I don’t know about you, but I’ve been watching the big “show” on TV. I admit that I’m fascinated with politics. It doesn’t scare me at all. In fact, it gets me “PUMPED UP LIKE A MACY’S BALLOON”. I love a good fight - I like good theater and I REALLY like intrigue. And this “theater” that we call our “free democratic” system is a really, REALLY good show. We’ve all been told not to talk about religion or politics in order to get along in society. But, in my humble opinion, that’s a bunch of HOOEY! I’ve come to realize that, in fact, it’s what we ALL should be talking about.

In order to survive, those with HIV/AIDS MUST think about and discuss “POLITICS” and vote according to “POLICY”. There is a big difference between the two. Now that the race for the SUPREME rule of our country and the “free world” is at stake (and maybe because it’s all that’s dominating the news), perhaps we should really tune in and stop watching “American Idol”, “Lost” and “Gray’s Anatomy” for a while. OUR LIVES ARE AT STAKE! The next president will set the policy and determine if HEALTHCARE is as just as important as “terrorism”, spending on defense (the largest portion of our budget) and tax cuts to protect corporations and the wealthiest and smallest (but very powerful) percentage of Americans. This has been the policy for the past eight grueling years. Social programs to help the low income and middle class have been cut. Corporations have profited from tax cuts, war, military contracts and the protection of the unbalanced scales of justice.

The United States policy for AIDS has been put on the back burner and threatened to be taken over by ideologues that tried to push “abstinence” and religion in front of sound evidence and scientific fact. Will the next President think that people with HIV/AIDS lives are “valuable”? Will he continue the ideology of “abstinence” as the best way to slow the spread of HIV? What about the cost of healthcare and discrimination of people with HIV/AIDS? Will that matter? Do WE still matter? Are we being dismissed as “old news” and is HIV/AIDS now just a regular “manageable” disease like diabetes? Where is the debate? I haven’t heard much discussion about HIV or AIDS by these candidates. It’s as if this disease has vanished and is no longer a problem. Have our candidates heard the news that infection rates are soaring, as much as the cost of healthcare?

I was watching CNN and saw McCain traveling in the jungles of Columbia (in a canoe, wearing combat fatigues) to show his might, youth, strength and resolve to stop the cocaine drug cartels and continue the U.S.A.’s “War on drugs”. It was good political theater. Except, it wasn’t real.

The night before, I had watched the incredible story of “Ingrid Bentacourt”, who was taken hostage by the FARC (the leftist rebel group which permeates the Columbian government, recognized and accepted by the US). If you get a chance, please watch this story. She and three other hostages were rescued a few weeks ago. She dared to speak out against the corrupt and very powerful government of Columbia and was running for President when she was kidnapped. The drug cartels have infiltrated the government at the highest levels. I couldn’t help but think of our own legal drug cartels, the “pharmaceutical” industry - and other cartels like oil and the NRA who fund our own government by contributing to campaigns and have incredible influence on how laws are made and how prices are set. Just think about the Medicare/Medicaid Prescription Act that was rammed through congress. The pharmaceutical and private insurance industry had the most to gain. We are all held hostage, as Ingrid Bentacourt was. How helpless are we at the hands of the powerful? If we speak up, will we be silenced?

I can only say that when it comes to politics - and policy - all it takes is “Lawyers, Guns and Money”.

Let me be frank. Those of us with HIV/AIDS better DAMN talk, think, breathe, and SCREAM about POLITICS and try to understand the POLICY behind the curtain. But, since we’re taught that it’s not polite, civil or correct to talk about “politics”, let’s think and talk of it as “POLICY”. It’s not about “D”, “R” or “I”. For those with HIV, it’s about WHO has the best POLICY for healthcare and WHO will think that people with HIV/AIDS should not be forgotten and written off as dead, worthless, not productive or voiceless. The longer we are kept alive, the more money the industries make on the cost of our expensive medicine and healthcare.

While we are still alive, we matter. All of us have a chance to make a difference.

Whether we are a “D”, “R” or “I”, we must make our voices heard about the POLICY of healthcare, HIV and AIDS. Have we heard any mention in the debates about the TRAVEL BAN of HIV positive people entering our country? They are FINALLY trying to END this ban in the PEPFAR bill, that is currently being debated. It finally passed in the Senate, but has still not been signed into law. It was passed in the Senate this past week, even though six ideologues tried to hijack it and put restrictions on spending according to their out of touch ideology. It’s now being negotiated between the two chambers and hopefully, will be signed into law. Does anyone care? Does anyone call their representatives in congress, write letters or send, at the very least, an e-mail? Do we even know who our representatives are? (Go to www.VoteSmart.org)

OK - I admit that I’m fascinated with all things political. I obsessed with politics, read the New York Times, Washington Post and any other paper I can get my hands on every day. I do my best to watch CNN, MSNBC, Democracy Now, EuroNews, The BBC, PBS and yeah, sometimes even FOX for a good laugh or two.

Now, more than ever, we need to make sure that we watch and listen to what is happening in our county and in the world and try to take back some control of our lives. A “democracy” means that we ALL have the opportunity to participate.

Sure, it’s disheartening to know that only those with incredible funding will be able to compete, or enter the game of US politics. It’s easy to say “my vote doesn’t count”. But it really does. Our voices do matter, but only if enough people participate. There is strength in numbers.

Here are the last stats from the 2004 Presidential race on campaign spending:
Bush: 500 million
Gore: 480 million

Who won? How was the race won? What was the outcome?

“Send lawyers, guns and money. The shit has hit the fan.”
Thanks Warren Zevon, for writing a great song.