Sunday, December 12, 2010

HIV - If It Walks Like Genetic Engineering...

So I was reading this book of facts on planet earth. Although it’s a kiddie book, it’s a good book with information on history, science, politics, geography… pretty much a synthesis of some of the more interesting stuff that kids learn in their first 8 years of school rolled into one 144 page book. It’s called Don’t Know Much About Planet Earth by Kenneth C. Davis – put it on your kids’ summer reading list. One highlighted article in the book showed the effect that AIDS was having on Africa. It said that by 1999, 84% of the 16.3 million AIDS deaths worldwide were in Sub-Saharan Africa. I know that the situation has only gotten worse since that time, since I’ve seen the stats updated and reprinted every year. Scenes from Save the Children came through my mind, and I felt my usual disgust with our inability/inattention dealing with this issue.

As I ran the computer known as Dwane T.’s brain through a myriad of questions and scenarios on the issue, I came across one of my favorite conspiracy theories; one that I am absolutely sure is true. AIDS was genetically designed as a way to slowly get rid of Black folks. Now, of course I don’t believe this will ever happen, because in the true Bae-bae Kids tradition, we don’t die, we multiply. Unfortunately, while we do multiply at a greater rate than we die, AIDS is definitely killing us globally.

After a few moments, the internal computer landed on something I had read years ago. Back in my cancer treatment days, while sitting in the hospital getting some outpatient blood transfusions, I came across an article in Scientific American magazine that I felt almost single-handedly proved this theory true. It was an article about whether race actually exists. I remember at the time thinking, "boy, this is sure going to open up a Pandora’s Box of research and expose’s". But after seven years… nuttin’. I thought I remembered it was in the December 2003 issue, so off to the internet I went; and this is an excerpt of what I found:

Genetic variation also plays a role in individual susceptibility to one of the worst scourges of our age: AIDS. Some people have a small deletion in both their copies of a gene that encodes a particular cell-surface receptor called chemokine receptor 5 (CCR5). As a result, these individuals fail to produce CCR5 receptors on the surface of their cells. Most strains of HIV-1, the virus that causes AIDS, bind to the CCR5 receptor to gain entry to cells, so people who lack CCR5 receptors are resistant to HIV-1 infection. This polymorphism in the CCR5 receptor gene is found almost exclusively in groups from northeastern Europe.

Several polymorphisms in CCR5 do not prevent infection but instead influence the rate at which HIV-1 infection leads to AIDS and death. Some of these polymorphisms have similar effects in different populations; others only alter the speed of disease progression in selected groups. One polymorphism, for example, is associated with delayed disease progression in European-Americans but accelerated disease in African-Americans. Researchers can only study such population-specific effects--and use that knowledge to direct therapy--if they can sort people into groups.

Does Race Exist? Scientific American, December 2003

Okay, so it doesn’t say that AIDS is a weapon of biological warfare. But if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and attacks your immune system based on your genetic make-up like a duck, it must be a genetic killing machine of a duck. This is not like the Sickled Cell developing in Africans as a way to combat Malaria, and eventually leading to Sickle-Cell Anemia. That developed over thousands of years. The basic argument for the development of AIDS is that it came from being bitten by, or having sex with, a monkey. Africans were getting bitten by monkeys for thousands of years without getting AIDS, and if they were having sex with monkeys in the late 1960’s they were probably doing them for thousands of years before that too. But the research shows that African Americans are higly suscesptible, European Americans are highly resistant, Northern Europeans are immune, while native Africans are being wiped out. For a disease that supposedly came into existence in the last 40 years to be that strongly defined along racial lines is the best case of racial profiling since Jonnie Gammage. By the Laws of genetic adaptation, for Northern Europeans to develop immunity to AIDS, it would have had to exist there for many generations, and a few million people would have died while that adaptation was taking place.

Hey, you have to give the evil scientists who created this thing credit… what better way to kill off a people than to poison the process by which they create life. It reminds me of an experiment that I learned about in Freshman Biology, where they tried to get rid of the roaches in Miami. They used female roach pheromones to lure the males in, then sterilized them and released them back into the sewers. They thought they were making babies, as did the females… so the roach population dropped. Unfortunately, the rat population started to grow from the extra food, and they had to reintroduce the roaches to keep the rat growth down. Anyway, my point is I would be a fool to believe that the concept of killing an entity by contaminating the procreation process began and ended with that experiment three decades ago. And as a man of preponderantly genetically African decent, I can’t afford to be that foolish.

I know that people of all races are susceptible to HIV... I've had family/friends across the board that died from it. But the reality is that HIV is one of the only sexually transmitted disease that leads to the death of its host (without treatment), and that is transmitted to the child ***prior*** to the natural birthing process leading to the death of the child. By the process by which it kills, the spead at which it spreads, and it’s resistance to “cures”, had the HIV virus existed even 100 years ago, medical science had not evolved enough to prevent the possible extinction of mankind. Scientist had identified which genomes were exclusive to which groups decades ago. Science is not perfect, and governments know that you sometimes have to sacrifice your own in a war of attrition. The Tuskegee Experiment showed that our government has no problem using sexually transmitted diseases to kill off African Americans. Why wouldn’t they, or some other First World country do it now . Basic war strategy is to identify a weakness in the enemy and exploit it. In this case, I guess my weakness is my CCR5 receptor cells.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Mended Fence… More than an Apology

Of my many jobs throughout my life, I still trip on my first job “on the books”. I worked as a carpenter and roof repairman in a summer youth employment program. Yes, back in the “old days”, summer youth workers didn’t file and make photocopies... we worked. I spent many a day in 90+ degree heat on hot tar roofs trying to earn my $2.65/hr. thinking, “I don’t know what I’m going to do for a living, but however long I have to stay in school I’m gonna make sure it’s inside”. I didn’t like the roofing part (fear of heights), but I did like the carpentry part. I like building and fixing things, and mending porches, doorways and fences was right up my alley.

I always thought the phrase “mending fences” was an interesting way to look at people fixing a relationship. I looked at it from a couple of ways. One way I looked at it was a fence being different parts with different purposes that have to come together for a reason that is bigger than the any of the parts themselves. In freshman psychology class we learned that was Gestalt theory: “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. So the people involved realize that they are better together than they are apart, and focus on the good rather than the bad. Another way I looked at it was the process of working on a fence together. People can often work out their issues when they focus on a mutual interest rather than on the relationship. Then the conversation can ease into and out of their issues as they feel comfortable talking about it, but as long as the fence is being mended they feel something is being accomplished, and they don’t feel the pressure of the focus being about them.

There were a couple more ways I saw it, but as I thought about them, my mind got to the point where I was preoccupied with the damage to the fence, and does mending the fence sometime gloss over the damage done. So much of mending fences comes down to one or more of the parties involved apologizing for something they said. Once the apology is given and accepted, things move on. But it is often the case that an apology is not enough. Looking at the fence as an example, if someone drove a nail in a fence in a place that it didn’t belong, it would damage the stability of the wood. You could pull the nail out, but it will still leave a whole. You can paint over the nail hole and it will look like new, but the damage to the wood still exists underneath. After a time, the stability of the fence as a whole may be weakened by that point in the fence, and may break down the line despite the fact that “things look fine”.

And so it is with hurtful words and the apologies that are given to correct them. Every time you hurt someone, it’s like driving a nail through wood. The apology then becomes like pulling the nail out; while the action to apologize/pull the nail is done with an honest effort, there is still a hole left behind. The person receiving the apology can choose to put a new coat of paint on the hole, and they may function as strong as a freshly painted, freshly mended fence. But deep inside, whether they ever show the effects or not, the damage is there. Many people look at relationships they have with people that have overcome rocky times, and they are happy about it. But for some reason it seems like despite the fact that the other person says everything is alright, they “have changed”. The truth is, they didn’t change, they “were changed”, by the nail that was driven into them.

So how do you really mend the fence? For an actual fence, there is always wood filler. If you fill the hole in with this simulated wood product, it returns the original integrity to it. Sometimes it even becomes stronger than the actual wood around it. In the absence of the wood filler, the hole can fill up with water, insects, or some other thing that will begin to hurt the good wood around the hole. When someone experiences hurtful words: false accusations; unfair or untrue characterizations; constant negativity, disrespect, or degradation; etc.; they are weakened by them… just as the nail weakens the wood. Sometimes, even after an apology, the hole becomes filled with anger, or insecurity, or sadness, or an uncaring attitude, or sometime just an empty feeling. What began as a small thing can eventually affect other non-related qualities of the person, and even their spiritual strength and health. So the hole must be filled with what was taken away by the nail. If you falsely accuse someone of lying, you need to compliment their honesty. If they were hurt by being told they can’t do something, they need to be reassured that you have confidence in what they can do. If you tell a child they are ugly, you need to repeatedly tell them they have a special kind of beauty. The bottom line is, you need to fill the hole. And what if there is not damage left after the initial apology? Actually, that is usually the case. Usually, there is no further need to address the situation. But then again, you can’t go wrong reinforcing something good… as long as it’s attention and not overkill.

Fixing the damage to the fence helps the carpenter as well as the fence. Isn’t it good to know that you care enough to make sure you don’t leave a damaged situation behind. Guilt over doing someone wrong is a tough thing to deal with, but not nearly as harmful long-term as an attitude that “what’s done is done”… or “oh well...” or “deal with it”. When your mind and heart become as calloused as a carpenters hands, it makes it just as hard to show gentleness… or to have that gentleness accepted when you do show it. You should always apologize when you’ve wronged someone, but when possible you should also make “amends”. It is good for both parties. And if the person isn’t ready to accept the apology, give it time and come back again (the key is not ready to accept vs. not willing to accept). Sometimes wood filler works better after the wood dries out a little.

I’m into chain link fences now, so it’s a lot harder for me to damage them. But while I may deal with different people, people are still the same. When damaged, they still need mending. But I also know that the best way to avoid having to mend a fence is to watch what nails I use and where I place them. As for people, the best way to avoid having to mend them is to watch what words I use and how I say them. Old ones or new ones, you can’t go wrong mending fences.