those memories. He then mailed the pamphlet to every member of Congress, more than 3,000 ‘Christian leaders’ and more than 2,500 media outlets.” Wojnarowicz won a lawsuit against Wildmon, the court finding that Wildmon had misrepresented the art.I surprised myself by choosing not one of several poignant memoirs but the edgy anger of Close to the Knives, by the artist David Wojnarowicz, with its hustler sex and pickup sex and anonymous sex on the decaying piers of Chelsea and amid the bleak emptiness of the Arizona desert, one eye cocked at the rearview mirror to watch for the cop who might appear and haul your naked ass to the county jail, sixty miles of rock and creosote bushes distant. It enjoined Wildmon from further distributing the pamphlets and ordered him to send a correction to all 6,000 of the initial recipients.Though I lived in San Francisco at the time, I did not join the ACT UP activists who blocked the Golden Gate Bridge; I stayed at my desk.Words, grammar, and syntax were my tools—small, stainless-steel wedges I would use to split readers’ breastbones so that I might tenderly lift out their beating hearts and display them to themselves, fully conscious, before restoring them, with equal tenderness, to their chest cavities and sewing up the wound.