Monday, June 14, 2004

The Reagan Legacy: All Hope is Not Lost

I sneaked across the street and picked up my neighbors Washington Post this Sunday. I had a guilty feeling - not because I was stealing - my neighbors were on vacation and they asked us to grab their morning daily. The guilt stems from my loyalty to the Washington Times, which is unabashadly conservative. The Post, and other like newspapers, hire 1 conservative columnist per 20 (roughly proportional ideological representation in the industry) and act like they are non-partisan. Not so for the Times.

Three essays caught my gaze - two in the Style section and one in the Commentary - all dealt with Reagan. For those Post readers (and writers and editors for that matter) left glum by the outpouring of effection for Ronald Reagan, the opinion page gave us the encouraging reminder of an historian from the University of Texas (apparently freedom of speech has returned to Texas now that Bush has larger fish to fry at the national level) that the final judgment of historians has yet to be made in regard to Reagan. Similar outpourings of effection greeted the death of Warren G. Harding at the time of his death, despite what came to be his enduring legacy of scandal. Without any apparent sense of irony, the author continues to remind us that those students now entering college have no real personal remembrances of Reagan's times, and so how they will view the former president depends upon how the historians of the universities tell their little charges to think.

So there is hope. Because historians are the only ones with a passionate and enduring interest in defining Reagan's legacy, and your everyday man on the street who lived through those times and regarded Reagan as a great president will move on to other interests, the readers of the Post can rest certain that Reagan will join Harding as a president whose post-mordum accolades were ill deserved and short-lived.

And the Style section provides a logical call to arms that follows from this opinion piece. First, we are told of the fact that Reagan drew the ire of rock stars from Sting to the Dead Kennedy's, as well as most former members of the Eagles. With the exception of LBJ, who had to deal with the anti-war counter-culture, no President has drawn as much ire from those who have made careers out of harnessing their teen-age angst into their old age (but we are told that Bush, if re-elected, may rival Reagan). Of course, Reagan always had the good sense to treat the counter-culture and its rock-n-roll descendents with all the seriousness they deserved, which is to say none. Professional teen-agers can sometimes broach open disagreement, but if you ignore them entirely, you may end-up being the subject of their encore performance at the next Rockers for Pro-Choice rally.

Next, we are reminded by the members of the gay community, on the day following their annual display of pride on our national mall, that Reagan was silent in the face of the rising AIDS epidemic. There is eveidence to refute that, of course, but why bother? Instead, let us point out the propriety of judging a man's presidency according to his response to a disease that affected a small subset of an even smaller portion of the population. Presumably, Reagan should have thrown billions of dollars into researching a cure that would make the bathhouses of San Francisco safe again for anonymous and promiscuous sex. Funds should have either been raised through higher taxes on traditional families, or through cutbacks to other social programs. Like the rock stars, what hurt most was the fact that Reagan didn't seem to "feel their pain."

Reagan drew the ire of the music world and the gay community in much the same way fathers draw the ire of their sons - by not granting their emotionalism any degree of seriousness. Indeed, it is said of Reagan that his relationship with his children was somewhat distant, although in their maturity each of his kids have come to realize that a father is not defined by the indulgences he grants his children. Fortunately for the readers of the Post, rock stars and gay activists generally don't mature, and will cling to overwhelming importance of their own overwrought emotionalism. They will never forgive Reagan - the distant father. Now all that is needed is for gay rock stars to become prominent university historians, and the legacy of Reagan will be corrected for the ages.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Sign up for my Notify List and get email when I update!

powered by