Condom-Nation of the POPE

April 17, 2009

Recently, the Pope unsympathetically advised the people of Africa not to use a condom.  From their cold, dark graves, the 18 million African men, women and children who have died from AIDS beg to differ.That figure, 18 million isn’t merely a number.  Instead, it is people just like you and me who had hopes and dreams for a long, and rewarding life.  The same can be said of the 25 million other Africans estimated to die from AIDS in the near future.  Maybe the Pope doesn’t care since many Africans are Muslim, not Catholic.  Who knows for sure what his misguided advice is based on?  However, regardless of the reason, I find it reprehensible that a world leader could be so heartless.   And if the excuse is that he is “only following church doctrine,”  it is important to recall that many a Nazi was hung for clinging to a similar lame excuse.

The following is not my work, but is provided because I feel it does an excellent job of describing what it must be like trying to survive in a world gone mad:

“You get up in the morning and breakfast with your three kids. One is already doomed to die in infancy. Your husband works 200 miles away, comes home twice a year and sleeps around in between. You risk your life in every act of sexual intercourse. You go to work past a house where a teenager lives alone tending young siblings without any source of income. At another house, the wife was branded a whore when she asked her husband to use a condom, beaten silly and thrown into the streets. Over there lies a man desperately sick without access to a doctor or clinic or medicine or food or blankets or even a kind word. At work you eat with colleagues, and every third one is already fatally ill. You whisper about a friend who admitted she had the plague and whose neighbors stoned her to death. Your leisure is occupied by the funerals you attend every Saturday. You go to bed fearing adults your age will not live into their 40s. You and your neighbors and your political and popular leaders act as if nothing is happening.

Across the southern quadrant of Africa, this nightmare is real. The word not spoken is AIDS, and here at ground zero of humanity’s deadliest cataclysm, the ultimate tragedy is that so many people don’t know–or don’t want to know–what is happening.  As the HIV virus sweeps mercilessly through these lands–the fiercest trial Africa has yet endured–a few try to address the terrible depredation. The rest of society looks away. Flesh and muscle melt from the bones of the sick in packed hospital wards and lonely bush kraals. Corpses stack up in morgues until those on top crush the identity from the faces underneath. Raw earth mounds scar the landscape, grave after grave without name or number. Bereft children grieve for parents lost in their prime, for siblings scattered to the winds.

The victims don’t cry out. Doctors and obituaries do not give the killer its name. Families recoil in shame. Leaders shirk responsibility. The stubborn silence heralds victory for the disease: denial cannot keep the virus at bay.
The developed world is largely silent too. AIDS in Africa has never commanded the full-bore response the West has brought to other, sometimes lesser, travails. We pay sporadic attention, turning on the spotlight when an international conference occurs, and then turning it off. Good-hearted donors donate; governments acknowledge that more needs to be done. But think how different the effort would be if what is happening here were happening in the West.”

When I read this I couldn’t help but think about the millions of dollars that we pay actors and athletes in this country for a few hours of entertainment. The ten million dollars it cost for just one cruise missile.  The billions we’re spending to bailout bankrupt and inept American companies.  I wonder what difference just a fraction of the money we waste on frivolous things would make for those whose life might be saved with a 25-cent condom?
I wonder how can I live in a world where such blatant crimes against humanity are allowed to exist?  Where poverty, misery and death are so casually tolerated?  A world where ignorance by world leaders goes unchallenged?

My daily concerns are generally limited to “where I am going to have lunch? “ How my daughter is enjoying college?  Or, if the boys baseball game after school is rained out?  How shallow, pitiless and ignorant I am — while other human beings suffer the real pain of trying to live with HIV or AIDS.  Perhaps it is time for me to get off my butt and send a check to one of the organizations on the frontline in the AIDS fight in Africa.   I know whatever I can give will be only a drop in the ocean, but doing anything, even something small dwarfs the option of doing nothing.  Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child; a garden patch,  or redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know that one life has breathed easier because of you have lived – this is to have succeeded.”

Let me say, that I am not a religious person.  But I think someday an accounting must be made for the good and the-not-so-good that we do while on this Earth.  My personal scales have hung in the wrong direction for many years.  Still, by helping someone that I don’t know and won’t ever know — is a good start at balancing the score.  If nothing else, just the knowledge that I have helped someone in such dire need is ultimately a gift that I give myself

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