on this #MemorialDay, i am reminded of the 1988 “why we fight” speech given by queer rights and AIDS activist vito russo (july 11, 1946 – november 7, 1990) at ACT UP rallies.
may these selections serve as a reminder to those of us who were drafted into this war - we are not and we were never alone in our rage.
“Living with AIDS is like living through a war which is happening only for those people who happen to be in the trenches. Every time a shell explodes, you look around and you discover that you’ve lost more of your friends, but nobody else notices. It isn’t happening to them. They’re walking the streets as though we weren’t living through some sort of nightmare. And only you can hear the screams of the people who are dying and their cries for help. No one else seems to be noticing.
And it’s worse than a war, because during a war people are united in a shared experience. This war has not united us, it’s divided us. It’s separated those of us with AIDS and those of us who fight for people with AIDS from the rest of the population.
Someday, the AIDS crisis will be over. Remember that. And when that day comes — when that day has come and gone, there’ll be people alive on this earth — gay people and straight people, men and women, black and white, who will hear the story that once there was a terrible disease in this country and all over the world, and that a brave group of people stood up and fought and, in some cases, gave their lives, so that other people might live and be free.
And then after we kick the shit out of this disease, we are all gonna be alive to kick the shit out of this system so that this never happens again.”
Rest in power, Vito. You and millions of others would still be here had it not been for this government’s willful neglect and failure.