Weekend Update 3/12/2016 – there’s always silence
I already ranted last night about it: Blood stains on their hands, but it is really difficult to let it go. People I knew and loved went to early graves as a direct result of the indifference, contempt, and utter lack of compassion of an entire administration. It wasn’t just them, I know. One of the examples I gave last night was a preacher who had nothing to do with either one of the Reagans. But they were in a position of leadership. They were there when one of the world’s leading experts on epidemics made the case for why government action was desperately needed, and they responded by saying that it wasn’t actually a health crisis. Never mind that it is a virus, never mind that it was killing hundreds, then thousands of people. They laughed. Go listen to that recording I linked to last night, and think about it for a minute: hundreds of young people dying in horrible pain, and they laughed.
It’s hard for one ugly episode to stand out among so many ugly aspects of the Reagan administration, but Nancy and Ronald’s deliberate silence on one of the defining public health crises of the era is surely near the top of any list. What Clinton is saying isn’t just untrue, but erases the deadly legacy of the Reagan era.
I agree with each word of the headline. Especially the inexplicable part. Why? When Bill Clinton was running against George H.W. Bush for President in 1992, Bill and Hillary both talked publicly about the inadequate attention that the Bush and Reagan administrations had given to AIDS/HIV research, and assistance to people both inside and outside the U.S. suffering and dying because of HIV. Queers came out in unprecedented numbers to support and donate to Clinton’s campaign, because they made us believe that they saw us as human, which is something we didn’t see from either Bush or the Reagans. She knew that the Reagan administration had not just ignored AIDS, but actively impeded medical research and aid programs.
Hours later, Clinton offered a tepid apology: Hillary Clinton apologizes for praising Nancy Reagan’s response to HIV/AIDS. She misspoke? If it had been a brief comment where she had merely mentioned AIDS alongside Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, which were illnesses Nancy Reagan spoke out on later in life, breaking with Republican rhetoric against stem-cell research at the time, I might be able to believe that she misspoke. But Hilary had a long lead up to that. She said how difficult it was for anyone to talk about HIV/AIDS during the 80s, and so on. That wasn’t just a poor choice of words or a matter of mentioning one disease along with others. That was a well-thought out, planned talking point. And it was more than just a minor factual error, it was a whole pile of lies!
I know that there are other big things going on in the world that we could be talking about. The Nazi-salute throwing lady at the Trump rally, or the insane attempt by the big bully himself and his supporters to claim that their decision to cancel an appearance rather than face protestors means that they are victims (when they’ve been the ones literally attacking, punching, and violently tackling people who they only suspect might be protestors). Or people dying in floods in Louisiana and Texas. There are refugee crises and consequences and many more things to worry about, yes.And I know if I keep giving in to my anger over this, it does me no good. Fortunately, I was reminded yesterday that there are other ways to remember and mourn those we lost. Other ways to indict those who sat silently by, or laughed, or offered public prayers thanking god for giving such pain and suffering to us. A friend reminded me of this poem, which was published on a bronze plaque mounted in a park in New York City for many months back in 1990-91, where it was erected by Creative Time, an organization that sponsors public art. The friend actually saw the bronze plaque while it was on display.
“Black Sheep” was written by Karen Finley and intended as a public poem. It opens with:
After a funeral someone said to me –
You know I only see you at funerals
it’s been 3 since June –
been 5 since June for me –
He said I’ve made a vow –
I only go to death parties if I know someone before
they were sick –
cause – cause – cause I feel I feel so
sad cause I never knew their life –
and now I only know their death
And because we are members of the
Black Sheep family –
In the middle it observes:
We’re related to people we love who can’t say –
I love you Black Sheep daughter
I love you Black Sheep son –
I love you outcast, I love you outsider
But tonight we love each other –
That’s why we’re here –
to be around others like ourselves –
So it doesn’t hurt quite so much –
In our world, our temple of difference –
I am at my loneliest when I have
something to celebrate and try
to share it with those I love but
who don’t love me back.
There’s always silence at the end
of the phone –
There’s always silence at the end
of the phone –
The full text is available at the Creative Time archive here.