Sunday, June 13, 2004

The Reagan Religion?

One of new year's resolutions was to read one book a month for the entire year. After successfully proving that a book of two to three hundred pages could be read in approximately 15 to 20 days by reading Fast Food Nation, I began this quest with Noam Chomsky's Hegemony Or Survial. Other books I have read include another book on US foreign policy, a book on historical evidence for Jesus's life, and a look at US tax policy.

My latest, and first work of fiction, is The DaVinci Code. I think I'm gonna like this book; anything that could get religious fundamentalists in such an uproar has to be worth my time. The controversy stems from the book's plot being based on the premise that Jesus may have married and started a royal bloodline. This would put a serious dent in claims of his divinity, but IMHO, would not change the fact that he was a great teacher and a strong advocate for social and economic justice.

So what does all this have to do with Ronald Reagan's death?

Basically I see for many on the Right, that Reagan has become a kind of messiah. Much of the rhetoric of the "War On Terror" sounds similar to Reagan's escalation of the Cold War, which probably spawned at least the Taliban front of this "Next War". AM-Radio, the result of decision to repeal the Fairness Doctrine, provides a source of evangelists for Reagan's gospels.

And much like Christ, criticism or anything that puts his divinity into doubt is sure to be demonized. Of course, with most publishing houses being part of media conglomerates, it's likely that even with the current burgeoning trend in books critical of Bush and the "War On Terror", that truly critical looks at Reagan will be left to smaller companines like Seven Stories and Common Courage.

But we "heretics" must keep on, and a good place to start may be to get folks to think about the role Reagan may have played in setting the stage for this current "Next War"

Dissenting Voices

From Ben Price, former Green Party candidate for Congress and current candidate for Pennsylvania Attorney General. Posted with his permission.


The passing of any person warrants some assessment of life. All week Ronald Reagan will be lionized by his idolaters who believe the smaller a democratically elected government, the better. But I believe in a government so democratic and huge that it would encompass all 280 million people. I do not think we should diminish the size of democracy, either by defunding its services or by calumnizing its champions.

Ronald Reagan captured the funny bone of America, not its soul. With his ability to "aw shucks" the worst truths and make them seem trivial, he was able to diminish our collective sense of responsibility and replace it with an enthusiasm for raw personal success. No small achievement, handing out confidence like chocolate from a Whitman Sampler. But as a definer of national character, all but the most avid capitalists could feel their teeth ring and their blood sugar peak and their energy slump at so saccharin a version of national sustenance.

Reagan worshipers at The National Standard magazine and the American Enterprise Institute think tank will chant and weep at his passing, intoning the great lessons of the "great communicator" as if the "Gipper's" words were American Scripture. But his lessons were not so in-tune with the America that Americans with a real commitment to our people and our ideals would recognize as traditional and abiding.

Although Reagan would claim he had experience in labor unions and respected workers' rights, he was a champion of corporate discipline and at every opportunity favored the management side in a dispute over the workers. The firing of thousands of striking air traffic controllers was the crowning achievement of his anti-labor career as president. Emblematic of his embrace of power over common workers, he was championed as a tough cookie, a no-nonsense ideologue. The Hollywood never left him. He was a showman first, a politician second, and an American leader when he got around to it.

Claiming to be a "Lincoln Republican, " it is clear he seldom read the words of Lincoln, who wrote in his first address to Congress in 1861: "Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration."

Reagan's complicity in many Central American deaths, his dishonesty over the Iran-Contra shadow government that circumvented congressional rules and flaunted anti-democratic policies, his flippant disregard for laws passed by the representatives of the American people suggest a justifiable interpretation that his actions fell short of heroism and in fact participated in the criminal.

In falsely remembering Ronald Reagan as a "great" president, we go too far in trying to share in his amnesia, his false Americanism. We, the People are not the trivial caricatures and false backdrops on a Hollywood set that makes for a good story and the warm fuzzy feeling of having someone likable tell it.

This is America and honesty trumps sentimentality. Ronald Reagan was a charismatic persuader, fully in tune with the consumer side of a devalued citizenry. Nothing more, but certainly nothing less.

May he and his victims rest in peace.

Ben Price
Carlisle Peace College

Reagan's Shameful Legacy--Ted Rall

Cartoonist and editorialist Ted Rall choses to take a darker look at Reagan's legacy; even mentioning the role he may have played in setting the stage for the Taliban and arming Iraq.

Reagan, Myth And Reality--FAIR

The media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting tries to unravel some of the myths that the corporate media has created about Reagan.

Remebering The Dead

The Democracy Now radio program devoted the whole week to remembering "victims" of the Reagan years; Central Americans, the poor and homeless, the people of the Middle East, etc.

Other Sources

I'm sure that the following publications will also have plenty to say on the "Darker Side" of Reagan's legacy

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