My students ask me how all of this could have happened. They are all smart, they understand politics, they understand the fear of AIDS, they understand how complicated and confusing history and life can be. But they cannot understand such indifference, even when politically motivated. I told one of my students that the most memorable Reagan AIDS moment for me was at the 1986 centenary rededication of the Statue of Liberty. The Reagans were there sitting next to French President Francois Mitterand and his wife, Danielle. Bob Hope was on stage entertaining the all-star audience. In the middle of a series of one-liners Hope quipped, “I just heard that the Statue of Liberty has AIDS but she doesn’t know if she got it from the mouth of the Hudson or the Staten Island Fairy.” As the television camera panned the audience, the Mitterands looked appalled. The Reagans were laughing. -Michael Bronski, The Truth About Reagan and AIDS
My first reaction, upon hearing of Reagan’s death on Saturday, was oh great, now we have to hear about how wonderful he was for the next month.
Of course my resentment against Reagan is personal. His administration secretly sold arms to Iran and used the money to fund the Contras in Nicaragua, an army that was extremely unpopular in that country. I know everyone’s sick of hearing it, but I visited Nicaragua a couple of times in high school, which is where I had my first crush, a 17 year old boy who was later killed by the Contras. I don’t think “hero” when I hear Reagan’s name. On the contrary, he makes my stomach turn.