I Wanna Be Sedated
by David Waggoner
November is upon us and you know what that means for anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the last four years. It means that the 2020 presidential election is close at hand and all of the voter angst that it brings in these contentious times. Although I grew up in a very Republican family in San Diego, I went to every concert the Ramones played at the beginning of the eighties. I was never a full-fledged punk rocker, never one to wear a safety pin in my nose; I did know all of their song lyrics by heart. Chael Needle, my Managing Editor and the source for so much of the success of this magazine, suggested I write about this seminal rock band of my teenage rebellion. In these desparate and despairing times he was right: he suggested I take inspiration from one of my favorite rock bands of the rebellious eighties—the masters of the three-minute song lyric and two-chord song of social distancing. Perfect choice for these disconnected times! Of and for rebellion, that is the Ramones.
So I went to my Amazon music library to relive my early twenties. What a great band. Admired by millions. Influencing everyone from Blondie, to Green Day, Metallica, and countless groups who don’t know why the world has spun out of control. The Ramones were and will forever be about getting to the bottom of what is still ailing this nation, from inequality, to racism and homophobia, sexism, and everything slick and smelling of the swamp. These leather-clad guys, my high school heroes, inspired in me the desire to take chances. After graduation from Brown University the world seemed uncertain, perhaps scary. But always full of dreams as well as waking nightmares. When the AIDS plague decimated so many of my friends in the arts it only made sense to create an artistic response to the plague, hence this magazine that you are reading in your doctor’s office, community center, house of worship, or online.
Destigmatizing a disease that would eventually decimate thousands in the creative communities, including such world-class artists and musicians as Queen’s Freddie Mercury and visual arts heroes like Keith Haring and warrior-poets like Assotto Saint made sense for me as a very personal form of my own public brand of AIDS activism.
Early examples of advocates stand out because they already had a platform to amplify awareness. Nowadays, HIV advocates have often created their own platforms to broadcast their messages. Case in point is this month’s cover story subject, Karl Schmid, the TV correspondent who cofounded +Life, a new initiative that uses the airwaves and the power of social media to create an empowering space for individuals living with HIV/AIDS and anyone else who wants to live well. Schmid told A&U Senior Editor Dann Dulin about his expansive mission: “Learning more about HIV is one of the first steps to support those living with HIV. Educating ourselves about the basic facts about the virus, how it is transmitted, and treatment options available to those with HIV. That’s another reason why we created +Life.” Photographed by Tommy Wu for the story, Schmid has an important reminder for us: to advocate is an essential part of nurturing ourselves. That is why we have featured a Holiday Gift Guide for nineteen years—as a nonprofit organization ourselves, A&U is committed to helping other HIV service providers help their communities. Check it out and see if one of the featured gifts sparks joy. Another advocate who nurtures his community is Darnell L. Moore, who, as Senior Editor Hank Trout finds out, strives to lift up the voices of Black gay and queer men with a podcast, Being Seen. Also in this issue, dive into Editor-at-Large Chip Alfred’s reporting on COVID-19 vs. HIV research at the Wistar Institute, as well as Managing Editor Chael Needle’s conversation with artist Hugh Elliott.
During this election season fraught with tension and divisiveness, we here at A&U encourage you to nurture yourself by bringing together art and advocacy, as we do with this and every issue. No matter who wins what race, we become winners if, first and foremost, we vote for ourselves.
David Waggoner is Editor in Chief and Publisher of A&U, the first national HIV/AIDS magazine in the U.S.