Ronald Reagan’s legacy of poverty and death

“…I think you can make the case that the Ronald Reagan that we all came to know as President would not have existed without Nancy Reagan.”  -Ronald Reagan Jr. on the death of his mother, Nancy Reagan

I hope Ron Reagan’s words are not true since the Ronald Reagan that I came to know was a man who increased the wealth gap between the very rich and the remainder of the population, and enlarged the rate of people living in poverty with his doublespeak “trickle down” economics. The Ronald Reagan that I came to know surreptitiously sold arms to Iran and furtively redirected the profits to fascist Central American dictators to fund and equip their death gangs of thugs.

And most of all, the Ronald Reagan that I came to know served as a major co-conspirator in the deaths of people infected with HIV during the early years of what became a pandemic under his so-called “watch.” The Ronald Reagan that I came to know was a president who should have been charged and convicted of genocidal murder, rather than the much venerated pseudo-saint that he has been anointed by the conservative Republican Party.

When I heard about the death of Nancy Reagan, I did not think about the many tributes coming in from people who honored her and her husband. Rather, what came to my mind was a stunningly poignant quote from Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, his stage play covering the early years of AIDS in the United States:

We’re living through war, but where they’re living it’s peace time, and we’re all in the same country.”

As I heard these words reverberating in my mind, images escaped from my stored memory into consciousness of the excruciatingly long seven years into his presidency until Ronald Reagan, under whose presidency the AIDS pandemic first came to light, finally publicly acknowledged the existence of the crisis. The one and only time he publicly spoke of AIDS before 1987 was in his first year in office when he inferred that “maybe the Lord brought down the plague because illicit sex is against the Ten Commandments.”

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