One Man…In The Name Of Love (A re-post of one of my most popular musings from days of yore)
America had always been about hope. And liberty.
Personal, constitutionally enumerated rights, limited government. You own your property, your body and its labor. Government can’t arbitrarily, capriciously take it away. This made us unique among nations. And it led to unique results.
For most of 200 years the country believed it could do anything. For most of 200 years, it did. Problem? Bring it on! Here’s a solution! We’re not talking about perfection, no mythical utopia or Heaven on Earth.
We’re talking about real problems wrestled with by real people.
And the answers they came up with were some of the most beautiful and profound ever crafted by man.
The Declaration of Independence (freedom from a repressive, unrepresentative government), the Emancipation Proclamation, the Marshall Plan, etc.
“Ask not what your country can do for you…ask what you can do for your country.”
“Let all nations know, whether they wish us well or ill, that we will go anywhere and pay any price in defense of freedom!” Duty. Honor. Country.
And then…something happened. Some things happened. Did they ever.
Berlin Wall, Sputnik, Kruschev…missile crisis…Bay-of-Pigs.
Cold war. Bomb shelters.
Vietnam. A protracted ‘partial’ but terrible war, run by committee. No total commitment. Cities burning. Riots. Race riots. Looting. Finger pointing. Lies. Kent State. JFK, MLK, RFK…assassinations. Doubt, guilt, embarrassment, loss. Recession, gas lines, OPEC.
Troops coming home now. Some of our own spit on them. We abandon our friends. Desperate hands slowly losing their grip on the last helicopter out. First loss. Shame.
Wage and price controls? W.I.N.? Watergate, resignation, pardon. Recession. Malaise! Billy Beer, 15% interest rates, 11% unemployment, inflation in the teens! A new word must be coined for something thought impossible/oxymoronic…STAGFLATION.
It’s over. It’s really over. A great run by a formerly fine little country with a formerly fine little experiment, but obviously we are truly to be left on the ash heap of history. America is essentially finished thought some in the intelligentsia. Many (most) ‘only’ thought our best days were behind us.
Hostage Crisis, 444 days and for the first time America has no effective response when its own are taken prisoner by a foreign nation. Disgrace. Weakness. Indecision. Guilt.
World mocks. Russians march. Markets down. Despair. Even the Statue of Liberty seems to shine less brightly. “Give us your tired, your poor…?” Hell, we’re tired and poor!
Nuclear winter. Global cooling. Silent Spring. Apocalypse Now. My God, there is no way out of all of this! Where could the nation…the world…turn for inspiration?
Into the void strode one man, brashly declaring it to be, “Morning in America.” HUH?
He was right, as he made it right. The promise of a renewed America. Delivered, like almost all the others. Is this a politician? Hostages on the way back home during the inaugural. (“Ronald Reagan is president of your country now? O.K., back you go now, all big MISTAKE. Have nice trip, going to miss you, kiss, kiss!)”
The largest and longest economic expansion in American history. The seventeen ‘Fat Years’ that the Clinton administration benefited from. Interest rates and unemployment rates plummeted with the tax rates. So did inflation. The American Dream…restored. People in houses again, not doghouses. A new term had to be coined for a raging economy without inflation. “Reagan Rally” on Wall Street.
The seventeen fat years were proceeded by the thirteen anorexic ones. An incredible amount of time in each case to decide what policies work and don’t work.
Call it like it is…the “Evil Empire”. Say what you believe. You believe? Give the world clarity…and hope. “Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall.’
America’s back. Let all nations know. Back from the abyss.
A November night in Berlin. A wall has come down. A terrible, stark, hulking, soulless wall. Seperating family…humanity…from liberty, hope, dignity. Freedom replaces terror. Hope pushes away despair.
And a now former president smiles. History should never forget what you did here…and will remember what you said here.
When the wall finally fell for president Reagan, and he went to that shining city on a hill, much of America was in mourning.
President Reagan’s legacy and beliefs are still here for us to follow, if we are wise enough and true enough to our constitution, our history, and our soul, to pull back from the new abyss we’re staring into now. An abyss of the soul. An abyss of character.
Mr. president, if we do follow your lead, perhaps it will forevermore be…”Morning in America” for us…as it is for you. Thank you Mr. president, thank you.
Ronald Reagan can easily be argued to have faced one of the four or five most difficult sets of problems to encounter any incoming president in American history, as I hope I’ve just illustrated.
He won the longest (Cold) war without firing a shot, turned a moribund economy around, gave hope and restored pride to the American people and indeed much of the world. Far from starting wars around the globe or nuking it out with the USSR, he negotiated the first real nuclear arms reduction treaties and hoped to eliminate nuclear arms entirely.
George Washington could’ve been king, was the first president and had to chart a course. He set precedents that would resonate throughout history and help define a nation. No pressure.
Abraham Lincoln had to keep the country together…through a civil war. “Could a nation so dedicated and so conceived long survive?” Wow. To me, this is obviously the toughest task any president has faced.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt had an actual depression, as well as the Second World War to entertain him. Financial institutions and the rise of communism in the country were also concerns. Fortunately, he had a good and great buddy overseas. (As did Reagan).
One can’t project persons or presidents into different eras and situations and proclaim to know exactly what they would have done or not done. And, of course, there is some subjectivity here. However it should be quite clear that these are presidents who faced some of the most daunting challenges in American history. Each of them helped shape a nation by their bold and courageous leadership.
If ever a second ‘Mount Rushmore’ is created, here’s hoping that president Reagan’s likeness is on it.
May they find a mountain big enough.