The Great Prevaricator

Geov Parrish -

06.07.04 - Excuse me while I barf.

I'm in no mood to join the joyful eulogies upon the passing of Ronald Reagan -- remembrances that prove, once again, the staggering size of our country's memory hole.

I missed the '60s. I grew up in Middle America, with Watergate, barely, and the benign buffoonery of Ford and Carter. When Ronald Reagan was elected president, it was an inexplicable, savage turn for a country that I'd never realized was capable of such things.

It's not just that George W. Bush would have been impossible without Reagan. The presidency of Ronald Reagan himself was so bad, on so many levels, that as young adults a sizeable number of us could only sputter in impotent rage, a rage summed up nicely by the Crucif***s song "Hinckley Had A Vision." It simply made no sense that an entire country could be run by sinister thugs, all because its spokesperson was a washed up actor with the professional training to deliver the most ridiculous, venal lies with a calming, "Great Communicator" demeanor.

Great Communicator, my ass. Tens of thousands of us died of AIDS on his watch, and he never even once mentioned the word. He also refused to adequately fund AIDS research -- a critical delay that, we now know, could have saved countless lives. We seem to have forgotten that.

We've also forgotten the corruption -- not just the constitution-shredding outrage of Iran-Contra, but an administration that set a modern record for the number of indicted officials.

It was the Great Communicator whose era gave us the term, and scourge, of homelessness. It was Reagan who launched an illegal war on Nicaragua, Reagan who unleashed and praised Guatemala's genocide and El Salvador's death squads. Reagan whose tax cuts and funding choices launched class war at home, a class war still being successfully waged, by many of the same officials, 20 years later.

And excuse me, but Ronald Reagan did not end communism. Hundreds of thousands of courageous people, in Moscow and Gdansk and Prague and across the communist bloc, deserve the credit for risking their lives to bring down tyrannical governments, often with nothing more than the willingness to sacrifice their own bodies. They risked everything. Reagan risked nothing but an inadvertent record deficit it took a decade and a Democratic president to heal.

To honor Reagan as the triumphant Cold Warrior, without even mentioning the courage of all those ordinary people, just after the 15th anniversary of that lone man in Tiananmen Square, is an insult of staggering proportions. Ronald Reagan had a historic meltdown happen on his watch; he was no more responsible for it than George W. Bush was responsible for another, less positive cataclysm in 2001. Less, even. At least the CIA knew something like 9-11 was in the works. They had no idea the Iron Curtain would collapse.

There's no doubt the reign of Ronald "Bedtime for Bonzo" Reagan had truly profound implications for our country and the world. Whether that's a good thing or not is a matter of debate.

Last week in this space, I mourned the passing of David Dellinger, a contemporary of Reagan's who exemplified, far better than Ronnie ever could, courage and integrity and compassion. Dellinger spent his adult life speaking truth to power; Reagan spent it making things up for an audience. One was an apostle of selfless love; the other presided over the Me Decade.

Not all of us spent that decade obsessing over our investments and stepping over the homeless. For much of my twenties, I helped organize protests of hundreds of thousands of people on the Mall and at the Pentagon and elsewhere in Washington. Most of us are still around. Most of us still remember the profound sense of shock as we watched our country become a place we didn't recognize, led by a genial, seemingly clueless man with an agenda that was on many levels simply evil.

Sound familiar? Forget the obituaries; I can hardly wait to unseat Ronald Reagan's heir in November.

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Reverend Blair
Right on. I'm absolutely sick of the bullsh*t hero worshop going on for Reagan. He was a brutal little man who made the world a much more dangerous, much worse place. We are still dealing with the fallout from his policies.
The Reagan remembrances of the past few days just say a lot on Americans and their relationship to and understanding of international affairs. They like to think of themselves as directly responsible for every single world's greatest event since WWII.

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