Sunday, February 6, 2011


Our politicians have a propensity for building myths that lock in their grip on the levers of power.

On Sunday Feb. 6th the big news was that Ronald Reagan would be 100 years old if still alive—a birthday memorial to his policies—and all the pundits eulogized once again. It’s becoming an annual event, and right before the combination Washington / Lincoln national birthday holiday. In President Reagan’s case, what is being celebrated?

Representative Candice Miller put it this way in a special email bulletin. “He built a robust economy out of the malaise of the 1970’s by adhering to fiscal conservatism and his firm belief and steadfast commitment to the cause of liberty brought freedom to countless millions across the globe without firing a shot.”

She is referring to the fall of the Berlin Wall during his watch, and there was certainly merit in that. But it was accomplished by challenging the Russians to a military spending duel. A Star Wars nuclear missile defense shield tech race, with a proliferation of our own upgraded nuclear missiles as a huge side bet. We did out spend them, drinking them under the table, dollar for ruble. But the Reagan presidency left us reeling with an unprecedented tripling of the national debt, and little of trickle-down that Reaganomics had promised the common citizen.

There may not have been a shot fired with the Russians, but Central America was popping with hired Iran Contra guns. As brought out in those hearings, money from arms sales to the Iranians we’d publicly denounced as terrorists, bought us a private army trying to topple the government of Nicaragua. Add to this the collateral turmoil we stirred up in neighboring countries in support of small time dictators. By the end of the Reagan years more than 100,000 had died, many of them peasants in small villages. I’ve met some of the refugees of this “low intensity warfare,” while volunteering in Chiapas, Mexico medical clinics.

Labeled the Great Communicator, there was a certain callousness, incumbent to those holding great power, that shadowed his grandfather image--splitter of wood, teller of stories.

I remember well May 4, 1970, returning from a United Farm Worker march through Virginia to Washington D.C., the radio report of four students demonstrating against the Vietnam War, shot dead at Kent State University. A few days later I read in the MSU campus newspaper, words of Ronald Reagan [then governor of California dealing with campus unrest] that shocked me. To confirm, years later, I’ve researched and found in the April 18, 1970 NYT [reporting on a talk Reagan gave one month before May 4th]:
What did he mean when he told a farmers’ convention in Yosemite that ‘if it takes a bloodbath’ to deal with campus demonstrators ‘let’s get it over with’ ? The audience applauded.

Certainly I don’t believe he would have wanted this to happen, but he was willing to communicate it. An ambience tolerant of violence is fostered in many off-hand ways, by those who hold the reigns of political power.

Knowing what he’d said as governor in the weeks leading up to the Kent State killings by the National Guard {also 1 student dead in California, 4 at a black college Jackson State, by police and National Guard bullets} made him someone I didn’t want to become president.

My admiration for him as president is reserved for the time he sat down with Gorbachov of the Soviet Union, at arms talks in Iceland. He voiced, for everyone to hear, the hope that the superpowers could completely renounce nuclear weapons—and that all nations could beat the nuclear swords into plowshares—a planet with zero nukes. A presidency replete with nuclear weapons, and their countermeasures, had reversed. He was now communicating as our grandfather, a bright future for everyone’s children’s children.

This is the legacy I await. In the mystery of God’s all inclusive heavenly family, may Reagan for us intercede.

Sorry for limited images--having trouble with my system--and email

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