401 CHRONICLESnLetter From thenHeartlandnby fane GreernAuguries of the End of InnocencenMy first-grade son was recently bittennin the arm by an exuberant classmate.nLuckily (said his principal) my son wasnwearing a heavy jacket, and the boy’snteeth didn’t puncture his skin: “Humannbites are even more dangerous thanndogs’, you know,” she reminded me.nYes, I’d read that, and agreed that wenwere lucky—and then promptly translatednthe incident into just one morenproof that all first-graders come fromnMars. I chuckled as I told the story to ancolleague, and the first thing she saidnwas, “Oh, wow, I bet you were worriednabout AIDS until you found out Robbie’snskin hadn’t been broken.” Well,nno, actually I hadn’t thought aboutnAIDS at all. Until then.nNorth Dakota has two—that’s one,ntwo, period—diagnosed cases of AIDSnamong schoolchildren. The identities ofnthese children have been kept secretnfrom even their teachers. Having withnthe rest of the nation seen the burnednhome of the AIDS children in Florida,nand having imagined how the twonNorth Dakota kids felt watching it andnwondering when their neighbors wouldnburn their house, I thought this secrecynwas not a bad idea.nA friend of ours thought differently,nas we talked at a party. “Teachers don’tnknow who these kids are, right? Sonthey’re going to treat every kid as if he’sngot AIDS.”nI nodded, seeing the logic in suchnbehavior and not seeing any harm.n”Well, what if one of your kids has anseizure and stops breathing — is hisnteacher going to give him mouth-tomouth?”nI’d never thought of that.n”And what if your child gets badlyncut — will the teacher stop the bleeding?”nI remembered the near-bite.nCORRESPONDENCEnSuddenly the unlimited possibilities fornworry became clearer.nMy friend wasn’t finished. His wifenof more than 30 years is a nurse,nalthough they certainly don’t need thenmoney. Among other things, she doesnhospice work, and that’s what has himnscared. “It’s inevitable that she’ll comenacross an AIDS patient sooner ornlater,” he said, sipping his scotch, “andnyou know her — she won’t turn itndown.”nHere I was sure that I could set hisnmind at ease. “You know what a goodnnurse she is. And she’s smart. Therenare things people can do to be almostnperfectly safe giving care to AIDSnpatients. She’ll be fine,” I said.nHe just shook his head. “Yeah, she’sna good nurse, all right. The best. Donyou really think that if an AIDS patientnneeds immediate resuscitation mynwife’s going to take the time to huntnaround for her little mouth protector?nWhat if the patient vomits or sneezesnand she gets it in her eye or mouth ornin a sore? There is no protection. I’ventold her it bothers me, and she just tellsnme not to worry, that she’ll be allnright,” he said, pride in her mixed withnhis unwillingness to go gently intonwidowhood or death.nNothing happened, really. I wasnwaited on by a man who’d waited onnme a hundred times. The only differencenwas that I knew something aboutnhim I hadn’t known before. He hadnconfessed to the whole staff, includingna friend of mine — “announced” isnhow she put it — that he had testednpositive for AIDS. It wasn’t surprising,nI guess, seeing that his homosexualitynwas well-known and long-standing, butnhe was my first acquaintance to bentouched by the disease. After his announcement,nthe manager decided notnto give him a different, less publicnposition. And here I was, doing businessnwith him, having tried my best tonavoid it. He handed me my card, and Intook it as politely as I could: What donnnyou say to someone you barely knownwho will probably die soon and hasnbrought it entirely on himself? Therenare no such words in my vocabulary.nWhen he had left me to help someonenelse, I searched his face for signs ofnimminent death. They weren’t there,nbut suddenly J felt a general malaisenthat took me an hour to discard.’Wasnhe still sleeping around, I wondered?nWas he sorry he had? Should I washnmy hands before I picked up my kidsnfrom school? Wash them with what? Incouldn’t name the source of my rage.nAll this takes on absolute importancenbecause I have children. Thenchildren are physical realities fromnwhich there is no easy escape and onnwhich the whole world hangs. Another,nperhaps more abstract considerationnis that my husband and I are Christiansnand are trying to raise our children asnChristians. And it’s hard for me on thisnmatter: I’m angry and full of resentment,nbecause we — especially thenchildren, damn it!—are in this respectnthe truly innocent. The promiscuousnqueers and the drug addicts —nfrom whom AIDS predominantlynemanates — have no right, regardlessnof what the ACLU says, to invade thenhappy, productive, godly life we’re tryingnto build. Is AIDS a punishmentnfrom God? It would be easy to thinknso — after all, most of its victims arensimply suffering the logical effects ofntheir own licentiousness—but it’s killingninnocents, too. The “gays” takenevil glee in telling us, loudly, often,nthat the number of innocent deaths isngoing to skyrocket. Is that a threat?nMy daughter will be dating in a fewnyears. My seven-year-old son, who isndisgusted when I kiss the cats on thenlips (and cat germs are even cleanernthan dog germs), has taken to kissingnFrancie and Roslyn and Becky atnrecess — he says they chase him andnpin him down, that he can’t help it,nthis boy who prides himself on beingnthe Fastest Runner in the World. I’dn