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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
Wednesday, Febbruary 11 2004

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

The plague

For about 20 years it has been politically incorrect to describe AIDS as "the gay plague" or even to mention the words "AIDS" or "gay" and "plague" in the same sentence. So imagine my surprise while reading a book I found in a used bookstore in Oakland a little over a week ago, San Francisco Stories, in which essayist Frances Fitzgerald (originally writing in The New Yorker, a tower of liberal correct thinking) not only mentions the historical description of the first awareness that AIDS was indeed a plague—an epidemic that was decimating large populations, but she adds: "In fact the Castro [district, the "gay ghetto" of San Francisco] had become something like the Algerian city of Oran that Albert Camus descibed in The Plague—a city separated from the outside world, where death and the threat of death hung over everyone."

But my topic today isn't AIDS or gays, but the plague as used by French Algerian novelist Camus in whose work it is an icon of the evil that pursues and eventually engulfs us all. Fitzgerald also says, of Camus's book as suggesting parallels to mid-1980s San Francisco:

The moral drama for gay men in the Castro was something like that for Camus's characters, but it had other dimensions. The plague [of Oran], after all, threatened everyone in the city—men, women, and children; it struck randomly and killed its victims in a matter of days. Whether people behaved well or badly did not matter in the sense that little or nothing could be done about it. That was Camus's premise: the plague—which was morally meaningless—simply ran its course and subsided. It merely showed how men behaved when faced with a mortal danger they could not affect. Camus's priest, Father Paneloux, who had preached the plague as the wrath of God, abandoned his faith after watching a small child die horribly of it.

Camus' "priest," most likely, is a figure for the European church, the general baptized population of the continent which, through the plagues of World Wars I and II by and large has lost its faith. Though materialism has taken a great toll by turning many away from dependence on God to dependence on "mammon" (their possessions and their material goals), the devastation that was felt from the heart of England in the west to the whole of Poland in the east, through the wars, seems to have driven far more Europeans into despair. By 1950 the majority had lost the memory of their faith in God, and now the plague still reigns through the common lot of humanity, death, "a mortal danger [we can] not affect."

Camus's France, which has earlier in modern history produced some of the towering Christian literary and philosophical thinkers, seems to have been the first to generally fall to a national fear and preoccupation with the plague, forgetting the meaning of death in a faith-based life. The latest enacting of that faithlessness is the passage yesterday, by the French parliament by overwhelming vote, of severe restrictions on religious expression and liberties in the name of averting terrorism. It seems that the fear of the plague may often be, in itself, that which plagues many of us the most.

What so much of the West has lost is the Apostle's declaration of the hope in Christ:

*"O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?"

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 

*1 Corinthians 15:55

One Liners On Life

Just remember...if the world didn't suck, we'd all fall off.

—Sent by Trudy Myers 

Thought for today

Came but for friendship, and took away love.

— Thomas Moore

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