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6.6.04 The Reagan Years

1981-1988... my political sleep. Where was I? In Rochester, happy in my work, with a small graphic arts business on the side. I was a calligrapher -- lettering lovely sayings and labels that people who always thought it should only take a couple minutes and a couple bucks. I was single again, but involved with Jim. The eighties were my athletic era. I discovered skiing and scuba diving and was a regular at the gym, doing weights and aerobic dance.

I loved the eighties. In 1971 edgy movies like the "French Connection" and "Klute" got Academy Awards. In 1981 we had the soft focus classics "Chariots of Fire" and "On Golden Pond." Hmmm... Jane Fonda moving from unapologetic call girl to approval-anxious daughter. Aretha Franklin had gone from demanding "Respect" to driving on the "Freeway of Love" and singing Burt Bacharach songs. Michael Jackson had gone from the sweet kid who "Never Can Say Goodbye" (1971) to the mega-commercial crossover star of "Beat It" and the Thriller album.

Maybe, after the sixties and seventies, we needed a decade that relaxed a little.

Still, I was so aghast that 20-Mule-Team* Reagan won the presidency that I simply tuned out of politics. I don't believe a read a single article about him or listened to a single speech or press conference. All the "evil empire" stuff was so much theatrics as far as I was concerned.

His public persona was that of an affable man.** He talked about evil empire, but didn't do much warring. His blow to the Soviets was to outspend them on unused weapon systems. He prattled on about government spending, then sent the deficit soaring. Iran-Contra was a pesky little scandal, but Ronnie seemed to just shrug it off.

We will have to endure a week of revisionist history about the guy. Did he set all the right switches for Clinton's era of peace and prosperity? The argument will rage. I'm already bored just anticipating the point-counterpoint on every news program. My only concession there is that his bluster about Big Government and Liberals probably made the centrist reformer Bill Clinton possible.

Unfortunately, his biggest legacy might have been his inspiration to a young George W. Bush. But Reagan was savvy enough not to take his ideology to extremes. Maybe it is a sad commentary on our current era that Bush and his cronies were so quick to slap their ideology on everything that now the United States is considered the Evil Empire.

At least Ronald Reagan gave us optimistic illusions of good times, allowed some of us to ignore him, and left office with America singing "Don't Worry, Be Happy."



* His one memorable movie (aside from "Bedtime for Bonzo") was "Knute Rockne, All-American" where he played the ill-fated Gipper. Beyond that I only knew him as announcer for the "GE Theater" and pitchman for 20-Mule Team Borax, a laundry additive.

**I hedge that statement only because I'm not so sure he was all that affable at heart. Clearly, he was hard-drive ambitious. And, most telling, he had very strained relationships with his own children. He was certainly no national father figure.


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