Thursday, June 10, 2004

Classy warrior

The Reagan era for me had far more to do with having my pigtails pulled by horrible little boys than with politics, so my recollections aren't as clear as some who write about him this week. I certainly don't have any 'I met him and was impressed' stories to share.

I do have memories though. Memories of two shining figures that were my image of politics at the time - Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.
Although I didn't fully grasp the nuances of politics, I could still observe the world as a child does. A child can see an adult that stands tall and unafraid, she can see their pride and she can see the bitterness of opponents spitting their venom at a camera.

I wasn't sure why I liked them so much (Thatcher a little more, very much a role model to a girl who didn't look up to film or pop stars to find idols), but my views were solidified over time by the fact that every yob who loudly declared ugly ideas about redistribution or socialism, every teacher that I loathed, every person who hated me also disliked the two of them.

When I think of them now, they seem larger than life. They were like two heroes from Norse mythology and they had one hell of a monster to slay.

I have seen the monster they fought first hand. It's not quite as simple as finding something hulking and slavering in a cave and killing it. You don't send a SCUD missile in and destroy an idea (only its evil perpetrators).

The thing they fought was built of shifty-eyed incompetence and murky backroom dealing, half-winks and half-nods and half-understandings that something is owed to someone but that we won't ask where that something comes from. What they came up against is the awful, amorphous idea that is socialism and the fact that it’s tenets were inextricably welded into the fabric of the societies they had pledged to keep safe. The monster was as much without (the USSR) as within (radical left-wing politicians, union leaders, Keynesian economists, university professors).

They had to stand up against some very loud voices in their own societies to accomplish what they believed was the right thing to do. They had to put up billboards stating that the Emperor had no clothes.

Unfortunately, the price one pays for pointing the Emperor out to be a nekkid fool is often one of public humiliation at the hands of those who see facts and statistics as little more than play-doh to be shaped to whatever mould they wish.

So when I see this kind of newspaper article about Reagan - ostensibly a list of all his failings and faults - I read it with the knowledge I have gained over the intervening years between pigtails and power suits. What I see instead of a scathing article is an accidental testament to a life well lived, a naming of achievements that any man should be proud to call his own:

"Slashing taxes on the rich, refusing to raise the minimum wage and declaring war on unions by firing air traffic controllers during their 1981 strike, Reagan took aim at the New Deal's proudest creation: a secure and decently paid working class."

"Corporate profits have been rising handsomely for the past couple of years, at roughly a 30 percent annual rate. But over two years into the recovery, wages are limping along at roughly the rate of inflation, gaining 1 to 2 percent annually. With the percentage of American workers who belong to unions -- 12 percent overall and just 8 percent in the private sector -- having sunk to its lowest level since before FDR, is it any wonder that wages are stuck?"

"...the power of workers weakened as the old industrial economies ceased to expand and global investment began to outrun the constraints of the state. But nowhere was the force of investment stronger and the force of labor weaker than in the United States."

"...letting business be business in its pre-New Deal mould -- free to speculate and shed long-time employees..."

Amen. Thank you, Mr Reagan. Thank you for your legacy and your courage in standing up to mealy-mouthed left wing hacks like Harold Meyerson.

One day in the future - probably when I am the age of most of the authors writing about Reagan this week - I will hear of the death of President George W Bush. I will watch the hypocritical news media tumble over themselves to give him the respect in death that they were not willing to give him in life.

They will mention the current war and it's victory in the same way that they mentioned the Cold War's association with Reagan. They will forget that they didn't uphold Bush's ideals when it counted - at the moment when we were all supposed to stand shoulder-to-shoulder against the enemy.

It's far easier, of course, to lend support to historical figures. The victor is clear in retrospect and there is little to risk in stating that one always agreed with him.

At a time when the media has been given a vote of no confidence by the general public, they should be re-examining what it means to have principles and integrity. As much as it hinges on choosing the right philosophy, it also hinges on consistency. Whatever it is you believe in, stick to it.

I don’t mind Harold Meyerson so much because I’m sure none of his regular readers would be swayed away from Reagan admiration by his article – I’ll wager they’re already drool-bib-requiring Democrats in their own right.

It is those that try to pander to everything – lauding Reagan and bashing Bush on the same page – that end up looking like muppets.

Luckily for humanity, there are those who can see reality for what it is, who can read between the lines and who know that a great statesman has left us this week.

Thanks to Steve Green for the links.

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