Unless you’ve been living under a rock over the past weekend, then you heard about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s comments at the funeral of Nancy Reagan this past Friday.
Clinton, in an interview with MSNBC, took the opportunity to remember the former First Lady’s legacy, except in doing so she completely rewrote that legacy.
“It may be hard for your viewers to remember how difficult it was for people to talk about HIV/AIDS in the 1980’s. And because of both President and Mrs. Regan, particularly Mrs. Reagan, we started a national conversation when before nobody would talk about it, nobody wanted to do anything about it. You know, that’s something that I too really appreciate her very effective low key advocacy but it penetrated the public conscious and people began to say, “Hey we have to do something about this too.”
I’ll start off with what Hillary got right, which is the shortest portion of this whole thing. People with HIV/AIDS were stigmatized and discriminated against in an even worse way than they are in today’s world. At the time, it was understood that HIV/AIDS was a gay disease. Early on they called it “gay plague.” The gay community looked to their government officials for help in understanding why so many of them were dying at such a rapid rate. But no one in The White House really cared. In fact, they thought it was funny.
And that’s what brings me to what Hillary got wrong. Because the Reagans did not in any way get that conversation started. Rather, they covered their ears while people were screaming and trying to get their attention.
There are so many statistics and stories about HIV/AIDS under the Reagan administration that paint a horrifying picture of what it was like to be someone with HIV/AIDS under the Reagan administration. There have been so many excellent think pieces and articles posted, written better than I could ever hope to write, that I implore you to read and educate yourself in an effort to understand the time.
What I’m here to talk about, is the aftermath of all of this.
After facing a wave of (deserved) backlash, Hillary issued a swift and concise apology from her official Twitter account.
This was followed by a much lengthier, more heartfelt and personal apology.
First of all, I want to say that I appreciate Hillary’s response. So often these politicians spew disgusting, hateful and/or just flat out wrong statements and never follow up with an apology. Or worse, sometimes they do and frame it as, “I’m sorry my statements were perceived in that way,” or something to that effect, as if the people reacting to the statements are problematic and not the statements themselves.
Hillary’s essay is really sincere, and goes to great lengths to clear up what she did. I like it a lot more than her first which claims she “misspoke” despite quite literally rambling for over a minute about Nancy Reagan’s “low key” advocacy. There was no misspeaking, she was flat out wrong. Point. Blank. Period.
What is wrong about the aftermath of this whole issue, is how many feel that the LGBT’s community’s outrage over these comments isn’t warranted, or it’s uncalled for. I have seen several tweets, think pieces and articles posted in the few hours that attempt to speak for our entire community, demanding that we “get over” our anger.
I could post a lot more, but you get the gist of what’s being said here.
These articles/tweets are incredibly tacky, particularly the think pieces. One gay man does not speak for the entire community. To do so would ignore the rest of the voices that make up that community, voices that whether are angry or not deserve to be heard. It’s perfectly understandable if *you* forgive Clinton. Maybe her apology worked for you. That’s perfectly fine, I’m not going to sit here and continue to tell you to continue being angry over it if that’s not how you feel. But at the same time, to tell others to simply “get over it” is also wrong.
Gay culture and history is not taught in schools, nor anywhere. Growing up gay, I had to rely on the internet to tell me what being gay was and about the wonderful people who fought for the LGBT community. I had to find gay music, art, film, etc. through the internet. Those things were not available to me just by going to my history textbook or in my school’s library. When we learn about Ronald Reagan and his presidency, we don’t learn about the awful ignorance his administration perpetuated. On the contrary, we learn about how wonderful of a president he was. This is common with many of the things our history classes teach us, specifically about American history, but I digress.
This is why HRC’s comments concerning the Reagan’s “low key advocacy” are so harmful and insulting. It contributes to the erasure of all of those gay men who lost their lives. It adds to the pain so many people suffered in that era. So to simply say, “get over it” or ask “What else would you like her to do?” is undercutting and invalidating the perfectly understandable frustrations of a group of people.
No one wants Hillary to get on her hands and knees and plead for forgiveness. No one is asking for another apology. And before you say, “Well did you expect her to trash talk a dead woman at her own funeral?” (because yes, I’ve seen those comments too) stop. No one expected Hillary to show up to Nancy Reagan’s funeral and start dumping on her. But there was no reason to literally invent a story that never happened either.
What’s being asked of Hillary now, is to walk the walk if she’s going to talk the talk. If she’s truly sorry and means well, then she needs to prove it to us going forward. As someone who spent the early days of her prominence denouncing same sex marriage, it’s not exactly silly that someone would be hesitant to trust her position. On the contrary, she’s notorious for her string of flip flopping on political issues.
And this incident with the Reagans is not the first time she has rewritten history.
Being critical of presidential candidates and asking them to be better does not warrant scrutiny. This is part of our political process. If these people want to run the country, then they need to be open to voters’ critiques of their platforms and challenges to be better as candidates. An apology does not make something just go away. Also, just because other politicians don’t usually apologize does not mean Hillary should be instantly forgiven. I’m not holding her to the the low standards of those congressmen and women, I’m holding her to the standard to which I hold someone that wants to be president. I will be watching to see how she moves on from this going forward.
But I really meant what I said about Hillary’s apology being a step in the right direction. I’m not a Hillary supporter, but I’m not about to let Donald Trump become our next president if it comes between him and her for the presidency.
At the same time though, I will not undermine anyone’s frustrations concerning her statements, which were hurtful, ignorant and all around stupid. There is no “witch hunt,” and if people are still offended, they have every right to be.
So if you’re one of those people asking “What else would you have her do?” stop. How are you going to sit there and tell people not to be that upset over LGBT history being erased?