So like I said a few days ago, Neil Parrott, Republican candidate for my district’s House of Delegates seat, wrote a letter to the Herald-Mail in 2005 proposing that those who test HIV-positive should be forced to accept a tattoo identifying them as such before they can receive medical treatment for their condition.
Thursday night, Parrott and his opponent in Tuesday’s election, Democratic candidate Brien Poffenberger, faced each other in their only one-on-one debate. The issue of Parrott’s “brand the people with AIDS” proposal was raised. When asked by the debate’s moderator if he still supported tattooing the HIV-positive before giving them their medicine, Parrott backed away, but only very slightly. He claimed he no longer saw compulsory tattooing as the best solution to the HIV/AIDS problem, and blamed late conservative icon William F. Buckley for giving him the idea.
“I respect him, and I respect his solution here,” Parrott said after Poffenberger asked what on Earth he could have been thinking to publicly suggest (say it with me!) tattooing HIV patients. Parrott also claimed he would favor doing anything that would stop the spread of AIDS.
Anything, it seems, except distributing condoms and including lessons about the importance of safe sex in public school sex education classes — two methods actually proven to decrease the rate of HIV infection in populations. Parrott spends almost as much time in his 2005 letter speaking against these measures — which, I stress again, have been proven to actually work — as he does pushing for the forcible branding of sick people.
It turns out Neil Parrott and I disagree on more than I first thought. He also turns out to be even more of a fanatic — or, if not that, an imbecile — than I originally judged him to be. Not only do I find the notion of tattooing HIV patients (or anyone else afflicted with a particular disease) disgusting and antithetical to the ideals of a free and humane society, I am also unwilling to support any possible measures that would stop the spread of AIDS.
Think of the implications of that statement. “I favor doing anything that would stop the spread of AIDS,” Neil Parrott says.
Is that right, Neil? Should I infer that you favor herding all those who test positive for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus into quarantine camps, where they can be isolated from the general population of the country? Or — hell, why go through all that expense? Would you be in favor of simply summarily executing anyone who tests positive for HIV? We could remove their infection from the population immediately and permanently. In a few years, we’d have HIV/AIDS totally wiped out from the United States. Then perhaps, with those remarkable statistics to back us up, we could carry the program to Asia and Africa, where developing countries are suffering far more with HIV and AIDS than we are.
What else would you do to stop the spread of AIDS, Neil? If one of your children were found to possess an antibody that could kill the virus, but the process of extracting the antibody would be lethal to your son or daughter, would you be willing to make that sacrifice? Anything to stop the spread of AIDS, afterall.
Some people still contract the virus from intravenous drug use. Perhaps possession of any intravenous drug should also be a cause for immediate execution — why take any chances, right? And hell, Neil, we all know they used to call it “the gay cancer” — let’s just do what we should have done a long time ago and finish off the homosexual population once and for all. Am I right?
Of course Neil Parrott will never publicly endorse relocating or executing HIV patients. Nor would he allow his own child to die in order that a cure could be manufactured. Why? Because he finds these things (and maybe I’m giving Neil too much credit here, but so be it) morally unacceptable. There are some things that, in a free and humane society, are wrong, no matter the context, no matter the potential benefit.
What troubles me is that apparently Neil Parrott doesn’t think profiling sick people via compulsory tattoos falls into that category. I would not do anything to stop the spread of AIDS. I would do many things, including teaching my children about safe sex and the dangers of drug use and promiscuity. But I would not support tattooing those infected by this horrific virus. The fact that Neil Parrott would — even after being given the chance to retract and apologize for this appalling suggestion — tells me a great deal about him. So does the fact that he apparently believes all those who contract HIV are so morally bankrupt that they knowingly hide their condition from sex partners and willfully spread their infection, and that it is up to the government (which Parrott also claims to distrust) to ensure they don’t get away with it.
I don’t care whose idea it was. William F. Buckley is greatly admired by conservatives, but was not infallible. Not every idea the man had was a good one. Linking the disgusting proposal to Buckley doesn’t make Parrott look any better. It makes him look like a man lacking not only morality and compassion, but also discretion. Buckley should have known better, but so should Parrott. And so should anyone in Maryland Subdistrict 2B intending to vote for Neil Parrott on Tuesday.