How To Survive A Plague is a powerful story about justice, collective anger, life and death in the midst of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980‘s. It’s a story that remembers how the ACT UP community in New York City came together to research and protest in order for AIDS-infected people to be seen as worthy and deserving of life.
While hundreds of thousands of people were dying, the government, pharmaceutical companies, and the FDA were doing little to find a vaccine or cure for the disease. With their very lives on the line, the documentary celebrates how the ACT UP community became scientists. They had to think like scientists, read and research like scientists, and prescribe like scientists. Regardless of what they did or who they were prior to the outbreak, life necessitated that they become something else.
The film is an incredible journey of not only surviving, but becoming. And not only becoming scientists, but becoming a community and becoming more human.
“Though he was in the form of God,
he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
But he emptied himself
by taking the form of a slave
and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.”
The Christian biblical narrative tells the story of a God who becomes human for the life and freedom of his creation. A God who became human to shine light into darkness and to give us more life and a new identity. (John 1:1-18)
There is a lot of darkness in the world today and more than enough reasons for collective anger. In the midst of anger, darkness, and death, ACT UP members became scientists. God became human. What do we need to become today in order to bring about life, justice, and reconciliation in our communities and the world?
The what do we need to become? question seems relevant as we think about anyone who is made other by skin color, country of origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, political affiliation, or religious belief.
(How To Survive A Plague is available on Netflix streaming)