“A National Conversation”
One of the reasons I’ve been more of a Clinton supporter than my demographics as a young, very liberal, white man indicate I should be is the same reason why a lot of people don’t like her. I actually appreciate the extent to which she’s changed her positions over the years. It implies that she has the capability to see what’s happening around her and adapt her opinions to new contexts and facts, which is how all public leaders should act. I want a politician who is willing to change their mind when they realize their old opinions are no longer good (or never were). I also want to encourage people to re-evaluate their opinions on topics, and if we punish politicians for changing their minds, then we dis-incentivize critical thinking.
One of the areas in which I thought she had accomplished this particularly well was in the LGBTQ arena. There’s no denying she was very anti-gay for much of her career. But with the passion of the converted, she seemed to have seen the light and really worked tirelessly on LGBTQ issues, particularly as Secretary of State. She understood representation was important, even including gay couples in her campaign announcement video. I compared that to Bernie Sanders, who never made gay rights a priority, even if he tended towards being pro-gay, and who actually was not a fan of gay marriage for almost as long as Clinton (look it up — his DOMA vote was because he thought states should discriminate against gays instead of the federal government). I thought Hillary would be a better, more passionate advocate for us, and would understand that issues of sexuality and gender (and race) can’t boil down solely to class, which I wasn’t sure Sanders really got (I’m still not sure about that). Clinton was new to intersectionality, but she was there — I still don’t think Sanders is. In short, I just felt like I belonged in her America — I’m not quite sure I belong in his.
And yet, today we learned that Clinton hadn’t even bothered to learn the basics of our community’s history when she said that the Reagans helped start a national conversation about HIV/AIDS. A history she should have known because she lived simultaneously with it. That she could position herself as an ally to us and then praise our number one enemy on the issue of AIDS is unconscionable. And her “apology” where she continued to praise Reagan’s other achievements even while she claims to have misspoke about the AIDS issue was almost as bad as the original statement, in my book. If she had ever taken seriously what a gay person who lived through the 80’s (and those she couldn’t talk to because so many didn’t live through the 80’s) said or thought, it would have been impossible to say the thing she said. I thought her Barry Goldwater days were far behind her, but it seems clear today there’s still some element of that inside of her.
Can she bring back my passion for her? It’ll be tough. Maybe if she takes time off and dedicates herself to talking and listening to queer people, hearing our stories, and comes to understand that what she said was really a form of violence against a marginalized community — well, then we can at least talk about it.
The header image I keep on my Facebook page is a famous Keith Haring painting. His art famously dealt with sex and community and AIDS; when he died of AIDS in 1990, Madonna did a tribute concert for him and donated all the proceeds to AIDS charities. I chose it as my cover image because I want to remind people seeing my page (and remind myself) of that history because I don’t think we can appreciate where we are today without it. And of course, the old adage of those forgetting their history being doomed to repeat it.
Anyway, to end, I link you to another Haring piece. I think he should get the last word, and note that Silence, in large part, meant the Reagans. http://www.haring.com/!/art-work/253