I did not expect to become embroiled in an online debate across so many channels concerning the comments Hillary Clinton made regarding Nancy Regan and her (non-existent and in fact deleterious) impact on the AIDS crisis that toppled the gay community in the 1980s.
The potential for the Regan administration to have done “something” regarding the developing AIDS crisis was huge. Instead, they ignored and dismissed it. The data available during his administration clearly indicated an epidemic — the number of AIDS related deaths and new HIV infections during his tenure showed exponential growth trends.
The problem, perhaps, was that it was concentrated within the gay community.
Back to today…
Hillary Clinton’s statement on her comments about the Reagans’ record on HIV and AIDS: pic.twitter.com/RtIs0zpJfk
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 11, 2016
Hillary gaffed. People gaffe. Her intent was not to call out something that didn’t actually happen, it wasn’t to offend the gay community or offend the memories of those lost, it was simply miscommunication and a mistake – for which she promptly apologized.
I’m gay, and I still think Nancy Regan was a great first lady. “Just say no” was a failed mantra but it started the conversation about addiction in way that wasn’t popular at the time. Remember, the 80s were the height of denial. To acknowledge drug addiction was even impacting children was a huge deal.
They (the Regans and the administration at that time) fucked up acknowledging the AIDS crisis and none of us can say what we would have done given the information available at the time. It was so unclear what was happening that it took nearly a decade for people to really understand it.
I also think it’s unfair to say that their opinions were any different than the zeitgeist of the time. Gays were second or third class at that time. That doesn’t make it right. Just like it doesn’t make it right what the Muslim community endures now.
And 30 years later we don’t have a cure. We have treatment, we have incredible doctors and scientists devoted to ending the disease or preventing it from spreading further.
We have people like me who have fund raised for this cause to enable programs and services that help all kinds of HIV-positive people live a full and fulfilling life.
We have people like me who make mistakes…who falter. Who do so with far less an audience than what Hillary or anyone like her has to capture every misstep.
What makes me so sad (and I’m guilty of this behavior too) is our inability to forgive, lack of desire to seek understanding, our instantaneous dismissal of the broader context, and our propensity to immediately pounce, penalize, and villainize anyone.
Even someone who gave one of the most touching speeches I’ve ever heard.
This very speech calls us to work together with people with whom we disagree to achieve equality for everyone.
I suppose that only matters as long as they never make a mistake.