Brad Smith (jesus_h_biscuit) wrote,
Brad Smith

Reagan Is Dead, I Will Shed No Tears.

I've been thinking about it for a couple of days now, starting when Maggie and I were having coffee Saturday morning and I told her that I didn't think Ronald Reagan was going to live much longer. We talked about when I worked in a nursing home in the Alzheimer's wing and how my first 9 patients all died horrific deaths within 6 months. For the record, if I ever live to old age, I will kill myself before I ever go into a nursing home. Not that I expect it or anything, but there you are. I'll kill myself before they can kill me.

I feel tremendous empathy for anyone who suffers Alzheimers disease, having first hand (and explicit) knowledge of what the disease does not only to the individual but the family and loved ones. Watching someone you love undergo complete depersonalization is agonizing. It's equally agonizing to have someone wither away and die slowly from AIDS, something else I have first hand experience with in both family and countless friends. Which brings me to my next point of order.

Under the Reagan administration, many things happened that amounted to the same situation we're in right now under the Bush administration. People lost their lives senselessly at the hands of someone who had no respect for them in the first place. AIDS became part of public life in 1981 when the news of it broke in the media. It spread like wildfire quickly and the researchers at the time initially concluded that it was a preventable disease provided people took elementary precautions to protect themselves. Did the leader of the nation at the time take that opportunity to make such things known? Of course not. It took him 6 years - 6 YEARS before he even mentioned the word AIDS publically. Imagine what you were doing 6 years ago, how different your life was. Imagine if an incurable disease that affected thousands - potentially milions of people - were discovered now and our president wouldn't even recognize it, let alone allot any funding for research for it and/or public awareness. Close to 40,000 people had to die before he'd even mention it. AIDS ravaged (and still does) minority communities, particularly in urban areas. Initial discussions about money allocation went on quarranting anyone infected for fuck's sake. Why am I proud of the gay community starting from that time when I became aware politically and socially about the things that were going on? Simple - because we took care of our own when our government left us to die off, that's why. There hasn't been a conservative official elected who gave two shits about whether or not the queers or African Americans or the Latinos got infected and died slowly. I remember writing a paper in my 8th grade year that addressed the difference between people "catching" AIDS and people "getting" AIDS. White, heterosexual people "catch" AIDS - everyone else "gets" AIDS. The difference between "getting" and "catching" a disease is the difference between tragedy and hysteria. If you are not outraged, then you are not paying attention.

"Compassionate Conservatism." I keep hearing that phrase, having started in the 80's. I remember even then as a teenager thinking that it was a complete contradiction in terms, as I have yet to see any evidence of it that mattered or made any real difference. Part of the reason why I cannot understand why anyone would align themselves with the Republican party, but that's not on me - that's on them. My own mother told me years ago that Conservatives had their heads up their asses on social issues. She also told me that she could forgive me for most anything, but she'd never forgive me for voting Republican. This, of course, was long after I'd already made that decision for myself by reading and studying the issues and debating them with anyone I could. But what about the GOOD he did in his Presidency?" People are awfully quick to throw out the Cold War, which as ladysisyphus puts "He won the Cold War by forcing the Soviet Union to bankrupt themselves by keeping up with our grotesque, deficit-inducing military spending. I don't know if that counts. I mean, I'm not going to ignore the fact that he was presiding over the whole matter, and that he called for it; I'm just saying that maybe he could have done it with a finesse that didn't involve voodoo economics." Further reading on that subject can be found at Billmon's.

In the book/movie And The Band Played On by Randy Shilts, which my mother bought for me the year it came out in hardback, much is writen about Reagan and AIDS. Read Tony Kushner's book A Bright Room Called Day and see the film or play Angels In America if you haven't already, and see what life was like then. Other great films in this same genre are Longtime Companion, In The Gloaming, and the one that started it all, An Early Frost.

I don't hold Ronald Reagan responsible for more than he is owed, but I do hope that at some point he knew that thousands of lives in senseless blood were on his hands. It wouldn't get him even for the wrong that was done, but it has to be known. To make too much light of this man's death mocks the thousands he helped consign to their graves.

He's dead and suffering no more than any of those before him that he's partly responsible for, so that doesn't matter. What's done is done, all that matters now is what's left to be done. Like getting President Asshole out of office so this bullshit doesn't continue. I think it is ironic that whenever there's a Republican in office the deficit swells exponentially, we're at war in some respect or another, enemployment always rises, and civil rights take a backseat. It is also ironic that for many, Reagan is the saint of the party and what all should strive to be - yet he was killed by a disease that could have been treated better if stem cell research were allowed by his loyalists. Funny how they don't take notice until one of their own is felled. But we've known that all along with AIDS, haven't we?

Silence = Death. Silence is acceptance.

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Tags: activism
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