Rise Up, Rise Up for Justice; and, Outrage and Fury for Peace

Larry Kramer is dead.

Larry Kramer.

It seems impossible.

He was eternally accused of being too ornery, too angry, too stubborn to die.

Artist and peacemaker Brad Heckman posted his portrait of Mr. Kramer on Instagram this morning: hecksign Be outraged, offended, angry and intolerant of any discussion or any one who describes you as unequal, undeserving or unnatural for being just as you are. RIP, #LarryKramer

His quote applies to so much in the news right now that I’m shaking.

Unequal. Undeserving. Unnatural.

Epithets hurled round the world. For all sorts of spurious, specious reasons.

George Floyd is also dead.

The headline was sobering. “Minneapolis Police, Long Accused of Racism, Face Wrath of Wounded City.” “Protesters returned to the streets on Wednesday, a day after George Floyd’s death. The city’s Police Department has received many excessive force complaints, especially by black residents.”

Mr. Floyd is dead because a police officer knelt on his neck while three other police officers stood by and did nothing. The incident was caught on video.

“Medaria Arradondo, the chief, swiftly fired all four men on Tuesday and called for an F.B.I. investigation once the video showed that the official police account of the arrest of the man, George Floyd, bore little resemblance to what actually occurred.”

To say that the relationship between the police force and the black community is broken is perhaps one of the greatest understatements of the decade.

“‘The current police chief has been trying to repair the relationship,’ Mr. Nelson said of Mr. Arradondo, who was sworn in three years ago after his predecessor was forced out in the wake of the controversial killing of Ms. Ruszczyk. ‘He is the first one to make it his business to hold his officers accountable for inappropriate behavior. Him firing the four officers expeditiously is a big deal.’”

That gave me pause. What else could he possibly have done? I am shocked that there is even a wisp of another possible choice in this scenario.

If the incident hadn’t been filmed by a bystander, would we ever even know about the heartbreak of his family? The betrayal of trust by law enforcement? As Joe Biden said, it was “part of an ingrained, systemic cycle of injustice that still exists in this country.” Would we know that much?

I have noted before in these essays that Opinion columnist Charles M. Blow takes no prisoners. I, for one, am grateful that he doesn’t. His article in yesterday’s Times entitled “How White Women Use Themselves as Instruments of Terror” poked a splinter into my own heart of the terror that some black men must feel around white women, among whom I number myself. Listen to his chilling words:

“This practice, this exercise in racial extremism, has been dragged into the modern era through the weaponizing of 911, often by white women, to invoke the power and force of the police who they are fully aware are hostile to black men.

“In a disturbing number of the recent cases of the police being called on black people for doing everyday, mundane things, the calls have been initiated by white women.

“And understand this: Black people view calling the police on them as an act of terror, one that could threaten their lives, and this fear is not without merit.

“There are too many noosed necks, charred bodies and drowned souls for these white women not to know precisely what they are doing: They are using their white femininity as an instrument of terror against black men.”

It is, devastatingly, historical fact. White femininity has been dragged out again and again as an excuse for violence from white people toward black people. It is a travesty, and has been from the beginning. It is more than past time that it stopped.

Christian Cooper is once again birding in Central Park. “As he wandered the park’s North Woods on Wednesday shortly after dawn, he said he felt exhausted, exposed and profoundly conflicted, particularly about Ms. Cooper’s fate.”

It makes sense to me that he felt exhausted, exposed, and profoundly conflicted.

“She went racial. There are certain dark societal impulses that she, as a white woman facing in a conflict with a black man, that she thought she could marshal to her advantage,” he said. “I don’t know if it was a conscious thing or not,” he added. “But she did it, and she went there.”

It doesn’t matter if it was conscious. It happened, and it reveals a dreadful undertow in our society. Ms. Cooper isn’t the only one, not by a long shot.

“‘If we are going to make progress, we’ve got to address these things, and if this painful process is going to help us address this — there’s the yellow warbler!’ Mr. Cooper said, cutting himself off to peer around with his binoculars. At length, he turned his eyes away from the tops of the London plane trees and continued where he had left off:

“If this painful process — oh, a Baltimore oriole just flew across — helps to correct, or takes us a step further toward addressing the underlying racial, horrible assumptions that we African-Americans have to deal with, and have dealt with for centuries, that this woman tapped into, then it’s worth it,” he said, setting his binoculars down on his chest. “Sadly, it has to come at her expense,” he added.

There are those who maintain that the fact that it came at Ms. Cooper’s expense is actually justice. It may be. But if it is, it isn’t, if you will, enough justice to change things. It’s like the person who is drawn again and again in romance to the same type of person who hurts them and keeps telling themselves that the next one will be different. It won’t.

“Ms. Cooper is not an exceptional example of racism but the latest in a long line of damsels who leverage racial power by dominating people of color only to pivot to the role of the helpless victim. To African-Americans who are undoubtedly thinking of all the ‘hysterical’ phone calls made to the police that were never filmed, I can only offer these words of support: Yes, this footage is painful evidence of racial violence that has never subsided. But it could, perhaps, be a turning point.

“In this instance at least, when white entitlement faced a refusal to submit to dehumanization and furiously attempted to reassert its dominance, it failed spectacularly.”

Ms. Cooper isn’t the exception, and she also isn’t the rule, but she’s enough of the rule that a glaring rift is exposed in the fabric of our society. Mr. Floyd, too, is not the exception, and he also isn’t the rule, but he’s enough of a rule that the gaping rift has supporting video.

And so I return to Larry Kramer.

Larry Kramer staged a one-man rage-fest in the face of the onset and horrifying medical consequences of HIV/AIDS. He was part of the founding of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Until they kicked him out for being … too. Maybe I’ll just leave it at that.

Then he co-founded ACT UP — AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power — the group that did more outrageous stunts to draw attention to HIV/AIDS than any other.

Susan Sontag called him “[o]ne of America’s most valuable troublemakers.”

Mr. Kramer was a shock-jock before there were shock-jocks. He fumed, he raged, he was enraged, outraged, and always, but always, engaged in whatever drew his attention.

This is the lesson we need from Amy Cooper, Christian Cooper, George Floyd, and Larry Kramer.

We cannot afford any more to disengage from what is happening in front of our noses. We must self-examine in an uncompromising way. We must identify and root out our own racism — no matter on which side of the divide our pigmentation places us. We cannot pretend that what the police in Minneapolis did is Minneapolis’ problem.

It’s not. It’s yours, mine, and ours.

“Infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony S. Fauci,” yes, that Dr. Fauci, “longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was one who got the message — after Mr. Kramer wrote an open letter published in The San Francisco Examiner in 1988 calling him a killer and ‘an incompetent idiot.’

“‘Once you got past the rhetoric,” Dr. Fauci said in an interview for this obituary, ‘you found that Larry Kramer made a lot of sense, and that he had a heart of gold.’”

I believe, whether it’s pie in the sky or founded in cold, hard fact, that more of us are like Larry Kramer than are not. More of us have hearts of gold than do not. More of us are willing to see that the devastation of a life, anyone’s life, because of our fear of what boils down to mere difference, is a tragedy and must be addressed.

The always-beautiful writing of Jennifer Finney Boylan gives me a little more hope than some others. Writing about castaways and shipwrecked or plane-wrecked people, she says, “Still, if the beast is us, then so are our better angels: doctors, health care workers, farmers, delivery truck drivers — everyone who has helped us survive. It’s not the Swiss Family Robinson, but during this shipwreck of a spring, a wide range of heroes have demonstrated how to embrace the spirit of cooperation and of hope, even during a time of crisis.”

All of us face an unknown future in the path of this pandemic. Still, it is time to rise up.

As we bear witness to the excruciating hardships of our fellow travelers through life, we cannot help but empathize, if we are engaged. And so, it is time to rise up.

Ms. Boylan’s final questions set up a resounding echo in my soul.

“Who is it we think is coming to save us? Who could it possibly be, besides ourselves?”

I hesitate to speak for Larry Kramer who, I am convinced, will continue his raging and acting up from wherever he now is, but I think I can hear his roar, “Who the hell else?”

Rise up, Beloved, rise up.

Dr. Susan Corso is a metaphysician and medical intuitive with a private counseling practice for more than 35 years. She has written too many books to list here. Her website is www.susancorso.com

© Dr. Susan Corso 2020 All rights reserved.

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