Catholic Culture News
Catholic Culture News

four legs good, two legs bad

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Nov 16, 2003

Vision Book Cover Prints

NYT columnist Frank Rich puffs a made-for-TV adaptation of the play "Angels in America" -- in his words, "a searing indictment of how the Reagan administration's long silence stoked the plague of AIDS in the 1980's." Got that? AIDS is a pestilence that Reagan "stoked" -- i.e., deliberately intensified. And how did he deliberately intensify AIDS? By personally seducing male flight attendants? By going about with a dart-gun loaded with HIV? By giving tax breaks to bath-houses? No, by his "long silence."

"Angels" is only minutes old when Al Pacino appears as a real-life crony of the Reagans -- Roy Cohn, in his post-McCarthy-era incarnation as a still-powerful Republican fixer ... Cohn is also a closeted gay man dying of AIDS. When he takes a sexual partner to the White House, he gloats, "President Reagan smiles at us and shakes his hand." Eventually Cohn will threaten to reveal "adorable Ollie North and his secret contra slush fund" unless the White House secures him a private stash of AZT, then the most promising AIDS drug and still unavailable to all but a few. Cohn gets his pills while thousands of other dying Americans are placed on hold.

How much of this really happened and how much is fantasy? Mr. Kushner is not making a historical documentary, or practicing journalism, any more than those behind "The Reagans" were. Whatever his script's fictions, it accurately conveys the rancid hypocrisy among powerful closeted gay Republicans in Washington as AIDS spiraled.

Whatever his script's fictions...?

To Rich, it seems not to matter what "really happened," provided the audience realizes who the heroes and who the demons are. In this Oliver Stone-ish morality play, to ask how Cohn could have been privy to Contra financing, or what it means to "place on hold" dying Americans, or even how AIDS is transmitted, is beside the point. Kushner "accurately conveys" ... what? -- not history, but the gay activist's vindictive rage in response to history. In fact, the vice the Left most deplores in its arch-villain Joe McCarthy, that of assigning "guilt by association," has become a virtue when practiced in the service of its own ends.

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