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i'm still waiting for when we look back at all that and laugh

"kiss my ass, history!"
when i was in grade eight, we used to have a weekly period in school where we were just supposed to sit and read. if we didn't bring a book with us [i.e., if we were too thick to figure out that we could use the time to read stuff we were assigned but didn't want to bother with during our free time], we were told that we should just put our heads down on our desks and nap. i'm not making that up. it's what we were told to do, a rule obviously invented by someone who had never seen what happens when you close your eyes in a room full of thirteen year-olds.

one week, i decided to use this forty-five minutes of "quiet" time to write something and, since i'd been watching a lot of the station called "cnn", which was new to my house, i decided to make it a political parody, i wrote a little jingle [to be sung to the tune of "she'll be coming round the mountain", which also makes excellent backing music for the poems of miss emily dickenson] about ronald reagan and how he was hell-bent on bringing the world to nuclear destruction. it was kind of funny, for something written by a thirteen year-old and to get some sense of peer affirmation, i slipped it to my best friend to read.

she read it, laughed and got spotted by another bored classmate, who wanted to know what was going on. so then the paper with my protest song got passed to her. and then to another person and another and then people started adding their own verses and then more people wanted to look at it and, well, you can see where this is going. the problem is that once something starts to pique interest, silence goes out the window and i believe that the only purpose of "reading period" was to make us all try our best to shut the hell up for forty-five minutes.

my homeroom teacher, a rather unpleasant character called mr. wilson, who i swear i will punch in the nose if i ever see him again, confiscated the offending document and that was the last i ever saw of it. but for that afternoon, i was a political hero [which was kind of amazing, since i was one of the least popular kids in the school and when i said my "best friend" earlier, i really meant "only friend"]. i had mocked ronald reagan and his tunnel-vision cold war policies and, although some of the kids in my class insisted i was some sort of communist traitor, it made me feel very important to have gotten people talking.

my point- yes, there is one- is that at thirteen, i'd managed to figure out that ronald reagan's politics were extremely divisive and quite likely dangerous. and yet every time i tune into one of the republican presidential debates, each of the candidates talks about ronald reagan the way that most people talk about mother theresa. i've followed campaigns before and, while i know that republicans have always expressed an admiration for reagan, this sort of genuflecting is not something i've seen before. and it raises many questions.

actually, it raises just one question: why?



here's a newsflash for those of you too young to remember: the eighties were fucking horrible. seriously. i don't mean the neon colours and the dancing boy bands and hair metal and the incredibly overdone makeup. i mean politically, the eighties were like something scooped out of the nether regions of kafka's brain pan.

remarkably, not the worst bit

the entire decade was crammed full of stories of the american government propping up the most heinous dictatorships on the planet, brokering shameful arms deals to curry favour with supposedly populist leaders who were clearly unstable and fomenting unrest throughout the world in the name of protecting imperial interests. furthermore, every time you said something like "hey, those guys we're arming to fight off the soviets in afghanistan have some wacky ideas and this deal might come back to bite us in the ass", you were dismissed as a crank, a conspirator, a communist sympathiser. no matter how obvious something was, no matter how egregious the trespass, no matter how clearly flagitious the action, the government would simply shrug and defend itself by saying that it was all in the interests of fighting communism, an enemy which provoked this wrath through a long-standing campaign of doing fuck all except getting blamed for shit. [seriously, these were not well-oiled anti-democratic machines, no matter what horrifying bedtime stories you might have been told.]

it's time to face how bad things really were.

if you were a rational person, the reagan years sucked. so what's with the adulation-fest?

this is someone who severely damaged the world's view of the united states and who mired his country [with the help of his vice president] in some pretty questionable squabbles which, thank you lens of history, have come back to bite the collective american backside in the most shocking of ways. he set in motion many of the fiscal policies which would eventually cripple the middle class. he made public policy of vilifying the poor, which made it easier for people to stomach the idea of cutting off what few resources they had. he was the architect of the failed system of trickle-down economics and the great proponent of the culture of greed [no matter what you might think from that clip of him talking about how the rich should pay their fair share, because it turns out he didn't actually mean it]- this is not something people should back on with such maudlin nostalgia.

the more i think about it, the more i come up with one incontrovertible fact: the man could give a speech. seriously, who doesn't remember the "tear down this wall" bit? he wasn't called "the great communicator" for nothing. the man could sell ice cubes to polar bears, he was that smooth and there's no better testimony to that than the fact that all those people who were making perfectly rational points about the potential problems of arming religious zealots, drug lords and the generally insane were easily dismissed by his tasty, tasty word-cakes.

so in my mind, the math goes something like: people voted for barack obama... barack obama can give good speeches... people like good speeches... ronald reagan gave good speeches... if the gop could reanimate ronald reagan [or, if necessary, find a reasonable facsimilie], people would vote republican in 2012.

sure, you could argue that reagan got stuff done and that he stood up to people in order to get his way. and sure, there are those who wish obama would grow a pair and stop trying to negotiate with a republican party fringe who are in serious need of a time out. but wishing that obama was more like reagan because you wish he was stronger-willed is like saying you want to spend a million dollars on a burnt out crack-house because you like the doorway.

rather than one who can offer the succor of sweet words, what i really long for is someone who could instigate some positive change for once.

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