Monday, June 07, 2004

I've had mixed feelings about Ronald Reagan ever since I gained enough political awareness to realize that his social and economic policies pretty much fucked a good portion of my friends and family. On the one hand, I grew up knowing only that he was my President, from ages two to ten. He had a kind face and a grandfatherly demeanor, and I was a rule abiding little kid who never really questioned the authority of police officers, lunch monitors, or presidents. When I grew up, I learned about economics, and about how that trickle meant quite a large number of people were unable to keep roofs over their heads, while a select few others saw their wealth accumulating rapidly. Socially, the 80's were a veritable heyday for institutionalized heterosexism, including Reagan's refusal to take action to stem the burgeoning AIDS epidemic.

For the past couple of days I have seen pundit after pundit extoll the virtues of Reagan's policies in hopes of tying them to Bush II's present policies. Any criticism of these policies has been viewed as "speaking ill of the dead." I have also seen activist after activist state that they are glad he's gone. Both of these phenomena strike me as incredibly gauche and disrespectful. The time for liberal celebration of Reagan's departure from politics came in 1988, and Republican attempts to disallow policy criticism ultimately amount to capitalizing on one person's suffering and death. Shame on all of them.

I find myself in the undesirable position of defending Ronald Reagan -- not his policies, as I believe that in any free society citizens have not only the right but the duty to question the policies of their elected officials. Rather, I would instead defend his humanity. No one "deserves" what Reagan suffered. I am presently seeing my grandmother down the painful path that is Alzheimer's Disease, and it is exactly as torturous as the literature implies, for both the sufferer and friends and family thereof. This is not a "lucky break" for republican campaigning, nor is it "justice" for the downfalls of Reagan's policies. It is a personal tragedy.

Let's try to keep any political discussion of Reagan's life to the years he was able to speak for himself, yes? Both sides only come off looking like salivating opportunists when they "celebrate" his death in either fashion.


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