It is hard but important for those who care about Aids to blame the frontrunner of the Democratic party, who takes the support of lesbian voters for granted
Talking about former first lady Nancy Reagan on MSNBC on Friday, current leading Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton credited chairperson and Mrs Reagan in particular, Mrs Reagan, for having started a national conversation about Aids.
Aids historians, LGBT activists and anyone who cares about little things like the truth were subsequently enraged at Clintons false claims. Ronald and Nancy Reagan were no more leaders discussing Aids in the 1980 s than Republicans are at championing abortion access today.
It may be hard for your viewers to recollect, Clinton said, how difficult it was for people to talk about HIV/ Aids back in the 1980 s.
She didnt lie there. Indeed, it was difficult to talk about Aids throughout the 1980 s largely because of the stillnes from the White House. In April 1987, activists unveiled a poster that said Silence= Death a month before Reagan would eventually devote a speech to the years-long epidemic. That slogan would become the motto of the group Aids Coalition To Unleash Power( ACT-UP ), and according to their website, the slogan was asking Why is Reagan silent about Aids? What is really going on at the Center for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Vatican?
Its easy to denounce Reagan out of office for 27 years and dead for more than a decade with the distance of history. Its also easy to blame Republicans continuing love of abstinence-only sex education and opposition to gay rights as a continuing attempt to erase faggot people today.
But for those of us who care about Aids and LGBT people, it is much harder and important to blame the frontrunner of the Democratic party, who takes the support of lesbian voters for awarded. Why, in 2016, did the Democratic frontrunner engage so blithely in the erasure of the people who actually did start the national conversation about Aids? Was it because they were gay humen of the in-your-face variety of activism many of whom succumbed of the virus?
When Clinton said the Reagans led the way on Assistances when nobody wanted to do anything about it, she is erasing these people from history in an ugly and dismissive manner. People initially get HIV in this country through IV drug use, blood transfusions and sexuality. But while the Reagans looked the other route even when a friend asked for help it was was queer activists who were loud as hell in New York and San Francisco who forced the nation to face the plague.
Clinton said she could really appreciate Nancy Reagans very effective low-key advocacy that penetrated the public conscience on Aids. But current realities is, the people who really started the conversation are still not low-key. They were not polite. They were not quiet in any way. They staged die-ins. They shut down streets. They threw the cremated ashes of their loved ones, already killed by Aids, over the fence of the White House to demand action.
Clinton subsequently apologized, saying she misspoke about the Reagans on HIV/ Aids. But what was she trying to gain by praising the Reagans in this way in the first place? I fear that she was engaging in a kind of dog-whistling, utilizing the moment of Nancy Reagans death to appeal to voters who nostalgically loved the Reagans and dream of morning in America again. I fear by invoking a false Aids history, she was appealing to those who want a simpler time before homosexuals get uppity. Perhaps she wants to peel off some of the white men voting for Sanders in the primary. Perhaps she is trolling for Reagan Democrats who might consider her over Trump in building America great again.
I have been frightened for some time that the crisis of AIDS is not over, especially for black America, and yet it has again largely been erased from our national political consciousness. Aids, which is projected to infect one in two black lesbian American men, is virtually invisible from the presidential race. And now even the Democratic frontrunner has diminished Aids history herself.
Will gay voters and political groups, especially the Human Right Campaign( which endorsed the other HRC months ago) demand that Clinton do more than say sorry, but demand that she audibly start their own nationals conversation on Aids in America in 2016 a day when it is still hard to talk about HIV? Will they question her praising Reagans Aids policies as a harbinger of deadly incremental things to come, devoted her claims to pragmatically run across the aisle in a manner that is she says Bernie Sanders never, ever could? Will they hold their own, in this time, to as high a standard as they do the deceased leader of their opposition party especially given her own pathetic past opposition on lesbian rights? This would be the only sincere way to begin to undo the damage Clinton has done to the men and women who fought, and still fight, Aids in the vacuum of political leadership.
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