It’s easy to forget about nasty things.
Just look at American politics. Climate change, overpopulation, pollution, all three are huge threats to humanity, and all three are getting progressively worse. One party in American politics pretends they don’t exist, while the other one has proven grossly negligent when power was in its hands.
Some monsters do not disappear when the sun rises. We have evidence stretching back a billion years to see what will inevitably happen. The fossil record tells us that the history of life on Earth has had periods of massive die-offs, when untold numbers of species disappeared and the sum total of complex living organisms decreased dramatically. One culprit is consistently visible: drastic climate change.
500 or so years of scientific awareness and urban planning give us evidence of other factors at work. As a population increases, waste matter increases. For humans, our excrement is toxic to us in the long run because lethal diseases are transmitted through it. This is why we have toilets.
Human excrement is but one type of negative byproduct our species produces. We are surrounded by industry waste and our own garbage. We breathe, eat, and pile up more every year. Many of us, however, have not made the connection between industrial waste and our own shit. One political party refuses to put sustainability on the table. The other party has tabled discussion of sustainability until further notice.
Thus it is inevitable that we will experience more sickness, be it from pathogens or industrial poisons.
AIDS, SARS and antibiotic-resistant strep are just warm-ups for what’s on the horizon.
Rapture as Fact, AIDS as Fiction
But it’s difficult to bring the reality check to our fellow Americans. A significant minority does not believe the world is more than 5,000 years old. An even bigger number believes that the world will end any day now, and that all the warning signs, such as industrial disasters, extreme weather, and even AIDS, point towards the Rapture. Prayer is the answer (along with guns), not the need for sensible resource management, population control, zero-waste recycling and renewable energy.
Look closely at homophobic, anti-choice, anti-climate-change and anti-Occupy rhetoric. They all go hand in hand with an underlying hum of fear, whispers of hysteria sitting just beneath the surface, made stronger by a sneaky sense of uncertainty that comes with helplessness and soothed only by a well-stocked arsenal next to the big-screen TV.
Just a few weeks ago, NPR interviewed a woman who was startled by a gas line explosion near her house. Her initial reaction: It’s the End Times. That was her first thought. I wonder if she realized the scarier truth: our infrastructure is falling apart.
At least with the Rapture, some of us will float away. With guns, we can shoot our enemies. As it stands with rupturing gas lines, massive oil spills, giga-tons of coal sludge and much-needed trillions of dollars siphoned off by unregulated Wall Street gambling, there is no one to shoot, and none of us gets out unscathed. In the long run, not even the one percent.
The End-Times-God-Versus-Satan rallying cry gets its power by convincing people that their group will be exempt from what is Second-Coming. It is an ethical stance as old as homo sapiens: My tribe over all others. Even if the shouting is clothed in Christian verse of love and mercy, the tone of it is a war chant, anger to the point of frenzy, in perfect sync with the ecstasy of a tent revival.
The Four Horsemen
Where is the Gay tribe in this? Simple: we aren’t. We don’t count because we are the living embodiment of birth control and rational discourse. We don’t wave automatic weapons around during our Pride parades. We do not procreate irresponsibly and, like birth control, we get in God’s way, so God gave us AIDS. Environmentalists are almost as bad as Gays. Preaching sustainability is to foresee a long-term future for humankind, which goes against the notion of the Last Days. In Biblical terms, Gays, tree-huggers, women’s reproductive choice advocates and Occupy-Wall-Streeters are the Four Horsemen of the Anti-Apocalypse. We are the lemmings that don’t join the herd rushing madly over the edge of a cliff in the name of Team Freedom. The issues we address are therefore ignored.
But things were not always that way. Conservative silence concerning AIDS is a radical change from just a few years ago. George H.W. Bush, Sr. quit the National Rifle Association when it started bashing cops. George W. Bush, made AIDS funding a visible priority, and he recognized it was not just a homosexual problem. We can disagree with his methods (funding only those groups that pushed abstinence, for example), but not his message.
George didn’t support AIDS funding to please his Conservative base. I think he did it as a compromise with Progressives, but “compromise” became a dirty word with the rise of the Tea Party. We are witnessing a throwback to the golden-shower-trickle-down days of Ronnie Reagan: AIDS=Gay, Gay=homosexual, homosexuality (like AIDS) is a disease/sin/crime. Any support of AIDS or Gays is on par with recognizing climate change (hoax), women’s reproductive rights (murder) or advocating environmental/economic sustainability (huh?). It is political suicide.
Just ask John Huntsman.
All of this denial makes it even easier for our young Gay men (and closeted Christian down-low Porn-Agains) to pretend that AIDS is not a real problem, just like climate change.
Come to (Progressive) Jesus
All is not lost. Many Progressives fail to see that most Conservative homophobic anti-science bigots are also compassionate Christians who do their best to be a force for good in this world. If we want to access the better angels of their nature, it’s just a matter of speaking their language.
We must first realize that AIDS, Gays, climate change, reproductive rights and ecological sustainability are jumbled up into a big incoherent mess inside their heads. We advance the cause of the LGBT community and AIDS funding when we advocate for the other 3 Horsemen. Here are some suggestions:
Climate change: Forget the fossil record and focus on the immediate problem at hand. “God made a beautiful world for us that has functioned beautifully for 5000 years, but we will ruin it in the next 50 years if we don’t change our ways.”
If hard-core Creationists really piss you off, let them know that the whole dinosaurs-in –the-Garden-of-Eden thing makes them look bad in the eyes of other Christians: “Roman Catholics laugh at you.”
Women’s reproductive rights: Forget the complete lack of proof concerning the Virgin Birth. “Jesus was a planned pregnancy. Mary gave her consent first, and she did it without consulting Joseph.”
Sustainability: “Not one sparrow falls to the ground without God noticing it. God also knows if the sparrow fell because it died from pollution.” Tie that into climate change. The big lie coming from anti-environmental Conservatives is that human activity is not significant enough to affect the environment. Remind them that God pays attention to everything we do to His Creation.
Gays and AIDS: This one is tricky since the Bible condemns same-sex sex, and God uses plagues to punish sinners. A sure winner is Mother Teresa, the nearest thing to Jesus in our lifetime: “She took care of anyone who was sick, and made it a point to minister to people with AIDS without judging them or condemning them.” Also, don’t be afraid to pimp out George Jr., or to point out AIDS funding actually began under Saint Ronnie, his silence on the subject before 1987 notwithstanding.
Finally, bring up the giant red ribbon that Obama had put up in front of the White House on World AIDS Day last December. If you are really feeling sassy, add, “Wasn’t that the most Christian thing our president could do to celebrate the Christmas spirit?”
I bet they never heard THAT from conservative commentators.