Pandemic News – Then and Now

A poem ripped from the headlines by a queer who remembers
On January 15, 1991, The New York Times
ran an AP story on page 18 with a headline stating:
“AIDS Deaths Now Exceed 100,000.”
On May 24, 2020, The New York Times
ran a front page story with a banner headline:
And the sub-heading was appealing:
“They Were Not Simply Names on a List. They Were Us.”
Think about that kind of news. Then and now.
Think about who gets public mourning and monuments.
And who gets a mass grave on Hart Island.
Queers, whores, junkies, dark skinned lumpenproles,
and those others in the sub-Saharan beyond. . .
That was then. This is now. What’s different? What’s the same?
“We are all in this together”
is the official happy talk of 2020,
while workers lose jobs and job linked health care plans,
while blacks, Latinos, and native communities
sicken and die of Covid-19 at higher rates,
while veterans (thanks for your service) and the elderly
are culled from the herd because herd immunity
cannot come fast enough to re-open for business.
Knowing a mobster is in the White House is not enough,
since the mob is not just a product of the Wharton School--
just think of all the imperial think tanks
and think of all the tenured guns for hire,
Ivy League, Bush League, and otherwise.
Remember Biden’s campaign trail of lies and evasions,
dodging and weaving away from single payer Medicare for all,
unwilling to give a plain answer when he was asked
if he would veto any such bill should he become president.
Remember the Clintons and Obama knew the art of the deal
when they invited insurance companies
to put private profit above public health.
Remember to use plain language when deadbeat “progressives”
demand your vote as though they had earned it.
Remember to stare them down or invite them to piss off the premises.
Remember to use social distancing when the ruling class gets folksy.
Remember the career pols of the big corporate parties
keep each other in business, including
the truly big business of war and empire.
God forbid we, the people should bite the hands that feed us shit.
Remember the dead and fight like hell for the living.

[Eds. Note: This was written by a queer veteran of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power [ACT UP], a network of organizers who used non-violent direct action to gain justice in public health care. Many members now work to gain single payer Medicare for all. The author wishes to remain anonymous.]