Friday, December 1, 2006

Ashley Judd for President!

An hour and a half ago, I sat down in front of my laptop to write up what was to be a vicious and incisive attack on neo-conservatism. For years now, I, like millions of my fellow liberals, have sat idly as politically loony religious fanatics led this country through the most retrogressive period since the Jim Crow era. Filled with pent up angst, I sat down prepared to tear into the Pat Robertsons, Jerry Falwells, and James Dobsons of the world. Intellectually, I was ready to employ the sort of smear tactics that have become the hallmark of the ultra-conservative right. And so you can imagine how frustrated I later became when struck with the most devastating bloggers-block of my infantile blogging career. I couldn't even think of an opening line.

Pissed off and hungry, I decided to pacify myself a healthy dose of comfort food and mindless entertainment. Wings and MTV where in order. Nothing lulls the soul into passive complacency like the all American diet and Reality T.V.

To my initial disappointment, however, VH1 was not showing re-runs of the Flava of Love, but instead a program on AIDS. What the...? Turning to my sister - the resident expert on contemporary cable programming - I was reminded that today is World AIDS day and that VH1 had substituted its regularly scheduled programs with programs dedicated to AID prevention and awareness.

Friends, for the last hour and 46 mins, I have sat in total silence as footage of mothers dying in their children's arms has flashed across my screen. I have looked upon once virile men, now reduced to skin and bones, helplessly awaiting death. I have listened to AIDS activist speak of the extreme difficulty in getting those infected with AIDS to share their stories for fear of persecution and have watched celebrities give of their time, money, and humanity for a cause so much bigger then themselves. Don't get me wrong. I am the biggest critic of celebrity humanitarianism. Intuitively, something about Madonna in Malawi or Matthew McConaughey among orphans screams insincere. There is certainly something to be said for a good deed done in secret and, as the old adage goes, "actors, like moths, are also drawn to the spotlight". Tonight, however, one actress, in my humble opinion, broke the mold.

For 5 mins brief minutes tonight, I witness one of the most sincere acts of humanity I ever witnessed. After days of trying to convince local HIV-positive Madagascans to appear on an AIDS awareness commercial, one woman finally agreed to meet with and co-star on the project with the actress Ashley Judd. At the request of the woman's liaison, only Ms. Judd, a translator, and Ms. Judd travel companion were allowed to attend the private meeting. Behind closed doors and seated side by side with Ms. Judd, the woman told of how both her and her husband had contracted AIDS and been notified of their condition around the same time. For reasons only implied, neither of the affected individuals could determine who had transmitted the disease to whom. With her head bowed, she told of how the stigma and ignorance around her disease caused her to fear for her life. As a restaurant worker, the woman was certain that members of her community would kill her at the thought that she had made them vulnerable to her dreaded disease. As she told her story, the camera artfully caught every wince, awkward smile, and sigh. And while the footage was touching, it was Ms. Judd, unconscious, often nearly off camera gestured that moved me in the profoundest way. As the woman told her story, Ms. Judd tenderly patted her knee, smiled adoringly at the woman and, towards the end of the testimonial, gently held the woman's hand. Ms. Judd treated the woman like anyone would a friend. And Ms. Judd's actions must made an impression on the woman because at the end of her testimonial the woman asked in a soft voice and with tear-filled eyes, "you're laughing and talking to me, aren't you afraid of getting AIDS". Surprised and moved by the comment, Ms. Judd responded instinctively with the sort of embrace only one deeply familiar with love can offer. Needless to say, the woman was visibly overtaken by the gesture.

FOLKS, I NEARLY BROKE DOWN AND CRIED. I must confess that I was totally overwhelmed. Were it not for my anti-sentimentalist, African upbringing I am certain I would have bawled like a baby.

You see friends, Ashley Judd, tonight, exhibited the sort of compassion, love, and humility now foreign to most of our brothers and sisters on the ultra-conservative religious right. Those self professed Christians - men and women supposedly called to walk in the footsteps of Christ - have, in my opinion, lost sight of Christ's most virtuous quality...HIS LOVE FOR ALL HUMANITY. Christ loved and died for ALL men, regardless of tribe, social status, education level, or lifestyle. It was the Christ who Pat Robertson professes to serve that taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves. It was Jerry Falwell's Christ who sat among prostitutes, tax collectors and the most despised in His community. And it is the Christ of James Dobson who today would have been drawn to the outcasted of our day - those in poverty, those in jail, those infected with disease, and yes, even those leading "alternative" lifestyles. We get so caught up in our society on issues surrounding sex, power, and money that we begin to create God in OUR OWN image. No one knows with absolute certainty how Christ would have treated a homosexual, an individual addicted to crack-cocaine, or a teen addicted to sex but if the Bible give us any indication of how Christ treated the marginalized among, I get the feeling it would be far different then some of our brothers and sisters on the political and religious right and LEFT. Don't get it mixed up, if actions speak louder than words, then one must concede that LIBERALS can be just as racist, homophonic, and selfish as conservatives.

I don't know what Ashley Judd's religious and political affiliations are but tonight she afforded me a glimpse of what it truly means to love your neighbor as yourself. As a Christian, Ms. Judd's unconditional act of love reminded me of the perfect example Christ left us while here on earth on how we are to treat others.

I certain have a lot of work to do toward become like Christ, no question about it, but if Ashley Judd, an individual immersed a world as vain and indifferent as Hollywood can do it, why not you and I?

Let us allow today, World AIDS day, to mark the beginning of a life dedicated to the principles of unconditional love, compassion, and humility.

I pose this challenge first to myself and then to you.


Professor Shakes.