Mike Huckabee Would Lock Away Innocent American Citizens Simply For Getting Sick

As most of you know by now, my primary field of interest is creative nonfiction writing. What some of you may not know is that my secondary field is literature and medicine. This probably isn't surprising-- a self-infatuated former cancer patient probably would be into creative nonfiction and literature and medicine, right?

I bring this up only to establish that I have a little bit of credibility when it come to talking about AIDS in America-- I've read my Abraham Verghese and Larry Kramer and Wesley Gibson and Paul Monette and William Hoffman, and I've read (and remember) a lot about the late 70s and 80s, and people's initial responses to what was, at the time, this terrifying new disease. I know that, in those early years, people were talking about this "gay cancer." I know that researchers (and author Randy Shilts) mistakenly told the public that the AIDS epidemic could be traced back to one man, a "patient zero," which further enflamed and terrified people. And I know that the Reagan administration didn't do one damned thing to help the early victims of this disease, preferring instead to ignore such unpleasantness (indeed, when administration officials did finally begin to offer some response to what was by then an epidemic, it was often to caution people to avoid the "Four Hs"-- homosexuals, heroin addicts, hemophiliacs, and Haitians).

Astounding sensitivity.

Anyway, the Gipper's still-rabid acolytes always get red in the face and all frothy when you bring up his willingness to allow this disease to grow-- "He didn't know what was going to happen!" they cry. "How could he have foreseen that this rare, apparently well-contained disease was going to become the plague of the late 20th century?" Naturally, my response is usually that I would still prefer to help even gay people, addicts, people with blood disorders, and people with skin darker than my own. But the point is well-taken-- Reagan was a hateful man who lacked imagination. Can't blame him for being blind to the reality of the situation-- he didn't ask to be stupid.

Fair enough.

Mike Huckabee has no such defense, though, when it comes to his own hateful statements and priorities when it comes to AIDS patients. Oh, sure, he's stupid. Take a look at this quote, wherein he explained why he opposed funding AIDS research, and how he would go about "curing" the disease:

"If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague... It is difficult to understand the public policy towards AIDS. It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population, and in which this deadly disease for which there is no cure is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents."

I know what you're thinking-- people said a lot of ignorant things when this disease first came to their consciousness. If Reagan gets a pass, Huckabee should too. And I might be inclined to... well, not agree, but understand that point-of-view-- were it not for the fact that Huckabee said these things in 1992.

1992. Two years after Ryan White died. A year after Magic Johnson revealed his HIV status to the world. The very year that America's Sweetheart Tom Hanks was filming Philadelphia. This wasn't the hysterical, terrified response of the suburbanite in 1983, wondering if he could get the disease from a mosquito or by drinking out of the Communion chalice. This was fucking 1992.

It's important that we not forget how polarizing AIDS actually was-- in the 1980s, well-intentioned people often said and did things that we came to understand as horrible, all out of fear. In America, we don't lock people away for receiving injuries or contracting diseases that are not highly communicable; we don't allow our own anxieties about illness and death to excuse the abuse of our fellow human beings. Or most of us don't, at least. This is what separates Mike Huckabee from mainstream America-- most Americans in the 80s were terrified of AIDS, but still wanted to treat AIDS patients with compassion. But Huckabee carried his hateful cowardice all the way into the nineties, and most likely beyond.

Read more about it here

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