Friday, June 11, 2004
Moral Mockeries and Lamentable Legacies
That the media and the government, or anyone really, is surprised by the abuse scandal is mind boggling. When you send women and men off to kill people you obviously have to desensitize them by reducing the enemy to a sub-human level. To expect anyone to be able to sophisticatedly switch compassion on the basis of inadequate training and conflicting, shifting and shifty, Geneva-Convention-dodging interpretations designed to avoid culpability and responsibility at every turn -- Love thy Prisoner of War like thou love thine Enemy Combatant -- is fundamentally impossible for almost any human. Even Gods. Even Ronald Reagan.
The Reagan administration's policy of constructive engagement has already led to a significant relaxation of the arms embargo. Stressing the goal of regional stability the American government has now adopted a policy which they see as an "even handed" approach to all countries in the region. Thus the Reagan administration seeks to blame all sides equally for the violence in the region, ignoring the fact that the violence stems from apartheid. In reality there is no even handedness in the U.S.'s engagement in southern Africa; policy in the last three years has resulted in an increased South African ability to harass and dominate regionally.
The effect of the easing of the arms embargo, both in terms of the actual regulations and in terms of interpretation, has been documented in Military Exports to South Africa: A Research Report on the Arms Embargo by NARMIC. The study reveals that more than $28.3 million worth of military equipment was authorised for sale to South Africa for fiscal years 1981-1984, as compared to $25,000 for 1979.
The South African government continues to depend on foreign arms and technology. South Africa is reportedly looking for a new generation of fighter planes. Secrecy continues to be the order of the day.
The South African government's policy of destabilisation of the Front Line States, continued illegal occupation of Namibia and repressive actions inside South Africa itself demonstrates that apartheid continues to be a threat to peace. The Reagan policy of constructive engagement has contributed to the arming of apartheid.
Richard Knight, Reagan Administration's Policy Of "Constructive Engagement" And The Arms Embargo Against South Africa, Statement before the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid, American Committee on Africa, April 3, 1984
The latest media vomit fest, the never-ending funeral of Ronald Reagan (that might require a tax increase to pay for it all), managed to bump George W. Bush’s D-day speech in Normandy and the G8 Summit in Georgia into total oblivion. At the same time every worm, liar, thief and hypocrite, from Peggy Noonan’s hot flushing recollections to the fey Gary Bauer came crawling out of the woodwork to fabricate his legacy. From Iran Contra to Constructive Engagement and AIDS, his murderous, elitist, homophobic, racist City on the Hill was fondly remembered, no doubt, by the starving “Welfare Queens,” survivors of lovers, sons, father, mothers, sisters and brothers lost to AIDS thanks to his “compassionate conservatism”. (Like Hitler’s euphemizing his mass executions in the gas chambers as “compassionate conservation”). And then, of course, the countless people killed in South Africa under his constructive engagement policy that armed the Apartheid regime to the hilt, refused to impose sanctions on the White minority, and deemed Nelson Mandela a “terrorist” who deserved to rot in jail.
Even in a corporate controlled, free-market, capitalist democracy (does such a thing actually exist?), the Office of the President holds a certain amount of standing – enough to effect policy and to get corporations to do certain things to curry favor, if nothing else. Ronald Regan’s despicable equation of AIDS and morality resulted in not only the stigmatization and demonization of groups of people, but coupled with the Reverends of the Day (Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Lou Sheldon et al.) who communicated that AIDS was God’s punishment for “immoral behavior” (Yes, the same ones who blamed liberals, gays, and pro-choice women for September 11th) resulted in years and years of inaction that could have made an enormous difference and saved countless lives. As it turns out, (and contrary to the geocentric extrapolations of Reagan apologists that totally ignore the demographics of AIDS globally), the virus (yep, that’s what it is HIV, simply a virus) does not discriminate, and the disproportionate amount of women and children in Africa, for instance, that are victims of AIDS is severe enough and dangerous enough and threatening enough right now to have a devastating effect on all of us.
Strange how it started with the gays and drug users and managed to make its way to the poor ethnic minorities in the US and the poor ethnic majorities in Africa and, surprise, China. I wonder what moral shortcomings those little AIDS orphans in Africa harbored to warrant such a cruel and unforgiving punishment. Perhaps the savage rapes of some of their mothers by HIV positive men mired in poverty, fear and ignorance were visited on them. God is, apparently, funny that way.
It’s all quite simple really. When, as a species, we are confronted with a virus or a bacteria that has the potential to kill us, the intelligent thing to do is to take our self-righteous, elitist morality and shove it far enough up our asses to allow the best brains we have to figure out a way to beat it. Whether it first impacts women, children, gays, men, transgendered persons, minorities, the marginalized or whoever and whatever other forms we take as we plod around this earth, is totally irrelevant. A more compassionate, intelligent President, not Reagan's astrological incompetence, not the self-described Kinder, Gentler idiot that followed and spawned the Crueler, Rougher moron we have now, and not even the too-little-too-late Blow Buddy from Arkansas, but a real President, would not have approached AIDS as another failed War policy (ala Drugs and Terror), but rather a ‘Quest for a Cure’. Should we just ignore SARS now because it’s really just a little yellow people problem, or have we evolved a little since 1980?
Tutu expressed his high regard for young people and said he felt privileged to speak to them. He also thanked them for their help in eradicating apartheid in South Africa.
During the 1980s, the people of South Africa called upon the world community to impose sanctions on the apartheid government, but then-President Ronald Reagan opposed sanctions and "had a policy of so-called constructive engagement," Tutu said. Reagan, he said, was supported in his view by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of England.
On campuses across America, students engaged in demonstrations to force their institutions to divest from South Africa, Tutu said. They helped change the moral climate in the United States to such an extent that Congress eventually passed anti-apartheid legislation, imposing sanctions and mustering a presidential veto override, he said.
"So we owe a lot to young people. Our victory in South Africa was made possible by such dedication and support. Thank you, thank you, thank you."
For Reagan truly was a great communicator, though not with words -- or with facts, which he once called "stupid things." No, his genius lay in the manipulation of symbols to convey powerful messages that could no longer be voiced openly in polite society -- messages of hate, envy, fear and violence. Reagan officially launched his successful 1980 presidential campaign in Philadelphia -- not the Quaker "city of brotherly love" in Pennsylvania, but a small town in the piney swamps of Mississippi, where three young civil rights workers had been brutally murdered by local officials in 1964 for the heinous crime of registering black people to vote. This was the famous "Mississippi Burning" case, a stark symbol of the era of violent race-hatred and government-sanctioned oppression. The decades-long struggle to bring full constitutional liberty into this system was fiercely resisted under the rubric of "states' rights" -- a codeword for the preservation of white privilege and black subjugation. Every Southerner raised in that system (including your correspondent) understood this secret language. [...]
[...] Once in power, Reagan slashed civil rights protections and supported the use of public money for private "religious" colleges that discriminated against blacks. He decimated housing, health, education and economic development programs for the poor. He helped flood the nation's ghettos with cheap cocaine through his criminal Iran-Contra scam, where the CIA countenanced -- and sometimes facilitated -- drug running by the Central American ganglords that Reagan employed to funnel illegal arms to his terrorist Contra army in Nicaragua -- as the CIA itself admitted in 1998, Consortiumnews.com reports.
Reagan then championed draconian drug laws and "mandatory sentencing" rules that transformed the American justice system into a vast gulag-state that imprisons more people than any nation on earth. When Reagan took office, there were approximately 300,000 people in prison; when he left, the figure was 800,000. Now, under his ideological soulmate, George W. Bush, the number has topped 2 million, Reuters reports. Incredibly, one in every 75 American men is now incarcerated; 68 percent of these are racial minorities.
But we don't mean to imply that Reagan was personally a racist. No, his toxic legacy shadows every race, creed, color and nationality. His crimeful enterprises at home and abroad set the stage for today's lawless, murderous Bush-bin Laden world. [...]
[...] Yes, as the laudatory headlines noted incessantly this week, Reagan indeed changed the world. It's a harsher, uglier, more unjust, more violent, more ignorant and fear-ridden place because of his leadership. God save us from any more communicators this "great."
After years of negligent silence, President Ronald Reagan finally uses the word "AIDS" in public. He sided with his Education Secretary William Bennett and other conservatives who said the Government should not provide sex education information.
On April 2, 1987, Reagan said: "How that information is used must be up to schools and parents, not government. But let's be honest with ourselves, AIDS information can not be what some call 'value neutral.' After all, when it comes to preventing AIDS, don't medicine and morality teach the same lessons."
I could never understand why Reagan’s hatred of us was so intense and manifest and never-ending. Some of Nancy Reagan’s best friends were gay, the self-loathing Jerry Zipkin, at one time her principle “walker,” chief among them. It is said he taught her how to dress. In my play, Just Say No, I dramatized my own theory of why she and her husband kept gays off their agenda as if we were the plague, which of course, as in some hideous self-fulfilling prophecy, we became. Ron Reagan, Jr. That is why. It was no secret in an ever-widening circle that Ron Reagan, Jr. was suspected of being gay. In his freshman year at Yale (I believe this was his only year there; perhaps there were two) I have been told he had numerous gay experiences. I am well known at Yale. Indeed, I have established the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies at Yale to document the evil acts that American “history” has performed on us.
And just as damning of the son’s reputation of course, because it could not be hidden, was that Ron Reagan, Jr. was a ballet dancer. This did not look good and was obviously exceedingly embarrassing to a father who rode so many horses. So off with the tutu and on with a wedding ring. Junior was married off and sent to far-off places in positions of low visibility. I have gay friends in Hollywood, equally closeted, who knew him and know him and protect him. To know him is to be sworn to some sort of pact of secrecy. What a hideous life Ron, Jr. must have led all these years. To be denied a life and to have been so utterly gutless about fighting back. (Well, we know all about that.) While his own mother was gallivanting around with some of the biggest fairies in the world. What hateful parents to have had in the prime of your life, “the great communicator” of a father out there communicating how much he hated you and his wife out there going along with this. I suspect by now Ron Reagan, Jr. actually believes he is straight. By now he may very well be. He may well have been all along. He just looked so suspicious, and of course it was this perceived suspicion that, one way or the other, is what caused his father to murder so many of us. Why does history not recognize this monstrous and never-ending history of hatred and the inestimable number of deaths it continues to cause?
People magazine called me for a quote on Reagan’s death. “I wish he had died before he was elected” is what I told them. I wonder what they will run.
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