Sunday, February 06, 2011

Birthday Condolences

Sadly, I only got to vote
against the Gipper
in 1984. I was too young
in 1980!
I was not around -- 100 years ago today -- when Ronald Reagan was born. But I remember where I was the day he died, if only because I was so certain he would disapprove. When the news of his death came on the radio, I was driving through DC -- the city of my birth, the hatred of which Reagan made a cottage industry. I  was not on just any ordinary drive through the city, though: I had been invited to the Swiss Embassy, specifically to the Cuban Interest Section, where Cuba does its U.S. diplomacy while pretending not to be here (the Swiss provide similar fig leaf for U.S. diplomats in Havana). Those of us attending the US-Cuba Sister City reception did not spend too much time discussing the irony, but neither was it lost on us.

An even greater irony was the outpouring of grief and faux-grief from the nation as a whole and particularly from the city that Reagan had worked so much against. This Reagasm -- as one of my colleagues called it -- has continued, with lionizing projects that have included trying to name something for President Reagan in every state and the deeply insulting move of naming Washington National Airport .for him. He vilified government employees in general and air-traffic controllers in particular. The ironies continue, as supporters succeeded -- hours before the centennial -- in raising $100,000,000 for a library to honor one of our most deeply anti-intellectual presidents. The library and the fund raising are, naturally centered in Simi Valley, where Rodney King's attackers found a sympathetic jury back in 1992.

I have written elsewhere on this blog that Reagan's legacy continues in the derision of public servants and the empowerment of corporate "persons." His most disturbing legacy -- and that for which this article is named -- was his approach to Central America, which I mentioned in an article about the sanctuary movement. There his single-minded passion for defeating Soviet Communism combined with his racism and his lack of interest in learning the facts on the ground, leading him to deepen U.S. commitments to the very worst regimes.

For some, all of this is fine, since he talked tough and lowered taxes. Two problems with that: the tough talk did not make us safer, and he actually raised taxes, both in California and the U.S. He just kept saying he was against them.

Not everyone sees Reagan as I do, of course. See Ken Rudin's assessment, which is the source of the buttons above.

1 comment:

  1. I just read a review of a new book: "The Other Eighties: A Secret History of America in the Age of Reagan", by Bradford Martin, that tells the liberals' side of the story!


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