8 June 2004

All Reagan all the time

Various pieces about Reagan have come across my inbox in the last
couple of days.  Many of them are angry, such as this one from
activist and academic Eric Rofes:

What Do We Do with the Rage and the Fury This Time?

By Eric Rofes

is easy for some to see the few sensible voices refusing to jump on the
bandwagon that is dramatically rewriting the Reagan years as
cantankerous malcontents raining on our nation’s patriotic parade
honoring this “national hero,” “great leader” and “greatest president.”

Call it a grudge steadfastly maintained by old timers who
never learned know how to forgive and forget.   Criticize it as a
lack of respect for the dead. Condemn it as simply more Reagan-bashing
from the Left.

Or identify it for what it really is:  bold truth-telling amidst a nation
wrapping itself in the worst kind of denial masquerading as ultra-patriotic zeal.

Finger it as an attempt to puncture the Bush administration opportunistic

efforts to utilize Reagan’s death to revive a failing campaign for re-election.

the surviving victims of the conservative social and economic policies
of the Reagan-Bush era, the past few days of all-Reagan-all-the-time
television coverage by Stepford journalists have seemed oddly and
horribly familiar.  They remind us of the stark cultural divide
that emerged ever more powerfully during the Reagan years between the
privileged classes holding power and those who were marginalized,
oppressed, and silenced.

For queers, they hearken back to the first seven years
of the Reagan administration, when the tidal waves of AIDS began
washing over the shores of the U.S. lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender communities.   Those of us who were out and involved
in queer community life during the 1980s, watched as our friends and
lovers dropped dead around us while America looked the other way.

Reagan’s disgraceful and willful failure to speak out on AIDS and take action for
those seven years mirrored much of the nation’s failure to acknowledge the terror visited on our communities.

many gay men during these years, I felt a profound disconnect between
the world I inhabited and mainstream America. I was working as director
of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Community Center during these
years as terrified gay men poured into our clinics, support groups, and
counseling center.   As our small and under-resourced communities
struggled to educate the public, initiate the first prevention
campaigns, care for our friends, and bury our dead, Reagan said nothing
and did nothing.   His medical and health leaders did nothing. His
budget directors, attorney generals, and legal experts did nothing.
While gay men wiped drool and shit off our lovers, read mounting
obituaries in gay papers, and funneled into the ranks of volunteer
caregiver organizations, mainstream America marched forward to the
Reagan priorities of making money, protecting privilege, and creating a
culture of greed.  

I the only one who is experiencing the current media love-fest of
Reagan as a revisiting of the trauma of those early AIDS years?  
Am I the only one raging at the television screen, ripping the
newspaper to shreds, cursing at my car radio?   Am I the only one
hungering for community leaders to create activism and rituals to
disrupt and puncture this outrageous and insulting cultural amnesia?

Just as our queer community was abandoned and left on
our own to create the early responses to AIDS, I encourage us to
immediately initiate community-based opportunities to express our
outrage at the dishonest reinvention of the Reagan legacy and to link
up with all the other communities that are experiencing similar fury.
  In particular I suggest we:

o  Urge our community centers to immediately organize speak-out and teach-in
sessions that will take place on the same days as Reagan lies in state in
Washington, D.C. or very soon after.  These community forums can serve as a place
to vent our rage, expose the truth about Reagan, educate younger activists,
and commemorate those who died due to Reagan’s failure of leadership.

o  Create public “shrines” in queer neighborhoods that colorfully
and creatively expose what Reagan and his conservative movement did to
people with AIDS, queers, people of color, women, poor people, and
children.   If we use campy neighborhood shrines to honor queer
icons and community leaders, let’s also use them to vilify our greatest
enemies, especially when the rest of the nation is honoring them as

o  Yank our Silence = Death tee-shirts out of
storage, put them on, and explain what the slogan owes to Ronald
Reagan…or be sure to wear colorful bright and gay clothing on the
national days of morning for Reagan.   We should all interrupt and
speak out when friends, work associates, and family members mimic the
media’s mindless commemoration of the Reagan years.  

could only bring his lips to form the word “AIDS” when hundreds of
queer community leaders converged on Washington D.C. on June 1st, 1987,
sat in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue, and got arrested and taken
off to jail.   I remember that day well.   We organized this
national direct action event at the moment our terror and exhaustion
morphed into outrage and fury.

Today, after just a few days of hearing
repeated voices in the media discuss Reagan as “the best president we
ever had,” “a man who loved all Americans,” and “the man who brought
the nation together and restored unity and pride,” my outrage and fury
are back.   I’m ready to take action.  

Hugo speaks rather eloquently about at least one thing that Reagan did for gays.

Jonathan Rauch, a well-known advocate for gay marriage, writes that Mr. Reagan single-handedly turned the tide against the measure.
Reagan gave political cover to those in the “silent majority” who might
have been uncomfortable with homosexuality, but who were even more
uncomfortable with outright bigotry. Three weeks after the defeat of
the Briggs Initiative, Harvey Milk was assassinated in San Francisco’s
City Hall. Thus in the same month, November 1978, the GLBT movement in
America won its first great victory at the ballot box, and gained its
first martyr. In the first of these, there is no denying that Ronald
Reagan played a crucial part. In this, he was on the right side of
justice and history.

It probably wasn’t enough.  Rumor also had it that he did such things to protect family and friends who were gay.

My friend Billy writes, “What use is it to get
into pissing matches over which of his policies were good and which were
evil.  What is done is done.  So as his remains are put into the ground I
invite you to join me in clearing any of those poisonous memories from the
dusty shelves of your mind and spiritually throw them into the grave with
him–buried forever.   Louise Hay once said that forgiving is a gift I give
myself, I use it to free myself from the past and live in the present.”

James Alison has noted, in another context, that forgiveness is not
an action, it’s a process, of which the ability to say that we have
forgiven a person is only the final outcome in a transformation of
one’s whole life.

My response has been to hear an echoing of part of the gospels:

“Another disciple said to him, ‘Lord, let me go and bury my father
first.’  But Jesus told him, ‘Follow me, and let the dead bury
their own dead.'”

Whatever you thought of Reagan, creating the world of justice, peace, and mercy will not be found at his funeral.

Posted in Politicks on 8 June 2004 at 3:32 pm by Nate


Hugo’s got a posting about plagiarism in one of his classes.

Mercifully, my own experiences with it have been few.

I always find it amazing that students think we teachers won’t figure
out that they’ve plagiarized.  Usually, it’s pretty damn
obvious.  I had one case where the student wrote two paragraphs in
barely standard, badly constructed prose, shifted for two paragraphs to
a Freudian psycho-sexual analysis way beyond anything presented in
class, in complicated prose, and then back to the student’s badly
mangled own work.

I don’t feel quite so bad about giving the F in that case.  If
you’re stupid enough to submit an assignment as above, you probably
shouldn’t pass the class to begin with.

Posted in IvoryTower on 8 June 2004 at 3:01 pm by Nate