Wednesday, November 02, 2005

C2EA American Heritage Caravan

American Heritage caravan update # 12

By Vaughn Frick
American heritage caravan rider

November 1, 2005
Columbus, Ohio to Louisville, Kentucky.

At daybreak this All-Saints day I awoke next to my boyfriend sleeping upon an air mattress on the Dias of the chapel in the Lamb of God Anglican Chapel down inside the basement of the Broad street Methodist church of Columbus, Ohio. A red votive candle had burned in a wall sconce above us, the old woodwork infused with the scent of frankincense incense. here in this Sanctuary far from home upon a difficult road, two Gay men fighting for their lives found peace this night when the veils of this world are the thinnest and our dead are there beside us. From this parish's mission statement: "To the Gay,Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered, we say that your love is sacred, your union is blessed."
After all the hateful words aimed against our love and devotion to each other by those who have only enough religion to hate, not enough to truly love, that simple statement of affirmation wets my eyes with tears of hope.
I found a card there, a "Prayer for the Decade of Nonviolence":
I bow to the sacred in all creation.
May my spirit fill the world with beauty and wonder.
May my mind seek truth with humility and openness.
May my heart forgive without limit.
May my love for friend, enemy, and outcast be without measure.
May my needs be few and my living simple.
May my actions bear witness to the suffering of others.
May my hands never harm a living being.
May my steps stay on the journey to justice.
May my tongue speak for those who are poor without fear of the powerful.
May my prayers rise with with patient discontent until no child is hungry.
May my life's work be a passion for peace and nonviolence.
May my soul rejoice in the present moment.
May my imagination overcome death and despair with new possibility.
And may I risk reputation, comfort, and security to bring this hope to the children."
The role of Christianity and this caravan has at times boiled over and become contentious. Some on this caravan have been severely abused by the Christian Church, the very mention of which dredges this pain and hurt up to the surface. As we travel across the heartland of this nation, what has been very effective is to speak from the heart of our personal experiences, whether it be Gay/straight/Bisexual/Transgendered/Black/White/Latino/Native American/Young/Old/ Male/Female/religious or non-religious. (Please forgive me for any unintentional omissions.
when we speak from these personal experiences, the challenge has been to differentiate between the stated political goals of this caravan and our own unique perspectives.
The American Heritage Caravan began in a church basement in Portland, Oregon, where our local HIV day center operates out of. If the Ryan White CARE Act is not fully reauthorized, the Portland HIV Day center will face closure,those of us dependent upon their services will be shut out in the streets.
Portland's main HIV/AIDS social service agency, the Cascade AIDS Project, totally ignored this caravan, and gave us zero support. How interesting that a good share of their funding comes from the Ryan White CARE Act, that we are fighting to keep the funding to pay their salaries as services for the local HIV/AIDS community get slashed and ended.
All along this road to Washington, D.C., often the only support that we have received has been from small Christian churches who have opened up their buildings for us to stay in, and have fed us. We have also witnessed major local HIV/AIDS support and prevention organizations like the Nebraska AIDS Project and the AIDS resource Center of Ohio who are there struggling hard in this climate of deprivation to meet the diverse needs of their client base.
The American Heritage caravan riders and a few local supporters held a noontime rally around the lavish state capitol building in a cold rain. No local politicians showed up to hear us, and we were totally ignored by the local media. In the rain, drowned out by traffic and construction din,We chanted "End AIDS NOW!!"
and spoke about the estimated 10,000 people who died yesterday of this disease, have died today, and will die tomorrow. Some of us with walkers and trailing oxygen tanks, our hand-held signs melting in the rain, we received a few car-horn honks of support, a few thumbs-up from passers by.
What will it take to end this? At a truck stop one lady told us AIDS was of no concern of hers, as her children were "good" kids who would never catch this disease. Welcome to the United States of Denial.
We entered back onto our bus to dry off, and drove off to our next uncertain stop in Louisville, Kentucky.

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