Tolerance (Aids and the Eighties)


By Wayne Allensworth

I can’t remember exactly when AIDS became a big media scare back in the 1980’s, but as noted earlier, 24/7 cable news needed material to crank up what became a constant festival of horrors. CNN had to have something to talk about, and the emerging globalist managerial elite needed crises to justify the extension of its power over us. Anthony Fauci was auditioning for his future role as lock-down advocate. The claim being made by mass media and a number of “experts” was that AIDS wasn’t simply a “gay plague,” but that it would soon infect us all.  The usual “human rights” leftists attempted to separate the disease from the behavior of gays, a strategy echoed decades later when “monkey pox” became another gay plague. Bathhouse sexual mores were the chief “super spreaders” of the then-untreatable disease, but since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, it had become déclassé to criticize deviant sexual behavior or sexual license in general. The drumbeat for a cure was accompanied by denunciations of those who said that gay sex was deviant and dangerous and gay behavior had to change.

Plenty of people didn’t feel much sympathy for those who became ill with AIDS. It was their own fault, wasn’t it? You could have said much the same about that alcoholic uncle of yours, or that cousin with a gambling addiction. Their self-destructive behavior didn’t change the sadness one felt. I remember all the Rock Hudson jokes that I didn’t find funny at all. At the same time, there was considerable effort spent trying to come up with treatments. The flip side of that concern was a general failure to deal directly with what was spreading AIDS—anal sex and “dirty needles,” which were, in fact, self-destructive behaviors. Gay sex was even celebrated by some, not just as the equal of “straight” sex, but even as superior to it. “Breeders” were, after all, overpopulating the planet. The anti-human aspect of radical environmentalism and the anti-natalism that followed Roe vs. Wade were having an impact.

AIDS did not turn out to be a threat to the general population, of course, but along the way the victim industry tried to blame Ronald Reagan for the AIDS epidemic. The government could never spend enough money on AIDS research, and Reagan even wanted to prevent those who tested positive from entering the United States. Imagine that. A few, as I recall, asked questions about divvying up research funds while trying to gauge the relative impact of AIDS compared to, say, cancer or heart disease. It was quite a stretch to blame Reagan, but it made a certain kind of sense if one bought into the metaphysics of victimology. At its psychological core, victimology, which has been the engine of radical politics for more than 200 years, is raging at the universe, at its order, its foundations, at God among the radical anti-theists, and at the hierarchies that are necessary and accompany any order, whether natural or the much maligned “social constructs” we hear so much about.

Tragedy as a fundamental aspect of reality is a hard pill to swallow for any of us. We all feel mistreated or unjustly targeted or sad sometimes — or more often than not as the case may be.  We have doubts, addictions, compulsions, and questions that may haunt us. Why does everything have to be so hard? Life is hard, and some things, no, a lot of things, can’t be “fixed.” And there will always be those among us who don’t fit the norm, who are marginalized in some way.

In the 1980’s, the drumbeat for accepting gays was beginning. And the usual contextless “why not?” arguments were gaining ground. It was confusing for a young man in his 20’s. Wasn’t America all about “equality” and “tolerance?” But something didn’t sit right with me about all that, especially after the blatant propaganda that accompanied the AIDS epidemic among gays. I wanted to have a family someday and it occurred to me to ask some other questions. Tolerance was a fine thing, but it could only go so far. “Gay pride” and the disgusting public behavior that accompanied “pride parades” was already coming out of its closet. Would I want my future children to see that? The answer was a clear and unequivocal “no.” Decent people had good reason to demand that certain “lifestyles” and behaviors be kept in a private “closet.”

“Tolerance” was meant as a door opener for acceptance, then, of course, the inevitable celebratory “pride” phase. It was as if the disease itself was simply another manifestation of oppression, another injustice imposed by an unfair reality. Reagan had become a symbol for the “Patriarchy” that had allegedly victimized humanity. If reality were only tolerant, then AIDS would go away. And every sexual appetite, however deviant, however self-destructive, would be free to declare itself.

So, what about “tolerance?” Intolerance of every sort has always been prevalent, of course. But was our society as brutally intolerant in the bad old days as the “activists” want to say it was? It was if one thinks that every proclivity and desire should be accepted. And yes, effeminate boys were bullied. If they were lucky, others would put a stop to the bullying, but it went on. Intolerance in that form wasn’t uncommon. But I don’t think harsh intolerance was as prevalent as we are led to believe. If, that is, one acknowledges that all “preferences” are not equal, that some — the ones that became social norms — are better than others. That some are destructive, others a positive good if handled correctly. And if decency prevents public censure from becoming cruel and inhumane.

In the 1950s, for example, Liberace was a world-famous pianist, a recording and TV and motion picture star. He was reportedly among the highest paid entertainers from the 1950s-1970’s. He had been a child prodigy and performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at age 16. He was also flamboyantly, extravagantly gay. His glitzy, campy performances, with his long fur capes and huge rings were quite a hit at the time. Liberace had a long and successful career. He died at his Palm Springs, California home in 1987, reportedly of AIDS-related pneumonia.

Was Liberace a victim of inflexible intolerance? Does anyone believe that the millions of people who watched his TV show and listened to his music didn’t know he was gay? There are worse things than “don’t ask-don’t tell,” and Liberace didn’t tell us in so many words about his “lifestyle,” though he telegraphed it in every performance. But few asked. He once sued a London magazine for implying he was gay, but his over-the-top gayness didn’t cost him.

That’s about as tolerant as a society can be without its moral dam bursting. It has since collapsed, and we see the results. No, life isn’t fair. But celebrating destructive deviancy isn’t good for anybody.

Chronicles contributor Wayne Allensworth is the author of  The Russian Question: Nationalism, Modernization, and Post-Communist Russia, and a novel, Field of Blood

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