Sunday, June 6, 2004

On Saturday afternoon, Ronald Wilson Reagan ascended bodily into heaven. Long may he be remembered, for single-handedly destroying the Soviet Union as it was poised to conquer the free world; for rising up in the form of a winged dragon and breathing the pestilence of AIDS forth upon the American continent; for his courage in providing arms to the people of Iraq, Iran, and Central America to defend themselves against the dark threats lurking in Iraq, Iran, and Central America; for his stunning tax reforms, which made jewel-bedecked sultans of the poorest paupers in the land; for his recklessly and disastrously bringing the world to the brink of global nuclear annihilation while following the dark whims of Biblical prophecy and astrological portents; and most of all, for coming to represent all our preconceptions of what America should and shouldn't be.

Was Ronald Reagan the best president? No, nor was he the worst. But the important thing is that now, long after his passing, he can be idealized, transformed and transfigured by time and ideology into a symbol of everything we desire or loathe in America, so that Ronald Reagan the man is utterly erased and replaced with Ronald Reagan the Icon, a convenient projection of our most feverish motivations in animatronic Hall-of-Presidents form.

When we keep our leaders larger than life, they become larger than our ability to rationally discuss them. We apply wondrous sobriquets, classifying the giants of the Oval Office with Catholic precision, making saints and Mysteries of men. Who can question the fighting spirit of the Happy Warrior, or the resilience of the Comeback Kid? The very invocation of their names becomes a sacrament or blasphemy, and as long as we keep their memories blown wildly out of proportion, we'll never have to confront them.

And how much more comfortable that is for us. The danger of Reagan the man, after all, is that we might learn from him. The man was real - a flesh and blood president whose triumphs and failings might lead us to question our own preconceptions. Reagan the Icon exists only in our mind, a creature of our prejudices and ideologies - a figure from unhistory who threatens to teach us nothing.
posted by the Medium Lobster at 3:29 AM



about Fafnir
about Giblets
about the Medium Lobster
about Fafblog

fafblog of christmas past

the whole world's only source for archives

world of piefablesdissatisfactiongreat moments in history

posts most likely to succeed

mostly blogosaurs

Fafshop! the whole world's only source for Fafshop.

Powered by Blogger Site Meter