LIZ HARROD

Are You Listening?

In We.Are.America(2012), Writing on December 1, 2011 at 8:15 am

Today is World AIDS Day, and it’s got me thinking about different stories, and different people, and why I blog, and why I think this new project, we.are.america(2012), is so important. Seemingly all unrelated, even I thought so, until I read the starting line of my sister’s blog about World AIDS Day: “Today’s post is personal.”

World AIDS Day is a lot of things. For some it is a day of remembrance. For many it is a day of action. For others it is a day of service. It should be something, it should personal, for all of us.

For over the 1.2 million people currently living with HIV in America, it is personal. It is a day to share their stories. And for the over half a million Americans who have died, it is personal. It is a day to remember and honor their stories.

But HIV/AIDS raises interesting questions about sympathy and stigma. I have personally encountered those who still think the disease is only for gay men, for drug users, for those who asked for it. I have heard the scathing remarks expressing nothing but ignorance. I have seen people turn a blind eye, preferring to believe that it is a disease for Africa, preferring to not let it become personal.

These people are not listening, even though we finally have people talking.

In the late 80s and early 90s, no one was talking. The disease spread because no one was communicating, no one was sharing their stories, their knowledge. It was anything but personal. Even when it was happening to them, many pretended it wasn’t. Men and women died, without their stories being told. They died because of “cancer” or another unnamed disease. They died at arms length. They carried their burden silently.

Then slowly, stories came out. Celebrities came forward. Famous names like Freddie Mercury, Rock Hudson, and Magic Johnson spoke out. The names project and AIDS quilt took hold. Families and friends started to learn and share the truth about the deaths of their loved ones. Films like Philadelphia and And the Band Played On made the virus relatable.

People started talking, and some started listening.

But is everyone listening, or are there people who still prefer to turn a deaf ear to the stories of others?

With blogs, with video projects like mine, with digital cameras, with twitter, with facebook. We tell our stories each day. Sometimes they’re not so exciting; sometimes they’re compelling, and sometimes they’re part of a big picture we can’t even see yet.

The stories are personal to someone, and at the end of the day, that someone is part of the same world.

So, on this World AIDS Day, regardless of whether or not you even knew it was World AIDS Day (always on December 1st), I encourage you to make an effort to listen to each others’ stories, and to share your own.

With so many problems in the world, I can’t help but wonder if a little listening, some sharing, and some mutual understanding may be the start of so many solutions.

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