Just As I Thought

Well, strike me

Wow — a lot can happen while you’re deeply ensconced working on stuff.
Take a moment to look around and you discover that your earlier rant about the possibility of Ronald Reagan’s demise came eerily true when you weren’t watching.
How odd it is, therefore, that the family spokesperson denied that he had taken a turn for the worse, when, as became obvious today, he had.
Sad, when such a famous figure passes away. But even though I thought he was an okay president 20 years ago when I was 18, I’ve learned more and seen more, and realized just what his presidency was. I still wonder what he was like. Was he swept up with advisors who ran the show? Did his presidency really reflect his beliefs?
The thing that is preying on my mind now is this: how many more public buildings, subway stations, and airports are going to be named after the man?


  • Reagan saw the beginning of the AIDS pandemic and denied it, for years he couldn’t bring himself to say the word. Through his inaction (politics couched in morality) he has the deaths of millions on his hands — his death means nothing.

  • National Gay and Lesbian Task Force huh? Well there’s an un-objective view.
    “The government’s response was dictated by the grip of evangelical Christian conservatives who saw gay people as sinners and AIDS as God’s well-deserved punishment…” I don’t doubt that and I never have, but it misses the point. To blame the epidemic on one man is no more than ignorant finger pointing. It’s a much bigger issue than that.
    Oh and Wes, sorry about the word ‘crap’ that was probably a little knee-jerky and disrespectful. Somtimes I get a little carried away.

  • What a load of “And The Band Played On” over simplified crap.
    Sorry to be so blunt, I’ve read your posts before and agree (respect) with many of them but this one just stirred something in me.
    Assumingly by your statement it would go to figure that had Reagan said the word ‘AIDS’ that a cure would have been found and millions would have lived. Well, I suppose that since the details of his battle with Alzheimer’s was kept largely private he must have been the cause of millions due to that disease as well.
    Now I’m quite aware of the more than possible reasons of his denial of AIDS, but that does not mean that much more could have been done to prevent it’s spread. There is only so much you can do to educate a bunch of tribesmen in Africa (whom did, does and allways will take the bulk of the AIDS deaths). Had Reagan been quicker in responses I highly doubt it would have made a dent in the overall picture.
    Like most everyone, I have lost a friend to AIDS and it rips my heart out every time I think about it. However I must keep in perspective that I have lost family members to Diabetes, Strokes and heart ailments, three diseases that all take more American lives than AIDS, yet have no ribbons or quilts… just graves.

    If you think his death means nothing, talk to one of the millions who lived under the hammer of the former Soviet Union.

    …oh, and sorry ’bout the spelling but I have to checker on this terminal.

  • Well, let’s stoke the flames of this argument a bit: here’s a media release from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force which just came across my e-mail.
    Sunday, June 6, 2004

    A Letter to My Best Friend, Steven Powsner On the Death of Former President Ronald Reagan

    Matt Foreman, Executive Director National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

    June 6, 2004

    Dear Steven,

    I so much wish you were here today to tell me what to do. You would know if it’s right to comment on the death of former President Reagan, or if I should just let pass the endless paeans to his greatness. But you’re not here. The policies of the Reagan administration saw to that.

    Yes, Steven, I do feel for the family and friends of the former President. The death of a loved one is always a profoundly sad occasion, and Mr. Reagan was loved by many. I have tremendous empathy and respect for Mrs. Reagan, who lovingly cared for him through excruciating years of Alzheimer’s.

    Sorry, Steven, but even on this day I’m not able to set aside the shaking anger I feel over Reagan’s non-response to the AIDS epidemic or for the continuing anti-gay legacy of his administration. Is it personal? Of course. AIDS was first reported in 1981, but President Reagan could not bring himself to address the plague until March 31, 1987, at which time there were 60,000 reported cases of full-blown AIDS and 30,000 deaths. I remember that day, Steven – you were staying round-the-clock in Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital caring for your dying partner of over 15 years, Bruce Cooper. It was another 41 days of utter agony for both of you before Bruce died. During those years of White House silence and inaction, how many other dear friends did we see sicken and die hideous deaths?

    Is it personal? Yes, Steven. I know for a fact that you would be alive today if the Reagan administration had mounted even a tepid response to the epidemic. If protease inhibitors been available in July of 1995 instead of December, you’d still be here.

    I wouldn’t feel so angry if the Reagan administration’s failing was due to ignorance or bureaucratic ineptitude. No, Steven, we knew then it was deliberate. The government’s response was dictated by the grip of evangelical Christian conservatives who saw gay people as sinners and AIDS as God’s well-deserved punishment. Remember? The White House Director of Communications, Patrick Buchanan, once argued in print that AIDS is nature’s revenge on gay men. Reagan’s Secretary of Education, William Bennett, and his domestic policy adviser, Gary Bauer, made sure that science (and basic tenets of Christianity, for that matter) never got in the way of politics or what they saw as “God’s” work.

    Even so, I think I could let go of this anger if this was just another overwhelmingly sad chapter in our nation’s past. It is not. Steven, can you believe that the unholy pact President Reagan and the Republican Party entered with the forces of religious intolerance have not weakened, but grown exponentially stronger? Can you believe that the U.S. government is still bowing to right wing extremists and fighting condom distribution and explicit HIV education, even while AIDS is killing millions across the world? Or that “devout” Christians have forced the scrapping of AIDS prevention programs targeted at HIV-negative gay and bisexual men in favor of bullshit “abstinence only until marriage” initiatives? Or the shameless duplicity of these same forces seeking to forever outlaw even the hope of marriage for gay people? Or that Reagan stalwarts like Buchanan, Bennett and Bauer are still grinding their homophobic axes?

    No, Steven, I do not presume to judge Ronald Reagan’s soul or heart. He may very well have been a nice guy. In fact, I don’t think that Reagan hated gay people — I’m sure some of his and Nancy’s best friends were gay. But I do know that the Reagan administration’s policies on AIDS and anything gay-related resulted – and continue to result – in despair and death.

    Oh, Steven, how much I wish so much you were here.


    (On November 20, 1995, Steven Powsner, died of complications from AIDS at age 40. He had been President of the New York City Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center from 1992-1994.)

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