By Drew Minard
Can we, as a country, find any value in comparing the similarities between the Coronavirus and the health crises that our country has faced in the past, or has it been proven to be counterproductive? While we have all the time in the world to spiral into the uncertainty from the comfort of our own homes, it’s normal to get anxious and look to the past to learn from people who have come before.
For me, when the word “pandemic” began to be tossed around, my mind immediately turned to the AIDS epidemic that was thrust upon thousands of queer people forty years ago. There was an abundance of strength, persistence, loss, and grief during that time, and though I enjoy thinking about the strength that was so bravely conveyed then, it’s also necessary to think about the misinformation and conflict that was equally present as well. Today, we’re bombarded with so many different headlines and varying information that it’s sometimes too difficult to keep track.
It’s also useful to think about the reasons why we, as a country, were so unprepared for this crisis in particular. Was the last epidemic swept so far under the rug, that we had none of the knowledge that was necessary to face this one? Silence continues to equal death. Are the Trump administration’s words, “Chinese Virus” so unlike Reagan’s “Gay Plague?” The continued categorizing and racializing of the virus today has demonstrated the alarmingly present xenophobia and racism that has afflicted the country for centuries. Is the process of reopening a number of states across the country accentuating the lack of respect we have for elderly and low-income people? Where do we go from here? As queer people, we have a responsibility to stand up for the people facing prejudices similar to what our gay ancestors went through decades ago.
When our president shrugs his shoulders and says that the rich having an easier time getting tested has practically been the “story of life,” it’s time to avoid caving in to the unmotivating nature of our living rooms. We as queer people have always fought for the well-being of people who need it most, so why should 2020 be any different?
Journalist Mark Schoofs brought upon readers a set of lessons we have learned and can continue to learn in the age of an epidemic: act as if you are infected; the government will not save you; everyone is at risk.
By Drew Minard
People didn’t care about people dying of AIDS.
There was no Netflix documentary to explain the virus to those who were frightened.
Billions of dollars weren’t spent and there was no economic collapse.
But still we unleashed our power.
Sketching out Ronald and Donald’s pure and blatant inaction,
we sketch out our need to act.
People feel a weight behind their eyes as
they recollect the memories of passing friends.
Today, injustice prevails for all but some.
Yesterday, injustice prevailed for all but some.
Has that been “the story of life”?
Will the world be looked at a different way after lockdown?
Will the flowers that bloomed while we were away look brighter?
What will prevail after this crisis is finished is how each community continued to rise and connect through isolation and grief.
When injustice proved to be impossible to avoid,
where did each person look?