Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Waters Of The Nile Reclaim Cleopatra

First, a mea culpa: I have had an intemperate thing or two to say about Elizabeth Taylor. The indiscretion of youth and the impertinence of intellect led me to make judgments that were no doubt colored by the fact that she was a "star," part of the Hollywood machine that takes young men and women and chains their souls to fame. Age has brought wisdom and above all, compassion, and I am able to see more clearly now what was not apparent to me twenty years ago: Dame Elizabeth Taylor was truly special.

One could laud her for her acting, begun at an early age, and carrying her through two Best Actress Oscars. One could twitter on about the many loves of her life, and subsequent marriages, finally totaling eight. We could list so many superlatives in regards to her beauty. We could continue to wonder at her close friendship with Michael Jackson, which seemed out of place. There are so many aspects of her life we could while away hours discussing. But let us, in addition to appreciating her for all the fabulous things she represented in her life, remember one of the most important things: her AIDS advocacy.

It was the death of her beloved friend Rock Hudson in 1985 from AIDS, and the lack of action by the Federal government (then in the hands of former Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan), that spurred her to help start the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and subsequently, the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation (ETAF). She was a tireless promoter of AIDS-related causes at a time when it was still thought of as a "gay disease," and many on the religious right were lauding it as the "gay plague." To them, and to all those who lived in fear of the disease and homosexuality, she had this to say:

Why shouldn’t gay people be able to live as open and freely as everybody else? What it comes down to, ultimately, is love. How can anything bad come out of love? The bad stuff comes out of mistrust, misunderstanding and, God knows, from hate and from ignorance.
In decades to come, many a thing will be said and written about this glamorous, larger-than-life Hollywood icon. Among those things, let it be noted that she lived her life as she was wont, not as the world expected her to. Let it be known that she dabbled in love, having too much to give to any one man. Let it be said that she was beautiful, not just physically, but spiritually. Let it be written that she gave far more than she took.

And so now, let the water's rise, to take the barge with our Queen to her new resting place, in the cool shade of the palm trees, where no trouble may vex her still. Farewell, Our Cleopatra... farewell.

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