During an interview with her pal Andrea Mitchell at former first lady Nancy Reagan’s funeral, Hillary Clinton made some rather infuriatingly ridiculous assertions, heaping praise on Ronald and Nancy Reagan for having “started a national conversation” about HIV/AIDS when “nobody would talk about it, nobody wanted to do anything about it.”
Anyone who lived through the 1980s – or has a grasp on history and reality – knows just how maddening it is to listen to Hillary Clinton speak of an “effective” and “low-key advocacy” for the disease when, in fact, the response was nothing short of morally reprehensible. Prompting ACT-UP to adopt the slogan “Silence = Death” in response to Reagan‘s unwillingness to speak of the disease even as hundreds of thousand of Americans remained ignorant, ignored, terrified and dropping dead.
As Michael Specter wrote in the New Yorker, “President Reagan’s first speech on the subject wasn’t until May 31, 1987. By then, more than twenty-five thousand people, the majority of them gay men, had died in the United States.
Clinton later tweeted an apology, saying she “misspoke,” but in my view, “misspeaking” is choosing inartful words like “ghetto” when trying to explain the vital need for racial and social justice, as Bernie Sanders did – giving the Clinton campaign a opportunity to attempt to disparage him.
But, it’s hard to imagine someone “misspeaking” about the undisputed, unconscionable, Reagan Administration response to the AIDS epidemic. No one – not even Republicans with a vested interest in cultivating the Reagan myth – would dare praise the Reagans for their non-response response to the AIDS crisis – except, now, Hillary Clinton. One can understand how someone can “misspeak” using insensitive words, but not about an entire history indelibly etched in the minds of the people who lived to tell. To do so is to reveal oneself as either misinformed – or weighed down by a larger, more troubling agenda.
You Can’t Trust Insiders to Change the Status Quo that Sustains Them
You see, to me, this isn’t just another incident where Hillary says what she thinks is the most politically advantageous statement to make at the time – but it is characteristic of a larger revisionist narrative where members of the political establishment seek to protect the status quo and maintain their own power by signaling what is – and is not – an appropriate, and/or “praiseworthy” avenue towards change.
In a time when Democratic voters are deciding which presidential primary candidate is most suited to help usher in the change all candidates agree is needed, it’s no surprise the candidate who is the very embodiment of the political establishment would weave a tale about “low-key advocacy” – neglecting that the real change agents were amassed in the streets, disrupting business as usual, loudly banging on the walls of power.
AIDS activists at the time didn’t politely beg for a seat at the table – they demanded it. They upset the establishment by stopping traffic with “die-ins,” loudly confronting politicians and making powerful, public statements by throwing the ashes of their dead loved ones over the gates of the White House.
All the while, the Reagans partied on in the halls of power, even laughing at the victims of AIDS and turning their backs on lifelong friends like Rock Hudson who begged Nancy for help. She refused.
In light of the Reagan Administration’s actual response to the AIDS crisis, Hillary’s revisionist narrative is akin to a form of Holocaust denial. In fact, not only did she propagate a disingenuous narrative – she elevated those who were the villains in the story to the role of hero. She’s apologizing because she’s getting heat for it. I couldn’t help but take this as a foreshadowing of what I innately suspect – that, just as she’s done in the past, Hillary has no problem throwing the lgbt community under the bus in the name of political expedience.
Take a lesson from AIDS activists – eradicating the scourge of money in politics won’t come from “low-key advocacy” from within the halls of power
Today, we may not be fighting a plague, but we are up against the democracy-destroying disease of a political system run on legal bribery, whose symptom in economic inequality. The Democratic field is offering the choice between Bernie Sanders – a standard bearer calling for a revolution of people re-engaged to wrest democracy from the clutches of oligarchy – or the supposed “pragmatism” offered by insiders like the Clintons.
Like the tale of a polite conversation that never happened, Democratic Party insiders are instructing liberals to be good girls and boys and be “realistic.” Political insiders who once professed their commitment to things like single-payer healthcare are now insisting it will “never, ever, ever happen.” We must only discuss “change” that we can “get done” – bestowed upon us by the very people who benefit from making sure everything remains the same. Um… Ok.
Warnings from the political establishment about what can “get done” come from their fear that the people finally have a candidate who will work to deliver on the promises
Forget “hope” and “change we can believe in,” now we’re instructed to believe that it’s not pragmatic even to imagine a system that responds to the wants and needs of the working class majority. Candidate Obama campaigned on the disaster that is NAFTA. President Obama gave us more free-trade agreements with Korea, Panama, Colombia – and is pushing an agreement negotiated in secret without a single labor representative – the TPP. In a system that operates on legal bribery, selling out the working people who put you in office on the promise of “change” is the “pragmatism” we’ve been instructed to embrace.
Hillary and her advocates are suddenly so concernerd that the public might be dissapointed when lofty goals aren’t delivered. In fact, these warnings of what “can be done” are more reflective of the fact that Bernie is a candidate who will actually work to deliver them.
Hillary’s “inevitable” candidacy depends on the American people believing that political revolutions are impractical. That a broken system is the best we can do and the best way to make “change” is to appoint the appropriate insider to “start a conversation.”
AIDS activists in the 1980s and 1990s didn’t have time to hope that legislators would be so kind to “evolve.” Their friends, family and loved ones were dying by the scores. Polite conversation is reserved for those who can afford its luxury. In the midst of a deadly plague there was no other way to get the attention of a disinterested political establishment than to demand it.
Silence STILL equals Death. Fabricated Tales of “low-key advocacy” fit that narrative that disruptive revolutionaries don’t usher in change – insiders do
Many people living with HIV/AIDS are still alive today because of the brave political activists who dared to disrupt the corrupt status quo maintained by the political insider elite. No surprise, though, deliberately or not, Hillary’s revisionist history lesson tried to silence them again by eradicating them from our national memory – lest people working for the real change that’s desperately needed to remedy American inequality get any ideas as to how it’s done.
It’s not just Hillary’s fabrication of tales that bothers me, but the causual manner in which she delivers them. Like the one she wove on the Rachel Maddow Show about how Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act because of the Republican threat of an anti-gay Constitutional Amendment – that wasn’t even discussed until years later when Bush squatted in the White House. I find the easy manner in which Hillary recalls events she clearly pulled out of her ass to be a problem. Hillary’s 36% trustworthy rating AMONG DEMOCRATS simply cannot be written off as a result of the “vast, right-wing conspiracy.” It is because of her long history of bullshit.
In order for one to change the fundamental rot in the system, one has to first, at least, be interested in being honest. Her revisionist praise of Reagan’s repugnant non-response to a crisis that was killing Americans by the score sends the signal that Hillary is playing politics as usual and simply uninterested in being the true agent of change. In the 1980s and 1990s, activists organized a revolution that fought the AIDS crisis. Today, that same revolutionary spirit is needed to rebuild the American middle class that Reaganomics – and Clintonomics – worked in tandem to destroy.
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