Monday, June 07, 2004

No, I wasn't crying because the man died. I knew better, my gut told me not to pay attention to any of the coverage, and I've been pretty good about keeping the TV off (except the Weather Channel). But for some reason last night, I began parusing the blogosphere, and a few mentioned the dead president, of course. Wisecracks, dancing, odd pictorial tributes, silly recollections of being age 6 when the man was reelected, etc etc. Much of this left me unaffected - irrelevant, childish, or uninteresting - whatever the reason, I didn't expect a serious, well-thought out reaction to this event. And most of us who have these webpages prefer to entertain our handful of readers, anyway, so the wisecrack, or defiant cuss word, shouldn't surprise me.

But then I read somewhere that in the 10,757 word N Y Times Reagan obituary, there was one word glaringly missing - AIDS! I had to see for myself - and I will readily admit to not having read the thing thoroughly - but I did a good skim, plus using the old CONTROL F function to search, and it's not there. I called the "80's boyfriend" again, he had called me the night before after hearing the news, and I told him. I often tease him about his cynicism, but his response wasn't cynical at all, it was pure disbelief. When I mentioned it was a 4-page obit, he was even further shocked, something like - 'the worst public health crisis in a generation, if not more, under his watch, his delays and inaction costing incalculable lives, and they can't even find space for a sentence or two???'

And this is when they began, silently, to fall from my eyes. Realizing that history may well forget, and there are so few of us who seem to even care. It's not a simple matter of blame, or argument - the rationales, the conflicting priorities, the so-called other achievements - I understand and accept that what was the most important thing to me and my friends was not the most important thing to everyone, but to simply erase that there was any importance at all, that the immediate effect his inaction, delay, and silence had on tens of thousands of lives, and ultimately tens of millions, is just not mentioned - it's fucking shameful and unforgivable.

Specific names and faces popped into my head, my pal and I continued on the phone, he eventually returned to his usual cynicism, and me still in disbelief, eyes dry. After we hung up, I just sat in sadness, totally not expecting that this would churn up so much emotion. And there is no where to go with it. I don't want to read about how the man deserved the suffering he got later in life - I'm too familiar with folks who presume to know that illness and suffering is sent as a punishment from god. I don't expect a newspaper to have AIDS Criminal Dies At Age 93 as a banner headline. But isn't it reasonable to expect that in a lengthy newspaper piece on a public figure's life, when heralding his accomplishments, reminding us how 'the Great Communicator' inspired millions at home and abroad, that this piece should also include one of his most glaring failures, his lack of leadership on an important health issue that would affect millions for decades to come?