Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Huckabee's Viewpoint

This past week, I've read where former Southern Baptist preacher and Governor of Arkansas and now a Presidential contender made the following statement about AIDS in 1992:

"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," he said then.

I've been reading the various posts around the Internet and am rather shocked that I have not read one post about what troubles me with his statement. I am most concerned with his belief that the AIDS virus, to him, is a "genuine plague". When one things of plagues, images from Israel's slavery by the Egyptians in the book of Exodus and Charleton Heston's performance in the Ten Commandments. Plagues. Locusts, water turning to blood, the firstborn child in a family dies. Plagues. That which God delivers upon humanity as either punishment or something that is meant to "wake them up" or simply to reveal who God is to those who do not know.

Sure, there are other plagues that have existed since the notorious ones in the Old Testament. We've had the Bubonic Plague. We've also had mass illness of the colds and flus that has wiped about hundreds of thousands of people. And, to get technical, the definition of a plague is a virus spread by rodents. But no one believes that AIDS is caused by wayward rats--no, the image of a plague is "God induced" and it's to this allusion that causes me concern.

In Huckabee's mind, AIDS is (and continues to be) a plague. That "continues to be" part is evident in his refusal to backdown from his 1992 confession. He still believes those who had AIDS should have been quarantined, isolated, moved from here and put over there (lest a person would actually have to look at someone dying). He believed and believes that instead of allowing those with AIDS to confront medical and religious establishments and demand action and accountability, that they should have been treated as a medical crisis and be damned with who those who actually contracted the disease.

Today he still isn't sorry for making that statement; instead he hides behind his historical revisionist memory that at that time, no one knew anything about the disease. When in fact, by 1992 the medical establishment knew quite well what it was and what it did and how it was spread. Instead of simply apologizing for making such a discriminatory statement masked in the guise of religion, he actually continues to believe he said nothing wrong. Does this mean he thinks AIDS patients should continue to be quarantined today? Does this mean AIDS continues to be God's plague upon gay men?

Without going into an argument that challenges the notions of who gets the disease and who doesn't, and without articulating a religious notion that God gives diseases to men and women as a sign of punishment and retribution, one has to wonder how a nation could elect a President who views diseases as God's punishment. But you know, he probably doesn't think that heart disease is God's punishment on those who have poor diatary practices. He probably doesn't think that certain cancers are God's punishment for smoking and sexual promiscuity (although he might!). His rhetoric may be popular among the fundamentalist Christians who think that the feminist movement is really about making young women into witches and lesbians (as the late Pat Robertson suggested). Is that the camp he wants to be in? Will the next storm in Florida or the ice storm in Oklahoma represent God's displeasure at the porn shops along I-35?

When a President is less concerned about the real issues that affect and cause harm and more about religious doomsayers, then he or she cannot offer a solution that actually addresses a workable solution. This is one danger of scapegoating someone whereas the problem is not addressed and solutions get presented that fail to confront the real problem. If you think AIDS is God's punishment on the homosexual, will you be less inclined to search for a cure? Will you create measures and policy that offers a way that other homosexuals from getting the disease? Or, will you preach on a stump that contracting AIDS is what sinners deserve?

One of President Reagan's biggest criticisms during the beginning of the AIDS crisis has been interpreted to say if he hadn't thought this was only a "gay disease" then more would have been done sooner to protect others from contracting it. When AIDS was first diagnosed, you can understand why the many AIDS activists challenged the original name for the disease: GRID: Gay-related Immunodeficiency Disease. When a person realizes this isn't just a gay disease, then you move outside of your stereotypes and into an arena of better solutions. It is believed that Reagan thought this was only a gay problem and he didn't need to get involved. As a result, the disease spread.

Huckabee and others might argue that the best solution to this problem should have been quarantine, but others know that the disease laid dormant for years and years before the first person died of it. Those who do know better appear to pander to those who scapegoat for their particular political issues and religious messages of God's condemnation--and as a result, don't do a damn thing while the disease spreads.

I believe Huckabee's continued position on AIDS and its care demonstrates that he cannot be trusted in the future to tackle and handle new crises and dangers to America without believing that the next catastrophe will be God's punishment upon a sinful America. We might have worried that Ted Haggard had George Bush's ear--how scarier would it be if the Rev. Fred Phelps has Huckabee's ear!?

No comments: