Skip to comments.Mourning In America
Posted on 06/14/2004 11:30:00 AM PDT by Nasty McPhilthy
Mourning In America 06/11/2004
"Ronald Reagan belongs to the ages now," President Bush said in eulogizing the former president, "but we preferred it when he belonged to us."
During the 1988 election campaign, the one between Bush the Elder and Michael Dukakis, during which Senator John Kerry called the Reagan years a time of "moral darkness," political pollsters sensed something odd among the electorate.
The best opinion researchers are very good at this - sensing nuances in the way people answer questions. This particular odd nuance didn't reflect itself in the head-to-head choice between the two candidates, or in the rank orderings in which voters placed the list of issues. Still, something seemed to be missing.
Eventually, Vince Breglio, one of the very best, put his finger on it. "The people," he said, "don't want this election to happen."
It did happen, of course, and the subsequent presidential stewardship of Bush the Elder would maintain the momentum just long enough to assure the revolutionary economic and international policies for which Reagan was responsible would endure.
Despite the alleged moral darkness, and easy epithets like Bill Clinton's calling the 1980's the "decade of greed," the people knew better. They knew that the kindly gentleman in the White House was both competent and trustworthy. They didn't want the 1988 election to happen because it raised the possibility that the next president would take things back to the way they were before: he might be incompetent like Carter, or untrustworthy, like Nixon.
And so they mourned the political passing of the Reagan presidency, wishing it didn't have to happen.
This week, the memories came back. To those old enough to remember, and those who learned it from their elders (How, given the immense failings of our educational system, did they learn it?), the pride and confidence of the 1980's were recalled, and America mourned the mortal passing of the teacher and leader who taught us how to be proud of our country, and led us to an awareness of how we could, and must, do our part to make it better.
Draw a straight line from 1979 to the present, and try to imagine what America would look like now without Reagan in between. You know what I think? I think it would look like France: a debilitated economy, a first-monkey foreign policy that can see no evil, the squandering of a heritage of greatness and leadership.
We were headed that way. But Ronald Reagan changed the direction of the arrow.
He never told us the road would be easy, but he did tell us our best days were ahead of us. And he meant us. All of us.
None of the excerpters I've heard this week has picked out my favorite passage from Reagan's first inaugural address:
"Those who say that we are in a time when there are no heroes just don't know where to look. You can see heroes every day going in and out of factory gates. Others, a handful in number, produce enough food to feed all of us and then the world beyond. You meet heroes across a counter--and they are on both sides of that counter. There are entrepreneurs with faith in themselves and faith in an idea who create new jobs, new wealth and opportunity. They are individuals and families whose taxes support the Government and whose voluntary gifts support church, charity, culture, art, and education. Their patriotism is quiet but deep. Their values sustain our national life."
Like I said, he meant all of us. And a president who thought we were heroes was, of course, our hero, too.
So we mourn his loss like we have mourned no other former president ever. There was no shock of a death in office, it was the passing of a 93-year-old man whose death had long been anticipated, and whose presence in our public life had been utterly over for more than a decade.
But in a spontaneous outpouring of emotion that stunned commentators and citizens alike, we wore our grief on our sleeves, and paused to contemplate, very, very seriously, the meaning of his life, and ours.
Forty-one years ago, the undergraduate prototype of me stood in line through the wee hours of the morning to file into the rotunda of the Capitol, past the flag-draped casket of John Kennedy. This week, we queued up on the other side of the Capitol, and in a compact Disney maze instead of being strung out through the streets of Southeast Washington. But I was in line again, dragging my weary bones up the hill, through the metal detectors and under the dome.
The marble floor, the flag-draped casket, the rigid and impassive honor guard - all these seemed not to have changed a bit since 1963. Only I had changed, morphed somehow into my grandfather.
And America, which one can imagine rotating around that dome like a carousel, had changed, too. Because history does not merely revolve, it evolves.
In the years before Ronald Reagan became President, there was a sense, a malaise, if you will, that the ride was somehow slowing down, the music out-of-tune, the bright paint faded. Kennedy's assassination had marked the point of change, when post-war confidence turned sour.
By dint of his wondrous optimism, deep humanity and clear-sighted convictions, Reagan revved up the machine of America again. Our challenge is to arise tomorrow from today's mourning, and be the heroes he told us we are.
Way to get my waterworks going all over again.
I LOVED this line: Eventually, Vince Breglio, one of the very best, put his finger on it. "The people," he said, "don't want this election to happen."
Gets me started again, every single time.
For me, mourning weighs toward celebrating a life & what a life he had. I get taken back to being the starry eyed, struggling kid again, discovering a hope for the future I never expected to have.
I was honestly shocked when he won both of his elections, as I had been convinced by the media that there was no way it was going to happen. The outpouring of love for *my* President, sure makes me feel so much less alone in my beliefs again. I feel it is our place to pick up the baton & to carry what he taught us forward.
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