In their classic work, After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90s, Marshall Kirk and Hudson Madsen, both homosexual, said that most problems in the gay community are attributable to a rejection of morality. The most common effect of amorality, they said, is narcissism. Narcissism is the only word that adequately explains the reaction of gays to AIDS: it was everyone’s fault but theirs. If anyone has any doubt about this, he should watch “How to Survive a Plague.”
The documentary, which is up for an Oscar, is the work of David France, a talented gay writer. Mayor Ed Koch, ever honest, accuses ACT-UP of using “fascist tactics.” Fascism was certainly on display when gays, led by ACT-UP, rushed St. Patrick’s Cathedral in December 1989: they disrupted Mass, spat the Eucharist on the floor, stopped people from going to Communion, etc. The film shows some of this.
Gay activists in the 1980s and early 1990s were convinced that everyone from President Reagan to the Food and Drug Administration were impeding progress for a cure to their self-inflicted disease. But no institution was blamed more than the Catholic Church. Ann Northrop led the charge. “We want everybody to join us, to support us, to destroy the power of the Catholic Church,” she said. “They are all murderers.” Her lesson did not go unheeded: protesters are shown in St. Pat’s screaming, “You’re killing us. Stop it.”
Though the movie was made to garner admiration, it accomplishes nothing of the sort. But it does elicit pity, especially for Ray Navarro. He liked to dress up as Jesus and was known to be off the wall, but the footage of him in his dying days is truly moving. There he is, in a wheelchair, knowing he was finished, saying, “There are many years to come. Let’s hope. So, what the hell—life is worth living. Isn’t it?” The poor devil died at the age of 46.