I Am Absolutely Furious and I Don’t Know What to Do With Myself

By NOAH MICHELSON (Editorial Director, The Huffington Post Voices)

My Uncle Ward was 37 — exactly the age I am now — when he returned to Wisconsin to die of AIDS-related complications in the spare room in my grandparents’ house. They lived next door to my family and I remember waiting by our dining room window hoping to catch a glimpse of him climbing out of the car that had fetched him and my mother from the airport and back from packing up what I imagined was his glamorous, movie-star-esque life in New York City.

It was the winter of 1990 and I was just 11 years old, too young to fully understand what had and was happening to him and thousands of other gay men like him across America but too old to not know something was very, very wrong with the world. When my uncle finally arrived I remember thinking someone was playing some kind of sick joke on me because instead of seeing the beautiful, gap-toothed young man with the sharpest, most wonderfully wicked tongue I have ever known, there was what I can only describe as a b-grade horror movie monster crumpled in his place. A gruesome sack of thin gray skin and bones that couldn’t have weighed more than 100 pounds, he was unable to walk even the short distance from the car to my grandparents’ house by himself and had to be held up by my mom and dad as he agonizingly ambled the short distance up the driveway.

It was the last time I would see my uncle “alive” (I use that word very, very loosely) — by the end of April he was gone, along with an entire generation of gay men just like him.

26 years later, sitting here this sunny March morning in the same city that my uncle once called home, wiping tears off my keyboard as I type this story for the very first time, I am absolutely furious and I don’t know what to do with myself.

When I think of my mother having to bury her younger brother, I am absolutely furious and I don’t know what to do with myself.

When I think of the “vacation” my family took several years later to view the AIDS Quilt in Washington D.C., I am absolutely furious and I don’t know what to do with myself.

When I think of the last 20 years and all of the energy that I — and so many others like me — have spent pleading with my own body, mostly futilely, to not be frightened of my desires, I am absolutely furious and I don’t know what to do with myself.

When I think of Ronald and Nancy Reagan and how their administration literally laughed in my community’s face as it was being ravaged — as it was experiencing a literal holocaust because they didn’t give one fat fuck about a bunch of faggots — I am absolutely furious and I don’t know what to do with myself.

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Hillary Clinton, Nancy Reagan, and AIDS


It will take somebody with more psychiatric sophistication than me to figure out how Hillary Clinton could have come to praise Ronald and Nancy Reagan, as she initially did earlier today, for having started the American conversation about AIDS “when, before, nobody talked about it.”

President Reagan’s first speech on the subject wasn’t until May 31, 1987. By then, more than twenty-five thousand people, the majority of them gay men, had died in the United States. His Administration ridiculed people with AIDS—his spokesman, Larry Speakes, made jokes about them at press conferences—and while I do think it rude to speak ill of the dead, particularly on the day of a funeral, this issue cannot be ignored. Nancy Reagan refused to act in any way in 1985 to help her friend Rock Hudson when he was in Paris dying of AIDS. (Last year, Buzzfeed published documents that make this clear.)

Clinton’s comments caused an outcry and she apologized rapidly, writing, in a statement issued on Twitter, “While the Reagans were strong advocates for stem cell research and finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, I misspoke about their record on H.I.V. and AIDS. For that, I’m sorry.” She deserves recognition for that. But her correction, while not nearly as offensive as her earlier comments, was also misguided.

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