Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Coming to bury Reagan, not to praise him

/ funeral / orations / nonstandard/
It is said that one should not speak ill of the recently deceased. Bullshit. Let them reap the reward their lifetimes afford them. When Nixon died, the proper obituary was Hunter S. Thompson's. It was titled He was a Crook and rarely has such a fierce polemic been launched more passionately and more deservedly. Now with Reagan dead and most US media lamenting the "great man", very few dared come right out and give the Hollywood snitch the "eulogy" he deserves. I will not, of course indulge in this sort of hypocrisy. Rather, as a web tribute I have gathered some few, brave and brutaly honest opinions on the man, his legacy and the media praises that followed his death:

"...The New York Times today, in its canned obit, wrote that Reagan projected, "faith in small town America" and "old-time values." "Values" my ass. It was union busting and a declaration of war on the poor and anyone who couldn't buy designer dresses. It was the New Meanness, bringing starvation back to America so that every millionaire could get another million.

"Small town" values? From the movie star of the Pacific Palisades, the Malibu mogul? I want to throw up..."

John Dolan: Here Lies the Worst of All. Excerpt:
In all of America, isn't there one person brave enough to dump wet cement on Reagan's Hollywood Boulevard star? Isn't there one bitter reject with nothing to lose, willing to pour lighter fluid over the "tributes" Reagan's fans have been laying outside the funeral home?

Apparently not. Every fool in America is deep in mourning for this worthless man, who had no conscience, no intellect and no shame. He had all the faults and none of the virtues of the fascist: malice without frankness; cruelty without courage; pomp without dignity. And if all 285 million of you suckers are willing to sit there and let the jerks lie about him to your face, then you deserve him. He really was your kind of man.

No one but a sucker would stand for the crap they're saying about Reagan. The claims they're making for Reagan aren't just false -- they're comic...

Matt Taibbi: IN MEMORIAM - You need to be really special to get the big funeral. Excerpt:

Reagan's legacy was a generous one. He made it acceptable in America for people to stand up for their belief that "if you've seen one tree, you've seen them all." Because of Reagan, America can now safely think that homeless people are homeless "because they want to be homeless," that people who go hungry at night do so because they're "on a diet," that Mt. St. Helens caused more sulfur air pollution than cars, that welfare recipients were "a faceless mass, waiting for handouts," that too much federal education aid causes a drop in corporate profits.

We celebrated Ronald Reagan's death for a week because we believe in covering our asses to protect our careers, naming names if we have to. We gorged ourselves on this elaborate military funeral because we just love being a country that laughs at the Savios and Berrigans of the world for their embarrassing quality of standing up for peace. We lionize Reagan because he represents our best qualities: our callow patriotism, our hatred of losers and the poor, our fear of change, our xenophobia, our total mediocrity. He was the champion of these things and he died to great fanfare. It's America's better nature that dies—has died—quietly.

Mark Ames: Burying Iraq under Reagan's Corpse. Excerpt:
When Ronald Reagan took power in 1981, Americans lived completely different lives. Health care insurance was a given for nearly all working Americans. Downsizing -- the concept of mass layoffs in order to boost a CEO's bonus -- hadn't entered the vocabulary. Neither had outsourcing. Working parents came home from work before sundown and ate dinners with their families. Unions were strong, and the industrialists felt a social responsibility to ensuring their workers' well-being. This was all reflected in the income differential: in 1979, the average CEO earned 30 times his average employees' wage. For some reason no one wants to remember this part of the past -- because it's too depressing, and speaks too obviously to the real decline in America.

Reagan came to office and told the plutocrats to take everything that they wanted. I mean everything. Today, CEOs make 571 times their average employees' wage. Today's male white collar workers in America only earn, in real dollars, six cents per hour more today than they earned in 1973. Health care is increasingly hard to come by, no job is ever safe, Americans work far longer hours and suffer from stress-related illnesses once unheard of. As an Economic Policy Institute report noted, "What income growth there was over the 1979-1989 period was driven primarily by more work at lower wages." What happened to Russia in the 90s was really started by Reagan's attack on Americans in the 80s. When Reagan fired the striking air traffic controllers in 1981, he told America he was literally willing to kill us all if we didn't give in to his plan to transfer the wealth out of the pockets of the middle- and lower-middle classes and into the plutocrats' offshore accounts. It was so shocking that it worked. The air controller's union broke -- and so did a whole way of life. Thanks to Ronald Reagan, we are all miserable wage slaves...or exiles.

Fr. Miquel D'Escoto (ex- foreign minister of Nicaragua): Reagan was the Butcher of My People

So, Reagan did damage to Nicaragua beyond the imaginations of the people who are hearing me now. The ripple effects of that criminal murderous intervention in my country will go on for 50 years or more.

Joe Davidson: Ronald Reagan: A Legacy Worth Remembering. Excerpt:
"...After taking office in 1981, Reagan began a sustained attack on the government’s civil rights apparatus, opened an assault on affirmative action and social welfare programs, embraced the White racist leaders of then-apartheid South Africa and waged war on a tiny, Black Caribbean nation.

So thorough was Reagan’s attack on programs of importance to African Americans, that the Citizens Commission on Civil Rights, an organization formed in the wake of Reagan’s attempt to neuter the official U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, said he caused "an across-the-board breakdown in the machinery constructed by six previous administrations to protect civil rights."

Noam Chomsky: The Apotheosis of Ronald Reagan, Divinity Through Marketing:

There was something similar after the JFK assassination, but of course the assassination of a living president is quite different. I don't recall anything else remotely similar, perhaps since FDR, in the midst of a war, and of course he really was a significant figure, whatever one's judgment of him. Reagan is another story: mostly a PR creation in the first place, and massively so in recent years.

During his years in office, Reagan was not particularly popular. Gallup just published poll figures comparing him during office with other presidents. His average ratings during his years in office were below Kennedy, Johnson, Bush I, and Clinton; above Nixon, Ford, Carter. This is averages during their terms in office. By 1992 he was ranked just next to Nixon as the most unpopular living ex-president. Since then there has been an immense PR campaign to convert him into a revered and historic figure, if not semi-divine, and it's doubtless had an effect, radically shifting the rankings. Not on the basis of facts: rather, extremely effective marketing. The current performance is reminiscent of the death of Hirohito and Soviet leaders. One of the more depraved moments of US media. The lying is quite impressive, even by people who surely know better.

It is indeed, a time to remember the man.

1 comment:

talos said...

old comments

James R MacLean:

Dear Histologon,

Towards the end of RWR's 2nd term in office, my mind snapped. After six years or so as a devoted young Republican, rationalizing the atrocities and the deceit and the barbarism and all manner of reckless misrule, I suddenly realized that the entire cult of which Reagan was to become the messiah—was just that, a cult.

For years (since the age of 12 or so) I had been really worried about the decline in the sense of honor, duty, decency, and personal responsibility. I thought the nation had become compulsively mediocre, and until March of 1987 I clung to the belief—ever more precarious—-that Reagan was restoring law, order, honor, decency and so on. Then details of Eugene Hasenfus's mission in Nicaragua emerged, and the whole mountain of lies came crashing down. It was like being buried in a million tonnes of paper that had been soaked in urine twelve years ago and left to mold.

I've been through decades of indescribably bitter loathing and resentment of the Cult (inadequately designated "neoconservative", "conservative," "Christian capitalism" [an effort by my very sympathetic father-in-law to capture the concept], "the Wurlitzer," and various other nomens). At times I was so angry at it, because of the power of its lies, that I thought I was going mad. So I struggled to learn to look at Reagan as an anthropological phenomenon—a feeble old man, who, by '91, had no recollection he had been a "conservative" president, who was eulogized while people took his "conservativism" much further than even he had ever countenanced.

I have to say I think Chomsky's quote is the most perceptive. I did write Palast an approving letter, but I really think my own rage was a terrible waste, a bout with mental illness rather than any sort of righteousness.

Speak well of the dead? Alas, it's not possible. History requires a certain measure of ruthlessness. Imagine trying to write a history of the Korean War acting under that constraint. You cannot begin to feel compassion for other humans until you understand their sins and the thing that made their deeds, "sins": viz., the lazy disregard for the hurt they caused.

2004-07-02 07:51