Sunday, June 06, 2004

Candy-Coating Reagan

The Media are lionizing Reagan now that he's dead. Right-wing and mainstream hacks both can't find enough nice things to say about Ronald Reagan's life, politics, and legacy. It seems even most of the Left have been defanged; holding their tongues in conformance with the adage 'if you can't find anything nice to say, say nothing at all.' Worse, effusive praise gushes even from the left, in a frenzy not to be seen as ghoulish, or bashing the dead.

Well, to hell with that. I fully recognize that there are positive aspects of Reagan's legacy. His policies tended to be far more progressive than his rheotric; I suppose this is due in part to the formation of his character in the depression and Roosevelt's New Deal. Most of it probably stems from those few times he was actually paying attention and calling the shots in he Presidency. Reagan was a liberal and a Democrat in his younger days, and perhaps he never truly lost contact with rational habits of thought and the better angels of his nature.

A public figure's life is judged differently than that of most people. Private people deserve some deferrence in death, they did not ask for our judgements upon their privately lived lives. Public figures deserve to be judged not solely upon what they might have done right with their life, but on the things they did wrong, as well. Reagan did plenty wrong that was never atoned for.

He sponsored state-supported terrorism and death squads in Central America. He trafficked in drugs and illicit arms to skirt Congressional spending controls. He led us to slink out of Lebanon with over 240 American Marines dead from a terrorist bomb. He built up an only-recently-beaten record deficit. He presided over such corruption that more of his appointees were criminally prosecuted than any other Administration (unfortunately many of them are back serving in the Bush Mis-Administration). The list goes on and on. Characterize it as neglect, being out of the loop, plain incompetence - it doesn't matter. All of it is Reagan's fault and Reagan's doing. For some of it his simply deserves disapprobation, some of it should have seen him impeached and driven from office, some of it should have landed him behind bars for the remainder of his life, covicted for crimes against humanity.

The man's death of natural causes at the age of 93 does not excuse his crimes, assauge the suffering his actions and choices inflicted upon so many, or give us leave to forget the unsavory aspects of his legacy. His gentle old age of dottage and decline gives us no reason to feel sorry for him, nor to reconsider his legacy. His lot in life was infinitely better than what his victims got. I realize that I'm being ungracious, hard, and even ugly, in pointing out the flaws in one recently dead. I really don't care. The old son-of-bitch is gone. Good riddance. Let's resist the calls to name every damned thing under the sun after the old reprobate, or putting his mug on a coin, shall we? There is quite enough of that nonsense already. The only exception I would make would be to go down to Guatamala and El Salvador [and Nicaragua, of course- addedum 6/7/2000] and christen the anonymous graves of his victims the 'Ronald W. Reagan Memorial Killing Fields'. That would be a fitting tribute to the man and his legacy.


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