Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Men Who Were Not There

In case you didn’t know, I was born in 1978, and I came up during the 1980s. As far back as I can remember, even as a child, I watched the news. Every day, after Transformers ended and the local news began, and than ABC News, with Peter Jennings. Every evening. Watching the news was something grown-ups did, and I wanted to know what was going on, even if I didn’t (couldn’t) understand it all at the time.

This was the early 1980s. I was watching the news on a crappy little six or eight inch black and white TV that my grandfather used to have in the garage. I was maybe six myself- 1984 or thereabouts. Like I said, I didn’t understand everything I saw back then, didn’t realize some things until just recently.

I watched AIDS first hit.

It was….it was a fucking apocalypse.

I didn’t know what gay people were back then, except they marched in protest a whole hell of a lot, and they were dying in droves. And that nobody, except the gay people themselves, through organizations like ACT UP (and others whose names I once knew but forgot sometime in the intervening 30 years), was doing anything about it. At that point, all I knew about Ronald Reagan was he was the President. To a six year old, President was an almost mythic title- the heroic god-king of our nation. And he seemed like he couldn’t do anything to stop AIDS. Neither could C. Everrett Coop, the impressively bearded, majestic and baritone Surgeon-General who appeared at the President’s side in every press conference about AIDS. Holy crap, thought my six or seven year old self, if these two badasses couldn’t do anything to help, AIDS must have been really, cataclysmically, bad.

That’s what a kid thought, watching the news.

I didn’t realize until much later that Reagan and Coop weren’t doing anything to stop AIDS because they didn’t want to stop it. Back then, AIDS was thought of purely as a disease of young, gay men- and young gay men, whether in 1984 or 2016 never vote Republican. As senile as that rat-bastard was, Reagan was smart enough to realize that every gay man his practiced, intentional inaction buried circa 1985 was a liberal Democrat vote tossed into the coffin. Not just votes for that election season, or the next…. Assuming all those gay dudes who died in their 20s would have otherwise lived to be 70 or so, that’s 40 or 50 years worth of liberal Democrat votes moldering in a grave.

Hey, what would have happened if they all lived? In 1988 or 1990, when this lost generation hit their 30s, would they have started having kids of their own? Kids who would grow up elibible to vote for the first time in the 2008 Presidential elections, kids who grew up with a gay father (s) and would be reflectively hostile to the Republican platform of homophobia, which hasn’t changed all that much between 1984 and today? How would the theoretical children of this lost generation of voted in all the elections afterward?

That’s ten or twelve Presidential elections already pre-advantaged to Republican interests. That’s before decades of gerrymandering and organized voter suppression efforts. That’s a 10 foot headstart in a hundred meter sprint- in every hundred meter sprint you’ll have to run for more than four decades.

That’s the only reason the aging and monstrous Tea Partiers and Trump voters have such loud voices these days. By their intentional inaction, by their lazy, convenient genocide 30 years ago, they murdered the voices on the other side that would have spoken against them today. An entire potential generation of left-leaning queer activists, removed from history, one at a time. And back in the 80s, Reagan and Coop knew that every month they delayed putting out an effective counterstrategy, every week they sprinkled platitudes rather than government research funds on the problem, there were more enemy dead being shoveled into the ground.

It was the coldest and most sociopathic kind of brilliant. Hannibal Lecter brilliance, Dr. Doom brilliance. Karl Rove brilliance.

And it worked.

Remember back in 2000, when Bush the Lesser “won” Florida? He “won” by about 600 votes. Six hundred votes. Do you think that more than 600 gay men died in Florida between the years of 1983 (or so) and 2000? How many of those guys would of willingly voted for Bush the Lesser, you imagine?

So ask yourself something else: why did Trump win last night? There’s a lot of reasons being speculated about by left- and right-wing media and pundits, a lot of blame to go around. But I think Trump’s victory came down to one thing and one thing only: to the men who weren’t there at the polls. To the men I saw die on that 6 inch, black and white TV three decades ago.


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