kramer as prophet


by Gabriel Rotello

  (An essay from the book "We Must Love One Another Or Die," edited by Lawrence D. Mass)

            The world is full of prophets, most of them false. People have been proclaiming the end of time since time began and yet here we spin, neither earthquakes nor floods nor plagues nor wars able to keep the world from its appointed rounds. But even though prophesy has a long history of not coming true, doomsayers certainly remain a dime a dozen. Every few years some charlatan attracts a flush following by predicting that the end is near. We smirk when the appointed day passes and he skulks off in his Mercedes to recalculate. We smirk less if, like Jim Jones or David Koresh, he takes his followers with him into some private holocaust. In either case, we soon turn to the next headline, the only useful lesson learned that humanity never learns its lesson.

            There is, however, one school of prophets who are as rare as false prophets are common. The ones whose warnings came true. I say rare because even the select company we call the Biblical Prophets were not particularly accurate. It's true that Jeremiah foretold the Babylonian captivity and then lived to see it, but he was a notable exception. More typical was Jesus, who predicted in no uncertain terms that the world would end during the lifetime of his followers.

            We moderns haven’t done much better. For every Churchill vindicated by the specific disaster he thundered about, there are dozens who predicted a bang and got a whimper. What ever happened the people who predicted the cold war would inevitably go nuclear? What ever happened to the Club of Rome? If anything, it seems remarkable that given humanity's unbroken string of both pessimists and disasters, the twain so rarely meet. You'd think the laws of chance alone would dictate that before each of history's major trainwrecks at least one reedy voice would have cried out in the wilderness, trying vainly to draw our attention to the doom barreling down the track. But who predicted the great influenza epidemic of 1919? Or the Taiping Rebellion? Or the death of disco? Or even that most predictable of unpredicted disasters to rise up on a summer's day, the First World War? A genuine Jeremiah, someone who really hits the disaster nail on the head, is as rare as an accurate five-day forecast.

            The question I put to you is whether Larry Kramer belongs to this august but disturbing company. Whether Larry Kramer is, for want of a softer term, the gay community's AIDS prophet. And the answer I put to you is yes.

            Prophet comes from a Greek word meaning someone who delivers the word of the gods to mortals. Strictly speaking prophesy does not have to concern future disasters or even future events. Prophets are merely conduits through which god (or the gods) convey his (or her) (or their) divine utterances, messages, encouragements, warnings and, sometimes, predictions. In some cultures prophets serve this role reluctantly or in an unconscious state of inspiration or possession. Such a prophet, said Philo of Alexandria, is merely a lute the gods play upon. But others, particularly those in the Judeo-Christian-Moslem tradition, are wide awake and gnashing their teeth through the dark night of the soul, propounding a theology so fierce it's downright scary. Hebrew prophesy in particular focused on the stark dualism between good and evil. It was interested in what you're doing in the here and now, as opposed to the next world. Hebrew prophets did not just foretell or divine, they lectured and hectored and warned and screamed. It's no accident that our popular vision of Israel's greatest prophet is Charlton Heston, thundering over the idolatrous apostates, shocked at the perfidy of humankind. Wind howls. Lightening strikes. Mr. DeMille gets his close-up, and the angry eyes are on fire.

            Hebrew prophets directed the burning lasers of their moral vision to the spiritual improvement of their own kind. Their message was invariably that if their fellow Jews didn't shape up, they were going to be creamed by external enemies: Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Romans, whomever. One of the reasons so many prophets were so unpopular in their lifetimes - from Jeremiah to Jesus - was that most of their Jewish contemporaries wanted to focus on the sins of the oppressor, or focus on the injustice of the invader, or even focus on the injustice of god in allowing the invader to invade. But the prophets had a different agenda. They focused on how the failings of the Jews brought oppressors and invasions upon themselves. To them, the Romans or the Babylonians or the Egyptians were almost irrelevant, the harsh but inevitable side effects of homegrown moral failure. In modern parlance, they "blamed the victim." With a vengeance.

            If we define prophesy as a strictly religious franchise, obviously Larry Kramer is ruled out. Although he has consciously drawn upon his Jewishness as a basis of his sense of morality, and although he sees parallels between the historic plight of Jews and of gays, he certainly does not claim a direct line to god. In fact, in many ways he is hostile to religion, or at least to the aspects of religion that are hostile to him as a gay man. But to say that Kramer can't be considered a prophet because prophets have to be religious is a little like saying a secular person cannot expound moral values because morality was traditionally rooted in religion. It seems just as reasonable to flex our social-constructionist imaginations and argue that the link between religion and prophethood is merely an artifact of history, that you can have prophesy without necessarily having god.

            But if a direct linkup to the deity isn't a prophet's main qualification, what is? Someone once wrote that the proof of prophesy was simply the acid test of history - did the predicted thing come true? But that seems to me only half the test, and the mechanical, rabbit-out-of-the-hat half at that. By such a limited definition, the Weather Channel could have a shot. Accurate prediction, impressive as it may seem, doesn't require vision so much as a good slide-rule.

            The real acid test of prophesy, it seems to me, is not just an ability to predict something about the future, but to root that prediction in some spiritual or moral vision. The great prophetic voices, religious and secular, not only warned of disasters nobody else could clearly see, but warned that people were bringing these disasters upon themselves. Sometimes the problem was spiritual, sometimes ethical, sometimes practical, sometimes all three. Winston Churchill played the role of prophet when he urged the democracies to show moral fiber in their dealings with fascism, to show ethical fiber in standing up for their weaker friends like Czechoslovakia, and to show practicality by building up their armies just in case. The role of a prophet is not merely to announce impending doom, but to tell us how to get our act together to avoid it.

            By this definition, then, Kramer needs to have fulfilled a few basic requirements to be considered a bona fide AIDS prophet. First, he needs to have identified a central moral problem in gay life, and done so not from a scientist's medical perspective - If you keep doing such and such you will spread germs - but from a moral perspective - If you keep doing such and such, you will diminish your souls. Then he needs to have specifically warned of a coming disaster and explained from a practical position how it could be avoided. And finally, he needs to have been right.

            I would argue that Kramer fulfills all three conditions. I can even get precise and pinpoint his period of prophesy from 1978 until around 1985.

            During the period in question Kramer produced three immensely influential pieces of work. The first was the novel "Faggots," published in 1978 four years before AIDS was announced to the world. The second was a series of essays and letters he wrote for and to the New York Native from 1981 to 1983, in which he alerted us to the potential enormity of the epidemic and told us how to avoid it and how to fight it. This writing can be said to begin with the letter "A Personal Appeal" and includes the essay "1,112 and Counting." The third is "The Normal Heart," a play first produced by Joseph Papp at the New York Shakespeare Festival in mid 1985, which recapitulates the drama of Kramer's prophesy, enfolds it, and puts the prophet's spin on his own legacy.

            After 1985 Kramer continued his advocacy, and some might argue that his single most influential piece of writing was the speech he delivered in 1987 that resulted in the founding of ACT UP. But although his post-1985 work has been extremely influential, it cannot really qualify as prophesy. Not because Kramer was any less prophetic, or any less right, but simply because by then the AIDS epidemic had become so huge and undeniable that it no longer took a prophet to see it coming. It had arrived. Afterward Kramer continued to exhort, prod, investigate, cajole, shame and scream. He does to this day. But we no longer needed him to foretell. The sky had already fallen.

            "Faggots" never mentions disease or illness, and it does not predict a physical disaster if gay men do not mend their wayward ways. But it established the moral and ethical basis of Kramer's later ministry. Easily the most controversial gay novel ever written, "Faggots" depicts four hectic days leading up to the fortieth birthday of its narrator Fred Lemish, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Larry Kramer. Lemish has decided that he must find true love before the big four-oh arrives, hopefully in the person of his unattainably gorgeous on-again off-again boyfriend Dinky Adams. But the world Lemish, Dinky and their friends inhabit is too hectically hedonistic, too drug saturated and sexually precocious and predacious, to nurture the kind of stable relationship Lemish craves. He rails against this wacky world even as he gorges himself in its absurd comedy.

            The novel's characters are deliberately overdrawn and sometimes grotesque caricatures in the manner of Evelyn Waugh, and they hurtle through their discos and tea rooms and drug and sexual adventures like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland: they have to keep running faster and fucking harder simply to stay in the same place. In the end Lemish finally sheds his infatuation with Dinky, his love-hate relationship with hedonism, and simultaneously has an epiphany about his own burdensome self hatred. Declaring that gay life on the wild side is the epitome of the unexamined life, and that "the unexamined life is unlivable," he literally walks off into the sunrise at the novel's conclusion, presumably to begin examining.

            "Faggots," the poet Ian Young has written, "is Kramer's warning to gay men that 'We're fucking ourselves to death!'" Its theme is the impossibility of love in a world in which people treat each other as objects. Its charge is that gay men have to grow up and stop doing that. Its challenge is that we can, but that in order to do so we have to take responsibility for our own fates. It tried to establish, in the most infertile pavement of the nineteen seventies gay fast lane, the most unlikely thing: a prophet's seedling, a call to responsibility. And the fast land whizzed by, hissing.

            It's funny how those criticisms tried to have it both ways. On the one hand, "Faggots" was trashed as inaccurate, overdrawn, exaggerated; it was said that gay men did not act like Kramer's grotesques, or that maybe a few did, but just a tiny minority. But at the same time that some critics excoriated the book as a shameless lie, others called it unforgivable precisely because it rang so true: It was said to have betrayed the secret lives of gay men, allowing the general public a peek into our promiscuous playrooms (it became a national bestseller, after all, and certainly not on the strength of gay sales alone). It was the ultimate airing of dirty laundry in public, making us look like the sex obsessed twits our worst enemies accused us of being. I remember my nervous sense of dislocation at the time, when a politically active gay friend who had long argued that gay promiscuity was something we ought to be proud of, our form of revolution, told me he was furious with "Faggots" because now the people in his hometown were going to have a bad impression of gay life.

            But while many in the gay world took "Faggots" as a diatribe against homosexuality, in retrospect it seems to be an argument against equating homosexuality and sexual liberation with selfishness, self-indulgence and self-destruction. Although it did not predict physical annihilation, it implicitly argued that the price we would pay if we didn't get it together would be heavy; a spiritual extinction, the meat-rack of the soul. "Faggots" warned of the moral virus of non-intimacy and the spiritual disease of unlove. The primary thing we were not loving, it told us, was ourselves.

            This, of course, did little to mollify the argument that "Faggots" was simply repeating what the 'phobes have always said - that gay men are sexual neurotics who need to get a grip. In that view, "Faggots" was seen as a monumental act of self-loathing. But in rereading "Faggots" today on the other side of AIDS, I see a gaping chasm between homophobic self loathing and the book's message. Homophobes tell gay men that, as gay men, they cannot love. "Faggots" tells gay men that, as gay men, they must love. Homophobes tell gay men that, as gay men, they can never grow up. "Faggots" tells gay men that, as gay men, they must grow up. Homophobes tell gay men they will always be defective victims. "Faggots" tells gay men they must stop being victims and seize control of their own destiny.

            Its angry gay critics, however, did have one thing right. While "Faggots" was not anti-sex so much as pro-love, it certainly was anti-promiscuity. Particularly the sex radicalism that characterized much of the gay fast-lane of the seventies, the three-thousand-men-up-my-butt lifestyle of the baths and the meat racks. It is precisely because "Faggots" connected this lifestyle to spiritual desolation that it qualifies as the genuine and necessary first act in the prophesy of physical desolation that was to come. Prophesy, after all, is ruled by a sort of spiritual ecology - what happens in the physical world is seamlessly connected to the life of the soul. The gay men Kramer wrote about were, he said, committing an offense against love. In so doing he established a prophet-like moral claim upon them, whether they liked it or not (they mostly did not). "We're fucking ourselves to death" is not far from "We must love one another or die." And "we're fucking ourselves to death" as metaphor is not far from "no, we're really fucking ourselves to death."

            Obviously no one could have recognized "Faggots" as an AIDS prophesy when it was published in 1978, since the announcement of AIDS was several years into the future. But it is oddly ironic (and prophesy should be tinged with oddness and irony) that some epidemiologists now date the AIDS epidemic to the very year "Faggots" was published. In that year researchers began a major medical study of the hepatitis B epidemic that was sweeping the gay male population, one of the many precursor epidemics to AIDS. As part of that study they began collecting and preserving the blood of thousands of gay male volunteers at six month intervals. When HIV was discovered years later, researchers were able to go back and use these samples to determine where things began. And what they found was that 1978, the year of "Faggots," is Year Zero of AIDS, the year HIV can first be detected in a tiny proportion of gay men in San Francisco and New York. It would rise to infect over fifty percent of gay men in those same cohorts by the night "The Normal Heart" opened seven years later.

            After "Faggots" Kramer was virtually banished from the gay world. Close friends stopped speaking to him. He was made to feel unwelcome on the New York gay scene and on Fire Island, and he went into a sort of retreat from gay life, a symbolic sojourn in the wilderness. "I didn't know it then," he has written, "but I was learning - not originally by choice - that necessary lesson for anyone who insists on speaking his mind: how to become a loner." Jeremiah could not have said it better.

            Kramer's walk in the wilderness lasted less than three years. On June 5, 1981, the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published a brief item about a strange cluster of rare pneumonia cases among gay men. A month later it reported an equally strange cluster of rare cancers in the same population, a report picked up by the New York Times and other papers. On July 29, three weeks after the Times piece, Kramer visited the physician who had tracked the cancer cases in New York. Dr. Alvin Friedman-Kien urged Kramer raise money for research, and when Kramer, a bit of a hypochondriac, asked how he could personally avoid getting the disease, Friedman-Kien said he knew what he would do if he were a gay man. "I'd stop having sex." On August 11 Kramer hosted the meeting of 80 gay men in his apartment that led to the establishment of Gay Men's Health Crisis. And on August 24 he published a piece called "A Personal Appeal" in the New York Native, and his next phase of prophesy had begun.

            "It's difficult to write this without sounding alarmist or too emotional or just plain scared," he began. Unschooled in epidemiology, Kramer displayed a strong grasp of the implacability of doubling time. "If I had written this a month ago, I would have used the figure '40.' If I had written this last week, I would have needed '80.' Today I must tell you that 120 gay men in the United States - most of them here in New York - are suffering from" KS or PCP. "I hope you will write a check and get your friends to write one, too," he concluded. "This is our disease and we must take care of each other and ourselves."

            With those words Larry Kramer sounded the tocsin of the epidemic. It was only six weeks from the first report in MMW to his "personal appeal." The bravery of that appeal can be measured by its response, which was immediate and savage.

            "Basically, Kramer is telling us that something we gay men are doing (drugs? kinky sex?) is causing Kaposi's sarcoma," wrote playwright Robert Chesley in his now-famous rejoinder in the Native. "...We've been told by [experts] that it's wrong and too soon to make any assumptions about the cause of Kaposi's sarcoma, but there's another issue here. It is always instructive to look closely at emotionalism, for it so often has a hidden message which is the real secret of its appeal. I think the concealed meaning of Kramer's emotionalism is the triumph of guilt: that gay men deserve to die for their promiscuity....Read anything by Kramer closely. I think you'll find that the subtext is always: the wages of gay sin is death."

            This letter has often been held up as a great irony. The fact that its author eventually died of AIDS makes it seem even more poignant, an example not only of denial but of how wrong somebody can be. But from the perspective of Kramer as prophet, Chelsey was right. Kramer was indeed telling gay men that something they were doing was causing this strange malady. Kramer did indeed have a larger message: not that gay men "deserve" to die, but that they would die if they did not change, and change fast. He did not argue that the wages of gay promiscuity ought to be death, but that they would be, like it or not. It may be precisely because Kramer was a critic of promiscuity that he was able to see this so clearly so early. Even, as Chesley scornfully notes, before the experts.

            Some might claim today that to draw a connection between the ethical vision of "Faggots" and the epidemiological vision of "A Personal Appeal" is to give Kramer too much credit. They might argue that it was purely coincidental that the man who wrote "Faggots" also happened to find himself, a hypochondriac, in the middle of a cluster of close friends who were early AIDS victims, and that in the circumstances he did what almost anyone would do. Freaked out. They might object that it's ridiculous to suggest Kramer's early AIDS warnings somehow flowed from his pre-AIDS warnings, that all were a part of some seamless prophetic web. But tellingly, that's not what Kramer's critics said at the time. They saw a connection all right. Indeed, it was precisely because they saw a connection that they were so outraged. Kramer, they said, was using AIDS to advance his moral vision (just as, it bears pointing out, the prophets used the Babylonians or the Romans to advance theirs). Had Kramer been known as a sex radical, or simply as neutral about the state of the gay libido, his appeals would probably have produced a more muted response. It was precisely because they came from the man who wrote "Faggots" that they were so provocative.

            For the next couple of years Kramer engaged in what you might call the ministry phase of his prophetdom. Instead of chiseling his commandments in stone tablets, he published them in the New York Native. producing a spirited series of letters, articles and essays calling on gay men to get their act together to fight AIDS on two fronts, politically and sexually. Much of this writing reflected Kramer's increasing battles with the leaders of GMHC, a group he co-founded and from which he was eventually exiled. This dispute became sort of the Ur Battle of AIDS activism, the primal scene, pitting the forces of caution and timidity against the prophet's uncompromising vision. It's a battle that's been enacted a million times in gay history. Between the closeted Mattachine apologists of the fifties versus their radical founder Harry Hay, whom they eventually ousted. Between the equally meek Mattachines of the sixties versus Young Turks like Frank Kameny. The gay world seems to seesaw incessantly between these two opposing forces, the meek and the loud, each one hurling the thunderbolt accusation of "self-loathing" at the other, each one sure the other is destroying everything.

            In this case, the dance was heightened and illuminated by its backdrop, which was death on an epic scale. Because the stakes were as high as they get, the main points of bitter dispute, Kramer's insistence that GMHC become more of an political group (much as ACT UP later became) and that they issue much tougher advice about safe sex, take on an added significance. In both cases he was outvoted and out maneuvered and ultimately pushed aside. And in both cases he was right. The AIDS movement could have really profited from a highly visible cadre of uncompromising activists right then. There is absolutely no reason to think that ACT UP's eventually brilliant deployment of media savvy, it's inspired use of advertising techniques to drive home specific messages, its defiant willingness to brave arrest and shut things down, would have been any less successful in 1983 than it became in 1989. As for safe sex, the early eighties were the very years when most gay men became infected with HIV, a fact we know from, among other things, those hepatitis B studies. Yet as Kramer later wrote, GMHC seemed initially determined not to issue sex recommendations "or anything that in any way could be construed as moralizing...What if it was discovered that nothing infectious was going around...We'd look like fools." Kramer, clearly, was afraid of a lot of things, but looking like a fool was not one of them.

            Perhaps the most famous piece from this ministry period was "1,112 and Counting," published in March of 1983 in the Native and reprinted in gay papers everywhere. Many gay men later said that that essay marked their own personal turning point, the moment in their lives after which the reality of what was happening could no longer be denied. The reason was that "1,112 and Counting" was a two-fisted assault on denial. Kramer attacked the idea that only promiscuous men get AIDS. He attacked the idea that AIDS was soon going to spread epidemically among straights. He attacked lax epidemiology, and the lack of information about treatment, and the terrible conditions for people with AIDS in hospitals, and the lack of drug research, and the problems with health insurance, and the inadequacy of the government's response. By three-quarters of the way through the essay, Kramer had so stormed the gates of denial that his readers had presumably stopped dancing around the golden phallus and were paying rapt attention to his vision of the medical damnation that awaits them. And then like a true prophet, he went for his main target - his own tribe.

            I am sick, he writes, of closeted gay doctors who won't help. Of the gay press that won't pay attention. Of gay men who won't donate money to the effort. Of closeted gays, period.

            "I am sick of everyone in this community who tells me to stop creating a panic. How many of us have to die before *you* get scared off your ass and into action?

            "I am sick of people who say 'it's no worse than statistics for smokers and lung cancer,' or 'considering how many homosexuals there are in the United States, AIDS is really statistically affecting only a very few.' That would wash if case numbers hadn't jumped from 41 to 1,112 in eighteen months.

            "I am sick of guys who moan that giving up careless sex until this blows over is worse than death. How can they value life so little and cocks and asses so much?

            "I am sick of guys who think that all being gay means is sex in the first place. I am sick of guys who can only think with their cocks."

            He went on to praise gay men as "the strongest, toughest people I know," and to issue a call for civil disobedience training, a call that would not be heeded for almost five years. "We must fight to live," he concluded, adding a very prophet-like description of his despair. "My sleep is tormented by nightmares and vision of lost friends, and my days are flooded by the tears of funerals...How many of us must die before *all* of us living fight back?"

            The answer was many, many, many.    

            Within weeks of that essay Kramer's dispute with GMHC had led to his resignation. Within months the epidemic had mutated into front-page news everywhere, and soon the services of prophets were no longer required. Now, surrounded by the disaster he had warned about, Kramer had one more prophetic ritual to accomplish. His chronicle. His book of prophesy. His spin. It took the form of "The Normal Heart," a play that continues to resonate in the public consciousness long after most of the letters and essays from the early days of AIDS have become the province of libraries and specialists.

            "The Normal Heart" is a dramatic retelling of Kramer's prophetic ministry, his Ur Battle with the meek and mild, his struggle to get everyone to listen, his failure, his exile. It is a passion play, a ritual reenactment of the central tragic turning point of gay life. Because of "The Normal Heart," an obscure struggle between unknown antagonists in a community nobody cared about has become a titanic struggle between heroes and villains larger than life, and life and death itself. But it bears pointing out that it is also an extremely tender and extremely frank love story between two adult homosexual men. It connects their love and their growth and their strength to their homosexuality in a way no play had ever done before. Those who consider Kramer anti-sex or self-loathing have to contend with the fact that his play is a clear-eyed, head up, shoulders back, out and proud queer love story with no apologies.  

            And that, basically, is it. From "Faggots" to "The Normal Heart," a seven year sweep of homosexual agit-prophesy in the name of love. If that's not enough to qualify in the Modern Prophet's Hall of Fame - with the founding of ACT UP thrown in for good measure a few years later - I don't know what is.

            In looking back on Kramer's record, I suppose skeptics are entitled one final nit-picking question. Namely, how right was he? It's an easy hurdle to pass, of course, since most prophets get a good deal wrong. And in fact, the main thing Kramer was right about, the primary area in which his prophetic voice continues to ring true, was his belief that sexual behavior was crucial to containing AIDS. Kramer's other prophetic charges, that government officials and drug companies and the media were literally murderers who kept a cure out of our hands by their criminal negligence, has not weathered the test of time so well. Many were horribly negligent, and the advocacy of ACT UP and later generations of treatment activists certainly jarred the drug-making machinery in important ways. But the advances in basic science required to cure AIDS have been ponderously slow in coming, and in retrospect it remains questionable whether, had things been done differently, many of the dead would still be among us.

            But interestingly enough, it is his legacy of anger against the government and the drug companies and the New York Times, not against the meekness and myopia of his fellow gay men, that Kramer seems best remembered for in the gay community. And this, to me, provides a further proof of his true prophethood - because true prophets are almost always remembered for the wrong reasons. The biblical Jews often castigated their prophets during their lifetimes, then elevated them to greatness, stuck them in the bible, called their prophesies the word of god and repeated them so that collective humanity would not, like an amnesiac child, keep making the same mistakes forever. But people did make the same mistakes over and over again. And so do we. The issues that consumed us then consume us now.

            In that sense, Larry Kramer passes the final acid test of prophesy. He failed. He was not able to lead gay men out of the wilderness of unlove, or the furnace of AIDS. It was his Cassandra-like lot to foresee the coming disaster perhaps more clearly than anyone else, and to foresee how to avoid it more clearly than anyone else, and to communicate both to us, and then to be disbelieved. Interestingly, he had never been accused of gloating. When he addresses gay men, his message is always contemporary - what you must do today, what you must do next week, what you must do next year. Never "I told you so."

            And yet he did tell us so.

            Perhaps he feels no satisfaction in such an expensive vindication, since its price was the lives of half his world. Perhaps he does a bit, but feels guilty about it, or recognizes that to say so would be impolitic. Perhaps a bit of both: a natural pride in having been right, tempered by unspeakable sadness at what he was right about. But however he feels, it's not really about him anymore. It never has been. It's about us.

            Larry Kramer's central point - that gay men need to love more and fuck less, that we need more of the hearth and less of the hunt - is still, like most prophesy, undigested and unaccepted by the very people who need it most. We tend to find him and his message tedious, audacious, overstated, bullying, moralistic, sometimes even hysterical, always uncomfortable. Just like Jeremiah. And so, while the gay world has yet to produce a genuine leader, in Larry Kramer we seem to have produced a genuine prophet. Troubled. Resented. Mostly correct. And tragically, still mostly unheeded.