Monday, May 26, 2014
Dances Not Danced
Last night I watched the HBO movie THE NORMAL HEART which chronicles the very early days of the AIDS epidemic and the struggles the gay community had in getting people's attention and help. The movie was excellent and I want to say I loved it, but love seems such an inappropriate adjective in this case. I didn't love watching people suffer and die from a disease no one yet understood. I didn't love watching the government and health officials turn dying people away because of prejudice and ignorance. I was on the brink of turning thirty when all this was going down. I remember reading about it in the news, in magazines and hearing about it on TV. I knew people who died from AIDS.
But the one scene from the movie that will always stick in my mind was the one where Tommy Boatwright, played by the very talented Jim Parsons, is giving a eulogy for a friend who was a choreographer. In the eulogy he talks about the increasing number of deaths and laments the losses in other ways: the plays that will not be written, the dances that will never be danced, and many other losses in terms of contributions these men would have made if their lives had not been cut short. I've watched that eulogy three times now and each time am struck dumb by the sheer enormity of the loss and its applicability to more than just the deaths from Aids.
A few days ago a college student went on a rampage in Isla Vista, a small community just a hundred miles north of where I live that is predominantly inhabited by college students. The gunman killed six young people, seven counting himself. How many promising careers, opportunities and important contributions came to a screeching halt because of that gunman? We'll never know.
Today is Memorial Day - a day we remember our servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice. Again, the loss should be measured in more than lives, but also in lost potential.
I am not naïve. I understand that not everyone will reach old age or even make it to adulthood. Death is a part of life. It happens every day. Cars spin out of control. Planes crash. Hearts stop beating. People fall and hit their heads. One day it will even happen to me.
What horrifies and sickens me are senseless killings and deaths. Sandy Hook. Boston. 9/11. Isla Vista, Afghanistan. Iraq. Viet Nam. A disease that people ignored that could have been helped and researched sooner than later. And the list continues.
It's Memorial Day. Remember and honor those who have died before us. And let us never forget that when people die, so do dreams and hope and endless possibilities and we are all so much the poorer because of it.