Let me say this – I don’t understand all this fuss about honoring the 100th Birthday of Ronald Reagan, aka “The Gipper”.
I honestly don’t. As a youth growing up during the Reagan Administration, I bear witness to what his attempts to de-regulate the government did. I was a freshman in college and all my state-funded grants got cut off. Fortunately, I attended a Catholic Liberal Arts private college, who was trying to get their affirmative action on and they awarded me scholarships to cover the costs of my tuition for the remainder of my four years.
I was also an intern in Rep. Ron Dellums’s Oakland office during the attempt to bring him down because he headed the sub-committee on Armed Forces, and was openly questioning Reagan’s request for more money to go to the Defense Department when the country was in peacetime. Yeah, we know, Reagan wanted the money for “Star Wars” projects to keep his Defense Contracting buddies in business.
And lets not forget that the architects of the “Project for a New American Century” were in strategic positions in both the Reagan and Bush, Sr. administrations, but I digress. I really want to know why the hullabaloo about the Gipper’s upcoming 100th birthday, considering this country is now reaping the adversities of the programs and policies he set forth with a Democratic Congress and Senate, to boot. Additionally, who can forget when Saddam Hussein was a good friend of the United States, as long as he took out Mohamar Quaddaffi – remember this pic?
For those who are going to “honor” the Gipper (and there’s a whole lot of festivities planned in DC during of all months, Black History Month – a poke in our eyes if ever there was one) I know my plea is going to fall on deaf ears to tell the real “truth” about the Gipper. Just like you latch on to anything that would paint Malcolm, Martin, Jack or Bobby in a negative light (sidepieces like Marilyn Monroe, and whatnot) to try and negate their accomplishments during their short, but significant lives, I’m putting some of the Gipper’s business on Front Street (actually his younger children, Ron and Patti, have already done this, while Michael and Maureen try to whitewash it).
Did y’all know Reagan was a snitch during his Hollywood days? He got a whole lot of his fellow actors in trouble with the government and J. Edgar Hoover in particular during the McCarthy witchhunts:
Reagan was a snitch during his Hollywood years. As Anthony Summers makes clear in his book Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover, the Gipper had his own code name ,T-10 and regularly provided the FBI with information on Communists, real, imagined and manufactured. Victor Navasky’s Naming Names documents as well how Reagan, then the head of the Screen Actors Guild, kept the FBI well informed about ‘disloyal’ actors. During Reagan’s Moscow Summit, the President met with Russian students to discuss communism and capitalism. In a speech too simple to be included in Communism for Idiots, the President dusted off his old theoretical writings from Reader’s Digest and Boy’s Life and told the students why Marx was evil and unbridled capitalism good.
As his B-actor career faded, Reagan became a mouthpiece for General Electric, one of the world’s largest arms manufacturers. Reagan’s one clear talent was the ability to read a Teleprompter or memorize his lines on the glories of free enterprise. While his skills were sub-par by Hollywood standards, he was able to parlay bad acting into good politics. Reagan understood the uncritical nature of the American public and their appetite for neo-American hokum. As E.L. Doctorow pointed out in his 1980 article, The Rise of Ronald Reagan: his tenure as GE spokesman overlapped the years in which the great electrical industry price-fixing scandal was going on.
While Reagan extolled the virtues of free enterprise in front of the logo, G.E., along with Westinghouse, Allis- Chalmers and other giant corporations, was habitually controlling the market by clandestine price fixing and bid rigging agreements, all of which led, in 1960, to grand jury indictments, in what was characterized by the Justice Department as the largest criminal case ever brought under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, Doctorow noted.
Caught up in the Goldwater conservative movement, Reagan realized that he could deliver the right-wing reactionary script better than the much more intellectual Senator from Arizona. Thus, in 1966, Reagan took his highly-honed hokum and became the ultimate shill for the far right. As the New Republic pointed out during his 1966 campaign for Governor of California, Reagan is anti-labor, anti-Negro, anti-intellectual, anti-planning, anti-20th century.
Reagan campaigned against the civil rights movement, the peace movement, the student rights movement and the Great Society. In his fantasy world, Reagan equated giant price-fixing corporations with small town entrepreneurs. As every long-hair in the late 60s knew, Ronald Reagan was the drugstore truck-drivin’ man, the head of the Ku Klux Klan. He said if the students at Berkeley wanted a bloodbath, he would give them one. James Rector was shot dead soon after.
And Us Black Folk, save for those declaring themselves to be Republican, were never fooled by Reagan, especially when he kicked off his Presidential campaign in 1980:
The real legacy of Reagan can be found in Philadelphia, Mississippi where he announced his candidacy for the Presidency in 1980. Previously, the most important political event in Philadelphia had been the deaths of civil rights workers, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Cheney in 1964. Reagan appeared, sans hood, to talk in those well-known racist code words about state’s rights. This was no mistake or misunderstanding. Reagan was signaling the right-wing movement that he would carry their racist agenda. Remember in 1984, his political operatives accused Walter Mondale of being a San Francisco-style Democrat
Because Ron Dellums single-handedly led the ban on investing in South Africa until Apartheid was eliminated, that was considered another reason why Reagan, through channels, went after Dellums in a smear campaign that netted more Republicans doing drugs than the Democrats he was after.
Reagan reached out and embraced the racist apartheid government of South Africa through his policy of so- called ‘constructive engagement.’ Reagan’s solution to the de-industrialization of America was to build the prison industrial complex. His centerpiece was a racist so-called War on Drugs, while his friends in the CIA used narcotics peddlers as ‘assets.’ And then Reagan’s El Salvadorian Contra buddies began bringing in crack.
Plus, who could forget the government crackers and cheese we got as a handout?
Reagan’s response to the 1981-1982 recession, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, was to declare ketchup a vegetable, release federal cheese surpluses, and shackle the strike leaders of the air traffic control union hand and foot and lead them off to jail. My most pronounced memories of the Reagan years are the three hour cheese line and the German care packages to unemployed workers in Detroit. In the first two years of the Reagan administration, his policy was a forced economic recession and de- industrialization of the United Stated. He cut federal low income housing funds by 84%; his tax cuts for the rich, his ‘trickle-down’ the poor and working class economics ended up tripling all previously existing U.S. government debt. So, when I think of the Reagan legacy, I think of urban decay, crack, homelessness, racism, rampant corporatism and the destruction of the American dream. Amidst the growing homelessness and despair, I remember seeing graffiti all over inner-city Detroit that simply said: Ronald Wilson Reagan 666. Reagan’s policies so marked him as ‘the beast’ in Detroit, blue-collar workers actually cheered when he was shot. The hottest song on underground radio was Hinckley had a Vision. The song’s refrain, “He knew, he knew.” When the mainstream media was analyzing Reagan’s legacy and actively participating in the mythologizing of the 40th president, they conveniently ignored volumes of work by mainstream reporters.
So, when I see all these attempts to glorify Ronald Reagan, I simply have to shake my head and ask what is the fuss all about, because the truth demonstrates he is not to be glorified at all.