Saturday, July 07, 2012

Lines in Larry Kramer's Seminal Essay "1,112 and Counting..." Which Could Be Written Today About Global Warming

I'm teaching Larry Kramer's astonishing article, "1,112 and Counting...", on Monday for part of a unit on AIDS we're doing in a class on the social history of medicine. About this article, Randy Shilts wrote in his astonishing history of the early years of the AIDS pandemic, And the Band Played On:

Kramer through a hand grenade into the foxhole of denial where most gay men in the United States had been sitting out the epidemic. The cover story of the New York Native, headlined "1,112 and Counting," was Kramer's end run around all the gay leaders and GMHC organizers worried about not panicking the homosexuals and not inciting homophobia. As far as Kramer was concerned, gay men needed a little panic and a lot of anger.... Kramer's piece irrevocably altered the context in which AIDS was discussed in the gay community and, hence, in the nation. Inarguably one of the most influential works of advocacy journalism of the decade, "1,112 and Counting..." swiftly crystallized the epidemic into a political movement for the gay community at the same time it set off a maelstrom of controversy that polarized gay leaders....

-- Randy Shilts, And the Band Played On, pp. 244, 245

Rereading it, it occurred to me how appropriate the tone of the article is -- not the specifics, obviously, but the tone in general -- to global warming.

I herein presented the edited version: sentences we could say about global warming, right now. Of course "killing us" in Kramer's work was in the present; now it is still -- mostly (global warming-induced wildfires and hurricanes aside) -- in the future. But the scale of the possible devastation is, of course, greater than even that great calamity.

We -- the people of the earth -- need someone to rouse us to action. Where is the Larry Kramer of global warming?

***

If this article doesn’t scare the shit out of you, we’re in real trouble. If this article doesn’t rouse you to anger, fury, rage, and action, [human beings] may have no future on this earth. Our continued existence depends on just how angry you can get....

I repeat: Our continued existence as [human beings] upon the face of this earth is at stake. Unless we fight for our lives, we shall die. ...we have never before been so close to death and extinction....

Why isn’t every [person on this planet] so scared shitless that he is screaming for action? Does every [person on this planet] want to die? ...

Priorities in this area appear to be peculiarly out of kilter at this moment of life or death....

To continue to allow [status-quo politicians] to represent us in [any government] will, in my view, only bring us closer to death....

With his silence on [global warming], the [President of the United States] is helping to kill us....

I am sick of our electing officials who in no way represent us. I am sick of our stupidity in believing candidates who promise us everything for our support and promptly forget us and insult us after we have given them our votes....

I am sick of the [mainstream media], which has yet to quite acknowledge that there’s anything going on....

With the exception of... a few, very few, other [small] publications, the [mainstream] press has been useless. If we can’t get our own papers and magazines to tell us what’s really happening to us... how are we going to get the word around that we’re dying?

Unless we can generate, visibly, numbers, masses, we are going to die....

I am sick of everyone in this community who tells me to stop creating a panic. How many of us have to die before you get scared off your ass and into action?... Over and over again I hear from [people], “Why aren’t you guys doing anything?” Every politician I have spoken to has said to me confidentially, “You guys aren’t making enough noise. Bureaucracy only responds to pressure.”...

Get your stupid heads out of the sand, you turkeys!...

How can they value life so little and [gas-guzzlers and profits] so much?...

I don’t want to die. I can only assume you don’t want to die. Can we fight together?

I hope we don’t have to conduct sit-ins or tie up traffic or get arrested. I hope our city and our country will start to do something to help start saving us. But it is time for us to be perceived for what we truly are: an angry community and a strong community, and therefore a threat. Such are the realities of politics....

I hope I have not been guilty of saying ineffectively in five thousand words what I could have said in five: we must fight to live.

I am angry and frustrated almost beyond the bound my skin and bones and body and brain can encompass. My sleep is tormented by nightmares...

I know that unless I fight with every ounce of my energy I will hate myself. I hope, I pray, I implore you to feel the same....

If we don’t act immediately, then we face our approaching doom.

* * *

Volunteers Needed for Civil Disobedience

It is necessary that we have a pool of at least three thousand people who are prepared to participate in demonstrations of civil disobedience. Such demonstrations might include sit-ins or traffic tie-ups. All participants must be prepared to be arrested. I am asking every [...] person and every [...] organization to canvass all friends and members and make a count of the total number of people you can provide toward this pool of three thousand.

Let me know how many people you can be counted on providing. Just include the number of people; you don’t have to send actual names – you keep that list yourself. And include your own phone numbers. Start these lists now.

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