A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Sunday, June 06, 2004 :::
Ronald Wilson Reagan, RIP.

It happened that a young doctoral candidate, too young to actually remember the 1980’s, was looking into the overall foreign policy strategy of the Reagan Administration. He was a good researcher, and he was doing what all good researchers should do, and that was reading original documents. He noticed that, over and over again, the distinctive ideas and final choices seemed to be coming from the same man: Ronald Wilson Reagan. This ran counter to the standard line in “foreign policy circles.” But the young man kept plugging away, and built up a case that the foreign policy of Ronald Reagan had been devised by Ronald Reagan.

His colleagues gave the young man his chance. They actually held a meeting to let him present his views, but the chairman of that particular association scoffed that his view was unlikely to be accepted because, after all, Reagan had said that most pollution is caused by trees.

The academics and wonks needed him to be an idiot, you see, even if he wasn’t. All wisdom was supposed to come from grad schools, where they taught. Reagan simply must have been the creation of his aides. He never could have thought of anything on his own. If he had, what justified their existence?

Yet the young researcher—whose name escapes the memory--was correct. It is true that Reagan depended on experts in various areas. Richard Pipes, the great Harvard historian, showed him what condition the Soviet economy was really in, whatever the CIA said. James Billington, the foremost scholar on Russian culture this country has ever produced, talked with him for hours about the people with whom he was dealing. Richard Perle provided the technical details for an opinion of nuclear weapons that Reagan held before Perle was born. Chet Crocker was so right about Southern Africa that Nelson Mandela, as President of the free Republic of South Africa, named part of his foreign policy after Crocker’s philosophy: “Constructive Engagement.” And a Congressman named Charlie Wilson showed Reagan what to do about the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

But they were the detail men, the guys who thought of tactics. Ronald Reagan was only worried about strategy, and his strategy never changed.

The truth is, the self-appointed elite ridiculed the aides as well. Pipes was a doctrinaire blow-hard dealing in ancient history. Billington wrote about nothing more important than literature. Perle and Crocker were evil. And had they known who he was, they would have conisdered Charlie Wilson nothing more than a bareknuckle brawler from Texas.

The last estimation was not wrong, by the way, except for the “nothing more” part. It was one of Ronald Reagan’s strengths that he did not care what kind of person had the wisdom. He just wanted the wisdom.

And so it came about that one day in the isolated city of Rekjavik, Ronald Reagan, the amiable idiot, sat opposite the media darling, smooth, sophisticated Mikhail Gorbachev, and forced the last leader of the Soviet Union to surrender.

The formal surrender came a few years later, shortly after Reagan left office, but it was set in stone that day. You could see it in Gorbachevs face as he left the summit that he thought he had forced Reagan into. A few years later, the liberated peoples of Eastern Europe treated Ronald Reagan as the conquering hero he was, and Gorbachev was forced to tour large gatherings of rich, disgruntled leftists in the West, regaling them with stories of the amiable idiot who, he forgot to mention, had forced him into total submission

It should be noted that no foreign policy academic foresaw the collapse of the Soviet Union which Ronald Reagan had done so much to bring about.

Ronald Reagan buried the Soviet Union, and the professional Sovietologists.

Unfortunately, the Sovietologists have tenure, and got to write the history of an event they simply did not, and do not, understand.

Oh, yes, that thing about the trees? Either Reagan never said it, or what he said was that pollution is a naturally occurring phenomenon, which is true, meaning that man’s contribution to it needs to be seen in context, which is even truer. For those of us who have moved on, the comment is a distant and unclear memory. But, you know, professors simply have to have their little joke, and they have to cling to whatever keeps their tiny world together.

Many things will be written about the remarkable man who has gone on to his final reward. From the many stories that will come out, the ones that stick to mind call up his deep belief in the demands of service. When he had just been sworn in, his military aides explained to him the plans to evacuate him to a safe location in the case of attack. He listened, looked thoughtful, and then said, “I would never abandon my post.” For him—and just for him—the longstanding military policies of the United States had to be rewritten. There were many such moments, as during his preternatural calm after being shot, and they all point to the truth that he truly believed in what he was doing.

And I cannot leave unmentioned his support, however imperfect, of the crusade against the belief that the rich and privileged should be able to use or discard other human beings as they see fit. His support has done nothing to lessen America’s standing as the country with the most barbaric abortion laws in the world, but we do have the only pro-life political movement of note.

I can only add a few things to the public record, among them that the African-Americans with whom I ride the bus on Sunday mornings were remarkably respectful this morning. I had not expected that. The myth about him and Black America is as poisonous and false as the one maintained by foreign policy wonks, but the fact that people can see past that was remarkable.

And this moment:

I was privileged to work at the President’s second to last public function, a large “birthday party” here in Washington. I did not hear his speech, because of work, but I got to hear Margaret Thatcher’s tribute to him. And I got to eat dinner with two groups of people: a bunch of American college students, and a bunch of Salvadoran immigrants, all working at the party. A huge fight broke out. The college students hated him; the Salvadorans revered him.

And these two things that make me proud.

I worked for the man briefly. That makes me proud.

But I also voted for him five times, four times when he was running for President, in primaries or general elections, and once when I was dissatisfied and wrote him in. I am not given to overt patriotic feelings, though I am fiercely patriotic. I truly feel the twinge on the heartstrings most when I am standing in line to vote, usually with a long line of inner-city African-Americans.

I count those five votes among the proudest deeds of my life.

From that last dinner comes my favorite image of him. At the end of the birthday party, he and Nancy took center stage. Red, white, and blue balloons cascaded from the ceiling as the audience, the Salvadorans, and I cheered for ages and ages and ages. He got that beatific look, that look of gratitude and love, that head-tilting shake, his way of showing that he truly loved people, he truly loved America, and he was truly grateful for his chance to serve.

Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest, soldier. Job well done.

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 1:57 PM



Post a Comment


A Related Website on Christian Spirituality
The Fullness of Him
The Easiest Way to Keep Up With the News:
Best of the Web
Links to Web Friends
One Good Turn
A Dog's Life
Power Line
Rambles and By-ways

What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Powered by Blogger