I know you don’t consider BTQ your first source for news, so by now you should know that former President Ronald Reagn has died.
I have spoken before of my admiration of Nancy Reagan for “her constancy for the former President and her steadfastness in downplaying attempts to canonize the man.” She has some nice comments about her husband in Time this week. As sad as this time must be for her and the family, and as willingly and lovingly as she has assumed the burden of caring for Reagan, I’m sure it’s a relief for them that he’s no longer suffering.
As for Reagan himself, I’m not sure what to say. He was the first political figure I was really aware of. And after all this time, I still can’t draw a bead on him. He seems either to be the most simple or most complicated of men. Much like our current President, I suppose. And by “simple” I don’t mean “dumb.” I mean basic, uncomplicated, un-Nixonian, normal.
I guess my bottom-line assessment is this. Whatever Reagan’s achievements might have been, I’m not ready to start taking bids for blasting a new face onto Mount Rushmore. And while I understand the love that Reagan devotees have for the man, I’m bracing myself for them going overboard. I’ve heard there is even a push to rename California “Reaganland.” Okay, I made that up, but you believed it for a second, didn’t you? I have a feeling Reagan’s successor would support it.
But let’s take Nancy’s cue and remember that Reagan was just a man, not some superhero. The way I see it, doesn’t it say so much more about Reagan’s accomplishments that he could have such a revolutionary vision for government and still be an ordinary guy (who acted with chimps) and had some faults?
I’m certainly not prepared to call Reagan the greatest president we’ve had. But I think the desire to turn Reagan into a saint depends on that characterization. To use a sports analogy, even if Reagan is Babe Ruth, you still have Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Ted Williams, Shoeless Bill Clinton….well, you get the idea. No one’s trying to call baseball “Ruthball,” even if he was the best to ever play the game. For me National Airport will always be “National Airport,” and I’m perfectly content to have Reagan’s lasting physical legacy be the largest government building in Washington. Isn’t his real legacy an idea? You don’t need a groundbreaking and a cheap plaque to call that “Reaganism.” So let’s celebrate a truly American life this week, but don’t make me get new stationery.