Saturday, February 05, 2011

I hate the World Wide Web ...

... and Ronald Reagan.

OK, that’s stretching it a little. I love the Internet --- constantly informed, often amused and frequently amazed by it. And I don’t think of Reagan often enough to work up a good case of hate or anything else. Certainly wouldn’t have thought of him at all today if I hadn’t seen something about Sarah Palin speaking at an event in Santa Barbara marking his 100th birthday.

Ronnie spent a few years in Iowa, you know --- sportscaster for WOC and later WHO radio --- the latter once of the Voice of the Midwest, now, appropriately, a soapbox for right-wing demagogues.

Palin and Reagan are a lot alike, I guess. Both hollow --- shake ‘em and they rattle. That doesn’t make the presence of one or the memory of the other any less offensive, however. But you’ve got to give it to Palin --- that little gal’s a money-making machine. I wonder how much they paid her in Santa Barbara.

I really do hate my computer sometimes, though --- when it doesn’t work and all I can do is sputter (maybe I should read the instruction book). And I hate viruses, too. I had a couple of those this morning. But after the computer spent two hours on the phone with our friends at SecureIT having her innards cleaned, all was well again (or at least I hope so).

A lot of LGBT people really do hate Reagan, however, holding him personally responsible for government inaction that allowed AIDS to become a worldwide pandemic that had killed more than 16,000 people in the United States alone before he saw fit to mention it in 1987 (the U.S. death toll now exceeds 600,000; the world toll, in excess of 25 million).

The comparison often is made to the unprecedented and successful effort made to track down the cause of legionnaires' disease, first recognized when an outbreak in Philadelphia killed 34 in 1976. The victims there, of course, were heterosexual (or perceived to be) --- and that made all the difference.

But I’m never sure how much of Ronald Reagan actually was left behind that face of his by the 1980s --- and how much had slid into dementia. Perhaps he really was just a false front --- like one of those fake buildings on the movie sets he knew as a second-rate actor.

Even if a substantial percentage of him still was there, he was really only the public frontman for one of the greatest public health debacles on record --- a shifting mess of ignorance regarding a new disease mixed with misinformation about it, underfunded and occasionally posturing researchers, that active hatred among some Christians and others for gay men and massive inidifference among other Christians and others  (so long as it was assumed only gay men would die).

I turn 65 in this year when the Republicans' best-loved corpse celebrates its hundredth, and I’m glad to be here --- don’t mind the years at all; grateful for them. There are a lot of other guys about my age I wish were here, too --- I cared a lot about a couple of them, others I just knew or knew of, many more I learned about by reading about them, reading their books, admiring their art and their films, reading their names on the Quilt.

Randy Shilts was one of the latter, and his landmark 1987 “An the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic” is the best source for learning more about how and why indifference and infighting fanned a possibly controllable prairie fire into worldwide holocaust.

But hate Reagan? There's no future in that. Just forget him. History will. Focus instead on those who revere his myth today. They're the deadly ones.

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