Friday, January 25, 2008

Responding to Rudy

Tim Egan had a most enjoyable column on the self-destruction of the Rudy Giuliani presidential campaign in the Times this week. {
} though I can't say it was quite the delicious dessert of the piece earlier in the week {} on what it was like to live in New York when he was mayor. That's the piece I want to send to anyone who considers voting for Il Duce.

Here is my comment (#111) on Egan's post:

An enjoyable column. I’m not crazy about any of the candidates, but Rudy is the one who terrifies me. I don’t know quite what HRC, for example, believes any more (I think she believes only in the polls), but I’m not afraid she’ll lock me up if I look at her cross-eyed, and that’s a real possibility if Rudy has the to-heck-with-the-First-Amendment powers Bush has arrogated to himself in this disastrous, anti-constitutional presidency. It is lucky for the reputations of both Nixon and Reagan (and probably LBJ) that they did not have remotely such fascist tools in hand when they were in charge — does anyone doubt they’d have used them? The thing that checked them was a Congress willing to fight them — Bush has never had to face that, so he’s trashed the U.S. at his leisure and whim.

I’m still terrified that Rudy will get on the ticket, aspiring to be the new Dick Cheney (which one is more ghastly? well, Cheney loves money and power as much as Rudy loves only himself — you do the math) and roughshodding over whoever the poor shlumpf is atop the ticket. That could be neat sabotage to electability, a la Ford-Dole, but I’m terrified of even the possibility of Rudy near the White House.

On the other hand, I’m still not crazy about any of the Democrats (though of course I’ll vote for anyone they nominate). They’re so good at losing. That was one good thing (not the only) about Bill: he knew how to win. It didn’t rub off on Gore, a much better and deeper man with NO bonhommie, no gift for interaction with the common folk — and I don’t think it rubbed off on Mrs. C either.

I too have lived to realize Nixon wasn’t as bad as he seemed, that there are worse possibilities … and Reagan and W have incarnated them already, thanks. But a new Nixon wouldn’t charm me. And a Nixon with Bush’s powers …? Time to think of retiring to Nova Scotia.

-- That's what I said to the Times. Here I will add a P.S.:

A book I picked up and reread for, I think, the first time since it came out nearly twenty unimaginable years ago: Randy Shilts's And the Band Played On. What a difference a couple of decades make! Almost impossible to remember the early 80s when we were all (anyway, the gay men among us) so shell-shocked and so terrified and so mystified by this ghastly thing, and no one knew what caused it, or how to stop it, or how not to get it, and we were all of us kind of hysterical. As late as 1984, I just didn't think about it. It was always at the back of my mind. But. No one I knew was sick. (I thought; I was wrong.) More important, no one I had known – carnally, y'know – was sick. (I thought; I was wrong.)

In 1984, if Shilts is to be believed (and why not? I just wasn't paying attention) the run from diagnosis to death was often to be measured in months. Remember that? "See you next life!" gay guys would sometimes say, bidding farewell to a friend visiting from the opposite coast. Unimaginable now – as is the reluctance of the culture at large, the public culture, even to mention the situation.

1984 is the year (the epidemic had been going on, perceived by the medical authorities, for three years, though government response had been infinitesimal) when my friend Chris de Blasio mentioned that our friend Calvin Hampton had pneumonia, and that he, Chris, would be spending occasional nights sleeping in Calvin's hospital room. It all seemed excessive to me – pneumonia was perfectly curable in a young (Calvin was 44, and seemed venerable but certainly not old to me) and healthy man. It was a month or two, not till Calvin (looking none the worse for wear) had got out to celebrate Christmas, that I got the message: that kind of pneumonia. And of course he went down hill – there were no effective treatments. He was dead before the end of the year. And then the relentless parade through the clique: Roger, Eric, Joel, Clint, Chris, scads I didn't know. (The tops didn't get it; the bottoms and the versatile did. Nobody wants to talk about that, but it's true.)

So I'm reading through Shilts's not always measured but very well pieced together narrative of these events from his West Coast perspective (he died in 1993, like Joel and Chris, just a year before AZT and "cocktailing" finally slowed the death rate) and the thing that really gets me (as it did Shilts) is the fucking scandal of government lack of response, of the years of ignoring (while insisting they were not ignoring) a potentially (and, we know, actually) devastating, world-shaking medical emergency is a principal legacy of Ronald Reagan, who is saluted on all (almost all) sides as the man responsible for America "feeling good about itself" again.

Is it all labels and Morning in America – leap out of bed and put on your imperial new clothes, and no one thinks about substance as long as the grin is unfazed? Well, yes, I know the answer to that: we live by TV, not reality. I am out of the loop because I never turn on the tube.

But what a ghastly figure to emblematize America feeling good, recovering from the horrors of Vietnam and Watergate! And the result of all that? We feel so good we get into wars and demolish our military and our constitution. As Cole Porter put it, "Sometimes you feel so happy you land in jail." That is our national motto. In God we do not trust – we trust our Old Man's ability to pay off the judge and set us free to do more harm.

Another words: French Letters: the bank fraud scandal
Can you even imagine stealing seven billion dollars and not even enjoying it? Being so stuck to your computer that you don't go out – and it's Paris out there for goshsakes – and blow a few mill on champagne, truffels, a chic blonde (gender unspecified), a chateau, a Maserati? The French do not live up to their reputation when the chips are down – Belmondo they're not. (But we've known that since at least M. Butterfly.)

No comments: