Monday, October 30, 2006

michael j fox = déjà vu

it was so moving to hear michael j. fox’s interview with george stephanopoulos this morning on the abc news program “this week.” fox’s comments came in the wake of rush limbaugh’s tasteless mockery of fox’s dyskinesia (the rocking motion exhibited by fox at a press conference related to effects of medications to alleviate parkinson's disease). as a veteran of act up/new york and late 80s/early 90s aids activism, the brouhaha surrounding limbaugh’s comments—and the larger issue of fox’s activism—dredged up painful feelings about that previous battle.

first off, limbaugh’s behavior in response to michael j. fox’s medical condition was so reminiscent of the ignorant and deadly aids humor of the early 1980s (such as the “aids diet plan").

as someone who participated in civil disobedience actions at a variety of venues related to the aids pandemic—including the centers for disease control and the food and drug administration—the outrage of fox over dubya’s veto of hra 10 (legislation in support of stem cell research) hit particularly close to home. fox rightly questioned how he could have exercised the one veto of his presidency on that important bill. vividly, that brought back the various struggles of aids activists and our supporters in the fight for proper funding!

bravo to fox’s comments to katie couric on october 26: “we don’t want pity. i could give a damn about rush limbaugh’s pity or anyone else’s pity. i'm not a victim. i'm someone who’s in this situation. i'm in this situation with millions of other americans, whether it’s like i said, for parkinson’s, or alzheimer’s, or als, or diabetes or spinal cord injury or what have you. and we have a right, if there’s answers out there, to pursue those answers with the full support of our politicians.” how grateful i was to hear those words. it was a tremendous struggle to counter our categorization in public discourse as “aids victims.” on the contrary, we demanded the empowerment that came with being called “people living with aids” or “people living with hiv.”

fox’s support of senate candidates claire mccaskill in missouri and benjamin l. cardin in maryland—as well as gubernatorial incumbent jim doyle in wisconsin—reminded me of our fights as aids activists with such vanquished hate-mongers like bill dannemyer, robert dornan, robert bork, and jesse helms. "what you do in missouri matters to millions of americans—americans like me," implored fox. i couldn’t agree more. and how comforting to hear those words from the man who played alex p. keaton—the outspoken conservative in the 80s sitcom "family ties."

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