Control is certainly a word with many meanings depending on the context. For example, “things are completely out of control” or rather perhaps “things are totally under control”. As far as 2020 is concerned I would venture to say that “things are totally out of control”.

COVID-19 has and continues to show us humans that we really are not in control of things as we would like to be. In order for us to bring some semblance of order and control back into our lives, considerable discipline will be needed. Mask wearing and social distancing will need to be adhered to rigorously for at least a couple of months. The epidemic has shown that we Americans may well be one of the least disciplined countries in the world. We may eventually get bailed out with effective vaccines and treatments, but I would not hold my breath. Unfortunately, there is already a significant contingent of anti-vaccine folks gearing up to reject getting a good COVID vaccine.  As a country, we certainly seem to have our fair share of crazies. If these crazies were just a danger to themselves, I would say have at it viewing it as a great Darwinian way to thin the herd, a way of leveling the stupid curve if you will. However, when you have a very infectious agent spread airborne, they put a lot of innocents in their way in deadly danger. I am afraid that effective and meaningful control of this virus may be years away.

Having personally faced two major viruses in my life, HIV, and COVID-19, I am often found to be comparing the different responses to both. A majority of the population is acknowledging and addressing COVID-19 but that was certainly not the case with HIV. It rather quickly became apparent in the mid-1980s that HIV was only infecting populations sexually and or economically marginalized. In the U.S. then it could be largely ignored. If it weren’t for aggressive queer activism nothing much would have been done about it – thank you Larry Kramer et al.  

Many of the tactics engaged in by ACT Up in the 1980s were very confrontational and meant to grab attention that might then have resulted in gaining some semblance of control over the narrative. Die-ins were a frequent mode of protest. In December of 1989, ACT UP staged what initially started as a die-in at St Patrick Cathedral in Manhattan but quickly evolved into pandemonium. Over 100 arrests occurred, a consecrated host was crumbed up and even some AIDS activists thought it was an effort quite over the top and counterproductive. It did though garner lots of media and many other activists thought it was a turning point in bringing attention to the epidemic and the role played by the Catholic Church in contributing to the death and dying of many thousands by that time. I would say that being polite in one’s protests often render them much less effective than they could be if you make a little noise.

A stunning event happened in Portland a couple of nights ago. Protest in Portland against police violence has continued unabated since the killing of George Floyd. Portland is where Trump has sent in his unidentified storm troopers to grab people off the streets and whisk them away in unmarked rental cars to undisclosed locations. At 1:45 AM on the night involved a totally naked woman, except for mask and stocking cap, appeared at the intersection of two streets and began a stare down of a line of these storm troopers in head to toe camo and armed to the teeth with weapons euphemistically called non-lethal. Oh, and you can be sure that many more lethal forms of weaponry were easily at hand. After at times a taunting standoff lasting no more than 10 minutes and pepper balls being shot at her feet the officers left. The woman has been dubbed the Naked Athena. Athena is the name of the Greek goddess of wisdom and war.

I have included a link to an article in Crooks and Liars about the amazing act of gaining control this woman pulled off. The article contains numerous bits of video documenting the event. Control is rarely handed to you; action is very often required.