(Chris Jones’s article appeared in the Chicago Tribune, 8/21.)
I find myself haunted by the funerals of the AIDS era.
I attended too many of them and the creative lives they celebrated were far too young to end.
Moreover, in the agony of loss you often could discern veiled conflicts: it was hardly unusual, for example, to see pained parents not accepting lovers at the time when we most need to feel a sense of community. It was hardly unusual to look over at a bereaved family and wonder why someone wasn’t there.
The so-called call-out culture is often seen as a contemporary phenomenon, because social media puts so much outrage in our feeds. But we quickly forget how much blame was flung around in the early 1990s. It just came directly out of people’s mouths back then. Time and time again, the unknowing and the innocent were blamed for death.
At what other moment in American history were the deceased so widely perceived as being culpable in their own demise?
“All That He Was,” a piece of theater that I found inestimably difficult to watch on Sunday night, was not the first show to flood my mind with these thoughts. That was “Mothers and Sons,” the vastly under-rated Terrence McNally play that made a brave attempt to reconcile AIDS, death, love and blame by exploring all of the different ways in which people hurt and understanding that pain often is expressed as anger.
Photo: Rick Rapp, Joe Giovannetti, Sarah Hayes and Matthew Huston in “All That He Was” at the Pride Arts Center’s Buena stage. (Nicholas Swatz photo / HANDOUT)