New Cartoon: Other Memories
Infectious optimism takes on a whole new meaning
Plus, feeling like an outsider, and--what is up with the HRC and the Log Cabin Republicans, anyway?
"He was shamelessly patriotic and infectiously optimistic."—Justice Antonin Scalia
(click panel to see full cartoon)
Not everyone remembers the Reagan years so fondly. For more on Reagan's AIDS and gay rights (or lack thereof) legacy, see The New York Blade, which has a great piece by editor Steve Weinstein called "Mourning the ‘Teflon President’? Not me!". Weinstein is particularly disturbed by the moderate and conservative gay groups that have been praising Reagan after his death. A small excerpt:
If I sound angry and bitter, it’s because I am. Oh, I don’t blame the mainstream media. They don’t even rise to the level of sheep. At least sheep bleat when they’re being led to slaughter. The media have simply lied down and vomited up their lies about Reagan’s sunny optimism and bogus accomplishments.
But what about our gay leaders? Here is our real shame.
The Human Rights Campaign sent out a message praising him for opposing a statewide referendum. No mention of his AIDS policy.
But I reserve special opprobrium for the Log Cabin Republicans, who have sent out a message praising Reagan... . Patrick Guerriero, who heads LCR, is probably too young to remember the worst of the epidemic. Perhaps he has never held a friend’s hand while listening to the man’s death rattle. Perhaps he has never awoken in the middle of the night to clean his lover’s shit and sweat and blood from the sheets. Perhaps he has never had to comfort parents at their young son’s funeral. That doesn’t absolve him from his craven response to Reagan’s death, calling him “one of our nation’s greatest presidents.” This is criminal and a complete rejection of his members’ most basic interests.
The AIDS crisis is far from over. If anything, we’ve only moved through the first stage of an ongoing crisis that will probably last longer than the lifetime of anyone reading this newspaper. Whole families, whole villages — even nations — have lost their populations. In much of southern Africa, better than one-quarter of the adult population is infected.
You should also see the Advocate, which has a several different views on Reagan and AIDS, including the Michael Bronski piece I've already linked to several times and a controversial not-yet-published piece by Larry Kramer called "Adolf Reagan."
Also, the mainstream media, after over a week of non-stop "everyone loved him" coverage, seems to be noticing that might not be the case. See, for example, the Washington Post ("Gays Recall a Silent Great Communicator").
In case you didn't catch all those links above, one was a remembrance by Boston Globe columnist Derrick Jackson ("He Brought Back Black and White"). Some choice bits:
Calling Reagan an "all-American" insults the millions of Americans whom he deprived of his sunlight. Reagan far too often invited the nation to live down to its lowest common denominators. Reagan tried to make America younger, all right. He tried to return us to the days where we sat before black-and-white televisions, in separate black and white neighborhoods, where white people saw only white people and black people were represented by Buckwheat and the only time you saw lots of people of color were dead Indians in Westerns.and
The Los Angeles Times said Reagan's "optimism was catching." Tell that to black folks, the poor, unions, people with AIDS, environmentalists, college students needing aid, Holocaust survivors, and pro-choice activists. They all caught hell. You could hardly call the Iran-Contra arms scandal an "honest and open debate."
That is not an "All-American" legacy. Reagan projected the sun to mask a scowl. His presidency is indeed extraordinary. It is extraordinary for how easily Americans hail his "optimism." For African-Americans, and all Americans who were targets of his policies, it was open season.Exactly. Africana.com's A-List also sums it up nicely:
Witnessing the vast national mourning taking place this week for Ronald Reagan, we feel more and more like outsiders. How to understand the weeping throngs, the staunch conservative faces that twist into genuine grief when contemplating the death of their hero? We don't doubt the sincerity of their feelings, but find them impossible to share. The president who embraced apartheid South Africa, who abandoned the poor and mentally ill, who turned his back on the cities and who never mentioned AIDS as that disease first rampaged through this country — that's a president we couldn't stomach then, and can't mourn now.
By the way, this is the second version of this toon--friends suggested that the first version (which more directly blamed Reagan for the global AIDS epidemic getting out of control) might be a stretch for a lot of readers. Decide for yourself, but if Reagan had devoted resources to fighting the disease and sanctioned safer-sex education and prevention campaigns back when AIDS cases numbered less than 2,000, I can't help wondering if maybe we wouldn't have 25 million dead and 40 million people living with AIDS today.