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Celebrating Reagan

07.governor.jpgMy grandmother's wake would have seemed like a party to a stranger who happened upon us in the funeral home parking lot, our cars set up like tailgaters at a football game; drinks pouring, most of us standing huddled and shivering in the cold, yet laughing and smiling. We were celebrating grandma's long life and telling the same, wonderful stories we had been sharing for years, stories we would pass on to our children. Grandma was old, she had lived a full life and left us with a rich legacy of memories and recipes. This is how I will deal with the death of Ronald Reagan. I will celebrate all he meant to my life. And for someone whose graduated from high school the year Reagan was elected, he posed a rather large impact on my young adulthood. As with grandma, not all the stories will be great ones, not all will make me laugh or smile. But they are part of his legacy, and we will discuss them at dinner or while watching his funeral procession on television or while hoisting a drink to him later on tonight. I was eleven when LBJ died, yet I remember it vividly. I watched part of his funeral at my aunt's house, on her black and white tv and I remember thinking - however absurdly - that presidents should not die. I had no idea at the time of LBJ's rather dark legacy (nor had I any way of knowing that thirty years later, I would form a rather bizarre obsession with the man and his politics), but it just seemed very surreal to watch the funeral of a former president on television. Instead of exploring these thoughts, I went outside to play, making the conscious decision to remain oblivious to history. Here I am 31 years later, flipping through every news channel, wading through every news site and blog, soaking up every single piece I can find about Reagan. The contrast between what you can find here and here is very interesting; I wish I had paid more attention when I was eleven because it might have laid an interesting ground for my political formation had I read the LBJ obituaries. I can't imagine that they appeared anything like Reagan's do today. Growing up in the 60's and 70's was to grow up with the words Cold War hanging over your head every day. We had air raids in school where we had to hunker under our desks or squat down in the hallway with our heads tucked between our legs. Just in case the Russians bomb us, they said. And that is really what they said. Our teachers and parents were not shy about our reasons to be afraid; they had not yet heard the term political correctness, they did not make any attempt to couch their hatred of the Russians in polite terms. The Russians were our enemy. They were the Red Menace. The Commies. The people who would "push the button" that would send us orbiting into space towards certain death. There was always that provocative button. For years, I would dream about this button, think about it, fear it and my imagination would let it grow to nightmare proportions. In my mind, I saw a windowless room, dark and cold. In the middle of the room was a glass case. Ensconced in that case was the big, red button. Russians sat around this glass case all day, fingers poised, faces continually contorted in a mixture of defiance and power. Just one word. One whispered word from a head commie, one wrong word from an angry American, and that's all it would take. An electronic panel would slide open and the button would automatically glow a sinister, bright red. Maybe it would flash. And the commies that had been gathered around the glass case, just waiting and waiting, would draw straws to see who got to push the button. But the biggest, baddest commie of all, some guy who, in my young, frightened mind, had a face full of pock marks and scars, making him uglier and redder than all the other commies. He was tall and broad and his eyes glowed like fiery coals. He would slowly inch his finger into the case while his comrades watched, rubbing their hands together in maniacal glee. Sometimes they even drooled with anticipation. And then the large, grubby index finger would poise over the button -hesitating for just one moment while the other commies held their breath and then a moment of complete silence while the head commie slowly pushed down on the red button. A map of America would appear in my head at that moment, a perfect mushroom cloud rising from the center and spreading outward. We were dead. For most of the years that dream sequence plagued me, I was of the mind that America was a bad guy. I was aware that we had a "button" as well (hence the popular term at the time, "push-button war"), and whatever news I read led me to believe that Americans were strong-arming the Russians into playing the button card. If you don't behave nicely, I'll have no choice but to kill you! That should be spoken in a highly affected Russian accent, by the way. Along comes Reagan. I was in the midst of a flower-power, no-nukes stage, one which saw me wanting to move to San Francisco so I could commune with the over-aged hippies still lingering on Haight Ashbury. So I did what any 18 year old, first time voter with liberal tendencies would have done. I voted for John Anderson. He wasn't Reagan and he wasn't Carter and he had the same name as that guy from Yes (even though the musician Anderson spelled his name Jon). You would think that a faux liberal like myself would have been enamored of Jimmy Carter, but his handling of the Iran hostage crisis irked me; he was a wimp of the highest order. I suppose the warning bells were being set off in my mind even then and I had I listened they would have been telling me that I wasn't really a liberal; I just liked smoking pot and listening to the Grateful Dead. The years of Reagan's presidency spanned the same years that I went from stupid teenager to grown woman. Reagan was inaugurated the January after I graduated high school. He remained president until shortly before I gave birth to my first child. That's a lot of growing up I did under the presidency of one man. I grew to love Ronald Reagan. Even through the Iran/Contra crisis, even with Nancy's Just Say No campaign, I loved his presidency. He wanted us, more than anything, to be proud to be Americans. He offered us hope where Carter had only offered us (or myself, at least) despair. He made us feel strong and powerful, which was just what we needed at that time. I loved Reagan, the man. His smile warmed me. His personality made me feel as if he were speaking just to me every time I watched him address the nation. He cried with me after the explosion and spoke words that filled my heart with a bittersweet hope: bq. And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle's takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them... Ronald Reagan was a father figure. Even a grandfatherly figure. His smile was genuine, his heart big and gracious. So I looked for Ronald Reagan to dispel my fears, to help me learn about pride of country, to feel good about the future. And he did all that. Lest you doubt Reagan's impact on my Russia-phobia, look at all things that happened during his presidency: * 1983 Proposes Strategic Defense Initiative * 1986 Gorbachev ends economic aid to Soviet satellites * 1986 Reagan and Gorbachev resolve to remove all intermediate nuclear missiles from Europe * 1987 Reagan and Gorbachev sign treaty to remove all medium and short-range nuclear missiles * 1989 Soviet troops withdraw from Afghanistan * 1989 Poland becomes independent * 1989 Hungary becomes independent * 1989 Berlin Wall falls * 1989 Communism falls in Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Rumania * 1988 Soviet empire is over For one who grew up with such an intense fear of the Russians that she dreamed about them nightly, those events were life altering. Reagan was the hero who would vanquish my nightmares of the red button forever. I did slip back into my liberal tendencies for a bit after Reagan left office. But the groundwork for my conservatism had been laid by President Reagan. His idea of "peace through strength" is why I supported the first Gulf War. It was that idea that would become the basis for my abandoning liberalism in 2001. It was that idea, in fact, that always made me a bit of an outcast amongst my more liberal friends. My love for Ronald Reagan was something I hid from them, for fear of being thrown out of the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy (yes, there is one of those). Yet it was Reagan's ideology that gave me the push I needed after 9/11 to embrace my true self and my true politics. I have never been more comfortable than I am here in Reagan's World, where pride in your country is a good thing, where hope always remains, where the future is something to look forward to and not fear. The Red Menace is long gone. The nightmares of the red button have evaporated. There are other enemies to meet, other wars to win, other fears to quash. I truly believe that if we continue to work towards Reaganís' vision of America's future, we will not only win, but we continue to spread the prosperity of democracy throughout the world, making us all richer in the end. This is my celebration of Ronald Reagan's presidency.
Trolls and moonbattery will not be tolerated on this thread. This is my eulogy. Eulogies are not open for debate. Make a DU-worthy comment on this post and I will crush your dissent faster than you can say delete.

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Comments

VERY well said, Michele.

Good Lord, Michele - That was magnificent. Bless your heart. All the best, Terry

Michele,

A splendid, magnificent post. (LOL, I'm still chuckling over your remarks about Jo(h)n Anderson!)

I was in the Air Force throughout the Reagan years. When I enlisted in 1981, we were prepared to go to war with the Soviet Union. During my last year, 1987, I remember seeing posters for tours of that same entity. (Only a few years later, of course, the USSR would no longer exist.)

You and I are about the same age, and my memories of that mythic Red Button are quite a lot like yours, although I could never have described them so eloquently.

Again, thanks for a great tribute to President Reagan.

Well said. I will fly the flag at halfstaff on the anniversary of this day, every year of my life, from now on.

Thank you for this, Michele. He was a titan. I'm just at such a loss for words. As Navy Secretary Gideon Welles said of Lincoln, "now he belongs to the ages."

Anderson: check
age 18, first vote ever: check
My college-aged friends gnashing teeth and crying in beer over impending nuclear war on election night: check

Had me at "morning in America": check

Great post, Michele; an inspirational way to remember one of our best Presidents. I was 8 years old when Reagan left office, but I realize now what I was too young to realize then. Ron's defense buildup gave America the military power it needed to defend itself (and others); his tax cuts and economic vision gave us back the prosperity that had left for so many decades.

Growing up in the 60's and 70's was to grow up with the words Cold War hanging over your head every day. We had air raids in school where we had to hunker under our desks or squat down in the hallway with our heads tucked between our legs. Just in case the Russians bomb us, they said.

Where did you go to school? We're the same age and I can honestly say I never experienced anything remotely like this. I remember seeing "fallout shelter" signs at my school and not understanding what it meant, such had the level of Cold War tension diminished by the early '70s.

Disappointing though not surprising that even in a post of mourning you can't spare your liberal-hating snark. So much for Reagan making "us" all optimistic.

This is beautiful, Michele. Just beautiful. Thank you.

Michele,

Thank you.

My experience somewhat parallels yours. Right down to voting for John Anderson, though I was 20.

And Charlie, I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. At 43 I believe I'm a year or two older than Michele. I graduated from high school in 1978. We also had the air raid drills, crouching under our desks covering our heads with our arms. A curtain monitor was assigned each week to draw the large black out curtains across the windows to "protect" us from the flash and flying glass. Our school was an air raid shelter.

There's no left or right in that, it's just part of a shared history.

Thanks again Michele

Ronald Reagan was a wonderful guy. I have about a thousand problems with his Administration and its policies, but he was always standing on his principles and they weren't bad ones: he loved America and he stood up against its enemies.

I'm saying that as a liberal who has only voted for Republicans on the local level.

My only quibble with your eulogy is that the Red Menace is not gone. It is changing and using other names, just as Western Democracy has and always will change, but it is still there. It will always be there as long as dictators and their cronies are capable of holding a nation under their boots (probably the ones with MADE IN CHINA on the sole).

Charlie

I'm 8 years older than Michele, indeed, my 50th birthday was yesterday (see my post on the previous thread). I grew up in Granada Hills, CA (north end of the San Fernando Valley) ... Drop drills were a regular part of my school year. I remember the family up the street from us who built a bomb shelter in their backyard. Air raid sirens were regularly tested at 9 am the third Friday of every month (and even at a tender age I always was afraid if the Soviets did attack they'd time it to coincide with our airraid testing days). We all knew which public buildings in our area had basements with officially designated Fallout Shelters.

The late 50's up to mid 60's is always being depicted as a post-wwii bucolic, saddles shoes, poodle skirt, Elvis, suburbia "innocent" era..but parallel was Sputnik, the Soviet crush of Hungary in 56 and Czechoslavakia in 68, MAD, the Doomsday Clock, Kruschev's "we will bury you" speech, the Cuban missle crises....

Thank you, Mr. Reagan, for making the fall of the Berlin Wall a reality.

Michele, standing ovation for your eulogy.

I am a child of the Cold War. I remember, when I was 8, my parents taking my brother and me on a sudden trip to Mexico in October 1962. I remember the Soviet-American proxy wars in Viet-Nam and Afghanistan, and crises beyond number. Like most of my generation, I expected that someday, without warning, the world would end. I remember Berlin, and the Wall, which I walked the length of in 1989, not knowing that 3 months later it would be gone. Soon thereafter the Evil Empire itself was on "the ash heap of history", just as Reagan had said.

I remember Ronald Reagan, and give thanks.

My first presidential vote was for Reagan in '84 and, when I was commissioned in '86 I was proud to have him as Commander in Chief. I was underway, on alert status performing a nuclear deterent patrol when that Wall came down. Didn't realize how monumental it was until over a month later when we got back to port and could finally see the photos and video.

As much as many would hate to admit it, I think a lot of GWB's appeal is similar to what made Reagan so well liked. While Bush is not the accomplished communicator Reagan was, both men are seen as strong and committed to their priciples in the face of a dangerous enemy. Both, while not always right, come off as sincere.

I think the best legacy we could help create of Ronald Reagan is, regarless of political ideology, to expect and demand of all political leaders the same level of personal honesty and genuineness Reagan always exuded.

Strangely enough, even though I graduated high school in 1980, I never went through any of the duck-and-cover stuff; it just wasn't done in Florida, at least in the schools I went to, even though Miami was right in Cuba's bullseye. I think once we did this drill thing where we all went into the hallway and sat down -- though maybe that was some sort of hurricane drill. Maybe they thought, the Cuban Missile Crisis being such a recent memory, that people would simply snap under the strain of being reminded; or more likely, they didn't bother as they knew such measures would be useless.

On the other hand, we had regular fire drills.

By the way, can someone tell Charlie T. that it's not always about him?

I grew up in a town where the only industry was building ships for the Navy. Five miles away was a Naval Air Station where they would neither confirm or deny the presence of nuclear weapons. We never had duck and cover drills but I think that was mostly because everyone believed we were a direct target and hiding under a desk would be useless. My first, and proudest, vote cast was for Reagan's second term. It was a vote that cost me friendships in college, but I didn't really miss the friends who marked his reelection with black arm bands.

Michele,

Thank you for thoughts.

Showing this to my mother, who cried when she heard the news. I spent my second through tenth grades during the eighties, and though I was too young to understand much of the world around me through most of it, I can remember the almost unprecedented prosperity we had. Even with the threat of the Red Menace hanging over our collective heads, my family never felt want of anything. We really were free to live our lives...and I cannot thank Reagan enough for that.

Michele, a couple of years ago I read and saw on TV some libs who admitted the "Just Say No" campaign was working.

Sometimes the simplest approaches are the best.

1982 I did the 11K miles in a bus tour of Europe.

Was at The Wall. Looking over it, East Berlin was grim. Hungary adapted after being crushed in 56 - lively, colorful, Czechloslovakia, to me, did not - grey, a pall over the Prague. I spent 7/4/82 there.

And then there's the propaganda billboard I snapped in East Germany, IIRC. Uncle Sam, skull of death, hammer and sickle, dove of peace.

Right.

Cast both votes for Ronnie. I was right when I was born and I'm right now.

Another Anderson voter here. I've also found my way over to the VRWC, but Reagan had to grow on me.

I'm glad that enough others saw things clearly enough to elect him back then.

My President, Ronald Reagan, would raise my spirit and put the proverbial lump in my throat in all of his speeches. I was in my fourth year of a six year tour in the military when Reagan took office; we were a completely demoralized bunch of soldiers during those four years. Thank God that Carter did not go to war with Iran, we would have lost, really lost this time. The will to win was sapped among us. Reagan changed that instantly. Orders came down from up top that gave our commanders true on-scene control of the forces, the military hardware store was open and my pay shot up. We were gearing up for the showdown and we ready to get on with it, if it came. That message was not lost on our enemies; Reagan knew what everyone else didn't at the time, our enemies were only man-eating tigers in our pussy-whipped minds. The key was LEADERSHIP, FAITH and the INNER SPIRIT within all Americans.

One thing I didn't realize at the time Reagan was in office - and which I miss, now - was his sense of dignity and respect for the office. (A lot has been made of his refusing to take his suit coat off in the Oval Office).

In some respects, I think he's probably the last "real grown-up" we had as a president, and he may be the last "real grown-up" we have as a president. The Baby Boomer generation and my own generation ("X") are far too cynical and casual.

I was born in 1969; I wasn't around for duck-and-cover drills but I am old enough to remember fearing the possibility of nuclear war with the Soviets. I remember my dad having a bomb shelter constructed in the waning days of the Carter presidency.

And I remember in high school (when Reagan was in his second term and famously calling for Mr. Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall) that I wasn''t quite as scared, and didn't expect a nuclear war in the way I had a few years ago, any more.

actually, it's kind of surprising to see some of the media outlets heap praise on Reagan - some of which vilified him while alive. But I guess that's how some folks believe - like Berke Breathed said, a "statesman" is a "dead politician"

I'd rather have my politicians be statesman while they are alive. I think Reagan at the very least approached being a statesman.

I was born in 1978, so I don't have many memories of the Reagan years. I do remember that my parents raised me to hate him, though that didn't stick. I actually consider him to be one of my hero's now. Here's to the Gipper.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2004/6/5/171258/8003

http://www.epenthesis.org/archives/003383.php

anon@anon.org left the same on my Reagan thread a few minutes ago. A serial troll, how cute.

feel free to delete this comment too, if you prefer to 'keep the thread clean.'

I was born in 1970, spent the first 12 years of my life in a tiny town on the coast of Lake Erie, and we DID have "duck and cover"-style air-raid drills... complete with air-raid siren on the top of the town building.

Ronald Reagan, long before he was President, was a lifeguard in his town. He saved people from drowning, so many that Peggy Noonan later had a hard time keeping track of them all.
Ronald Reagan, when he was a union official for the SAG, took a firm stand against a dogma that devalued individual freedom and human life-Communism- at a time and a place when to have ethics was to be shunned and hated. Because of this, and because of his fearlessness as a union negotiator, his life was threatened and for a while he travelled armed and with a police escort.
As President, he fought for what he believed in even though other and lesser men belittled and hated him for it. In the end he won a great victory over a dire foe... and then he quietly went back home, there to suffer with dignity a fate most of us will admit that they dread.

Let the lesser men carp. Reagan was a great man, a great American, and I am just grateful he was.

So well said, Michelle, thank you. I always thought that President Reagan's true genius was not so much to make us proud of America, but proud of Americans.

BTW, my elementary school in north San Diego county was on the old coast highway, 20 miles south of Camp Pendleton. During the Cuban missile crisis, we saw camoflaged troop trucks every day at recess ferrying Marines down to San Diego for deployment. Spooky days indeed. Thank God President Reagan believed that you have to beat evil, not accomodate it.

Darleen: happy birthday. I think the 9 year difference in our ages is significant. I started school in 1967 (and my first 2 years were on a military base) and I never went through a duck-and-cover drill.

Andrea: I enjoyed your recollections. I'd say who I voted for in 1980 too, but that would make it "about me" so I won't.

Elementary schools in Alabama from 1964-69, Texas schools until 1977.

I remember the drills until 7th grade, so, 1972.

Commisar:

The same troll is apparently leaving the same links in the comment box of every pro-Reagan post on the internet. A persistent little spam-bot he is. I see him everywhere.

I went to college in Chicago starting in 1978. I remember that many times during the next four years I would look at the breath taking Chicago skyline, with its skyscrapers set against Lake Michigan, and imagine its destruction in a nuclear war. At the time, we all thought that it might end like that.

He ended the Cold War without firing a shot -- Margaret Thatcher

Thank you Mr. Reagan.

It would seem that you discounted the entirety of the Cold War altogether. Point of fact, there was more than just one President who lived in the White House during the Cold War, which as you would know, had it's beginnings after World War II. To discount Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Carter is stupendous, if not blind to the facts at hand. Reagan had an impact on the Cold War as everyone did during that time period. To believe that Reagan was the pivotal leader who brought about the end of the Cold War is facile. He was the President who saw the Cold War come to an end. But, he did not win the Cold War. In fact, one could make the argument that 10's of thousands of US soldiers, hundreds of Presidential administration appointees, and seven (count them) Presidents had a role in it's demise. If we liken this to a baseball game, what you are saying is that the reliever who came in at the bottom of the 9th inning won the game; when, in fact, it was the team as a whole that won the game.

Another honest eulogy:

http://www.epinions.com/content_3945963652

To discount Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Carter is stupendous, if not blind to the facts at hand.

Well, Case is right about this. Johnson and Carter significantly set back Russian freedom by about 20 years. If not for them, the Soviet Union would have fallen much sooner.

I know that most of your readers think Reagan tore down the Soviet Union singlehandedly, but I thought it would be nice if you realized that the Soviet people had a had in it themselves.

After all, Reagan had other things on his plate, like defending Pol Pot and apartheid.