I will give props to HBO, it has consistently produced great dramas including Game of Thrones, The Sopranos and True Detective but, despite being a purely capitalistic enterprise (i.e., pay to watch), it has always inexplicably leaned left. Now it is producing the movie The Normal Heart, which is a film version of the nearly thirty year old play about a homosexual activist trying to bring attention to the spread of HIV/AIDS in the early 1980′s. This isn’t HBO’s first foray into this area, it produced the movie …And the Band Played On and the mini-series Angels in America. Of course HBO is not alone, Hollywood has produced a number of films about AIDS including Philadelphia, Longtime Companion and the very well written and produced Dallas Buyer’s Club.
A number of these movies tend to blame the government for the spread of the disease. The narrative has been that if the cold-hearted, right-wingers in the Reagan administration had actually cared about those engaged in homosexual relationships they would have invested more money into research than defeating communism.
Is this fair?
During the 1980′s, conservative North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms (R) was roundly criticized by the left for arguing that AIDS would not spread if people simply refrained from reckless sexual behavior. Senator Helms maintained that more money should be spent on researching diseases that were not necessarily connected to lifestyle choices like heart disease and cancer.
Regardless of what you think of the late Senator Helms, he had a point as far as the numbers are concerned. As late as 2010, cancer and heart disease killed more than a million people in the U.S. while strokes and Alzheimer’s claimed another 200,000. HIV/AIDS, on the other hand, killed roughly 9,000 during the same year. It is 15th among disease that kill Americans. Yet, our federal government currently invests billions of dollars into AIDS research, which dwarfs our investment into curing cancer and heart disease.
My grandparents died of heart disease and my uncles, both lifelong military vets who served several terms in Vietnam, died of cancer. Yet, our government spends more on eliminating a problem that could be cured by responsible behavior. Why? Partly because Hollywood is obsessed with AIDS while almost wholly ignoring the brave men and women who may have died while dumping agent orange in Vietnam and we the consumers generally say nothing about this.
What does this say about us as a whole? It says we value the freedom to have unprotected sex more than fighting for longer lives for those who might possess true wisdom in a time when we desperately need it.
Please don’t get me wrong, I have sympathy for those who are dying of HIV/AIDS, especially those who contracted it through no fault of their own like Ryan White and Arthur Ash. When I worked in Hollywood, I had to go to a local printers on a weekly basis for several months and watched as an affable gentleman slowly died of AIDS. It was heartbreaking. Death is the enemy of any Christian. But why is it that Hollywood and Washington, D.C. (the two most influential cities in western culture) continue to focus on a disease that is preventable by responsible action while almost wholly ignoring maladies that are not necessarily connected to behavior and disproportionately affect those who are older? It must be because we value youth and unbridled sexual activity more than extending the lives of those we typically just push-off into “retirement homes. Such a culture is doomed to the prolonged adolescence that has pervaded our culture for nearly fifteen years since the slackers of Judd Apatow movies began defining manhood more than the example of grandparents who stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.
I used to visit with a gentleman named Fred in central Ohio who was one of the first to storm the beaches of France on June 6, 1944. We would sit on the porch of his modest home and I would listen to him to talk about the sacrifice and bravery of his fellow soldiers who saved the world from atheist totalitarians. Many of those young men were committed Christians and virgins who gave their lives so that people like myself could be free.
We can stand to learn a lot more about true responsibility and real wisdom from our elders and a lot less from sex obsessed forty somethings. God help us.