Into The Mythic
John Hartmann

Ronald Reagan a “great president”, MY ASS.

I’m sick to death, and this from a lifelong conservative (even when I didn’t know I was…), of this ongoing canonizing of arguably the most actively harmful chief executive of my lifetime.

Ronald Reagan was a god-damn entertainer, playing a part. He had learned the arts of extemporaneous showmanship, being a baseball announcer for a minor-league club. He had learned to play the handsome hero, being a half-assed actor in a string of excruciatingly mediocre Hollywood throwaways. He had learned to manipulate partisan sentiment to personal advantage, being an FBI/HUAC snitch fingering his colleagues who entrusted to him the task of running their union (the SAG, the most liberal collective-bargaining cartel this side of the NEA…)

He ignomiously switched parties when he got made a better offer. He traded in his equally excruciating new role as gleaming corporate pitchman for one as a script-reciting Republican politician when he finally discovered the means to having the limelight he had so craved and never quite been able to earn as a legitimate entertainer. He was the tool and possession of his corporate masters, duly intoning McCarthyite denunciationism for their constituency because that was what they had created and cultivated him to do. He finally found a way to be a major-leaguer, not by being any damn good at anything, but by (as always) saying his lines and playing his part.

He was the one-man architect of a quarter-century of quagmirish, nightmarish, unwinnable war in the middle east to follow him, by making the faustian bargain of arming the mujahedeen in order to teach the Soviets a lesson, arguably the most horrific and inexcusable foreign policy legacy of any head of state in American history.

He stopped in its tracks a decade of spontaneous and grassroots developments in alternative energy technologies, being undertaken mostly by real entrepeneurs seeking profits like a good capitalist is supposed to do, and threw the nation back under the freight train of absolute dependency on petroleum for three decades-plus to come because that was what his petro-masters had hired him to do. And if continual wars in the middle east set in motion by de-stabilizing the region more than ever on a quest for petro-dominance was the price to be paid for ending all hope of an oil-free future, then so be it.

It was never Mister Gorbachev who tore down any wall. It was ordinary people with tools in their hands, the same grade of people who get everything done worth doing in this old world. It was never any tall-in-the-saddle impostor in the White House who “won the cold war”, because breaking news folks: we lost the god-damn thing.

There is more socialist domestic policy and Stalinist denunciation culture alive and well now in this post-Reagan chaotic mess he left America to deteriorate into, than had ever been present when he and his pal Tail-gunner Joe were rounding up alleged communists for their “position on Spain” for having had a conversation about a civil war in the 1930s.

I stopped going to church in the middle of his tiresome and exasperating reign of ideological terror, because the faith of my childhood in a loving and forgiving God had been turned overnight into a kowtowing exercise in flag-waving. I heard “thank God for Mister Reagan” as much or more than “in Jesus’ name we pray” during those times in those edifices, until I could no longer endure watching a senile old man delivering a script being turned into a 2oth century messiah in his own right. They’re still at it in those places, still saluting that miserable charlatan as some New Savior rather than concentrating on a life of faith in God, and I still won’t attend them.

I got to where I wouldn’t even listen to a radio or watch a TV when that man began to speak, because his delivery was so convincing in the immediate experience of it that it was eerie to try and experience a Reagan address rationally. He was that hypnotic at the one acting role he ever managed to be convincing in, and I had to stop subjecting myself to that kind of terrifying emotional manipulation.

The man was a fraud, a cardboard cutout, a turncoat, and all the while sliding into a state of senile dementia become so severe that in the end Nancy Reagan had every right to be named as The First Woman President, because it was she who was running his staff and doing his job for him.

No, Ronald Reagan was not any “great president.” We may yet never recover from the extensive damage he did, to the nation, to the world, to his party (or both of them, it turns out), to the Christian faith and to the conservative world view. We need another Reagan like I need a god-damn dose of the clap.