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Monday, June 07, 2004

Funeral For A Non-Friend

Former President Ronald Reagan passed away Saturday afternoon. I've avoided reading what I'm sure are lavish and maudlin tributes to Reagan and his legacy in various newspapers.

And I'm left with the quandry of what to say when some public figure that one has a deep aversion to passes away.

I'd refrain from speaking ill of the dead, since a dead man can't defend himself... except that this dead man already has a legion of hagiographers and other various admirers, producing one encomium to Reagan and his record after another. Which is perfectly fine, except I wish they would stop trying to put Reagan's name on anything and everything they can think of; they couldn't even wait until his heart stopped beating to push for all these namings and renamings.

There's an aircraft carrier named for Reagan. He also has a Presidential Library, and a freeway that runs near it in Simi Valley, California, is also named for him. The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center downtown is notable for being loud, garish, and grossly overbudget (how's that for a perfect metaphor for his presidency.) I have no particular quarrel with any of these.

I wish they'd have left our local airport - and the Metro station that serves it - alone. And now they're coming for the dime. And, supposedly, Mount Rushmore. I don't think I exaggerate much when I wonder if I'll be commuting to the District of Reagan sometime soon.

But I suppose we have a lot to thank him for.

We can thank Reagan - or the people pulling his strings - for a lot of things... massive deficits, dirtier air and water, the demise of the small family farm, the steady decline of the real purchasing power of ordinary working people, the explosion of the homeless population, deliberate neglect of the growing AIDS crisis, an escalation in the War on Drugs that scarred inner cities nationwide, wasteful Pentagon bloat, Islamic terrorist networks, Latin American death squads, Ed Meese, James Watt, Sam Pierce, Justice Scalia, and the notions that trees cause pollution and that ketchup is a vegetable.

His formidable ability to connect with the American people, to get them to believe in themselves, was matched only by an apparent indifference to those who fall on hard times that led to an unraveling of much of the unstated social contract that held America together through the turbulent years of the 20th century.

Who knows how much policy would have been turned over entirely to the plunderers, oligarchs, theocrats, and unreconstructed neo-Confederates that dominate the modern Republican Party if Reagan had not been stuck with a Democratic-run House and a closely divided Senate for eight years?

We may yet find out the answer to that question if things keep trending in this direction.


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