Friday, June 11, 2004

The 40th President

Answer: Nope.  Question:  Are you, Mrs. Linklater, going to refrain from commenting on former President Reagan's passing?

You gotta love the Reagans' love story. It almost seems like a fairytale. He was also born in Mrs. Linklater's state, Illinois, so there's a pride of ownership or something there. He sure seems like he was amiable enough and free from angry outbursts at his staff, unlike what we've heard about Clinton. And he loved to tell a good story.

But Mrs. Linklater was a single parent during his administration. During the Reagan years, times were a little dicey for working women who were heads of households and raising children.

Congress didn't want to give them too many breaks, like childcare credits, or it might "encourage all women to go back to work".[A paraphrase of their words from a 1973 congressional white paper on working women] Nevermind the ones who had no choice. 

And Mrs. Linklater will never forget the first time she came across a homeless person. Not a hobo or a bum like they used to be called. Those people never seemed to stare past you. Talk to themselves. Or just attack you for no reason.

It was ten thirty at night and she was walking down Fifth Avenue in New York in the early 1980's, heading back to the hotel, when she noticed a huge pile of rags sitting in the middle of the sidewalk.The block had many beautiful, sophisticated stores, with elegantly dressed windows. So the pile of rags looked exceedingly out of place.

"I wonder who left those rags sitting there?" she said. 
And then the pile of rags moved. 

It was like seeing a camouflaged soldier suddenly reveal himself. These days she's used to seeing the homeless on the street. And she realizes that most of them are mentally ill. 

The doors to the institutions were opened wide thanks to a bizarre interpretation of civil rights, during Reagan's administration.  And thousands of helpless people with schizophrenia and other disorders were set free to live in the prisons of their minds, unmedicated, unprotected, unwanted. To this day.

Then there's the AIDS issue.  Those who lost relatives, friends and schoolmates, or asked about someone at work, only to discover they'd passed away, couldn't believe how little was being done. And the hostility toward the ones that were sick was so medieval.  Like they'd brought the devil on themselves.

The whole Evil Empire name calling scared Mrs. Linklater to death."Bombs away!" she thought.  Who knew that the Soviet Republic was only a papier mache dragon, close to final disintegration?  Maybe President Reagon did. Whatever. His rhetoric and Gorbachev's fondness for democracy seemed to help things along.  And we didn't go up in smoke. Luck or skill? We may never know.

Regardless, he was The President. And thanks to the genius of this country's government, the presidency has the resiliency to survive its presidents. The office always deserves respect.  So Mrs. Linklater is sorry she didn't live close enough to Dixon, IL or Washington, D.C. to stand in line with the thousands of other Americans who came to honor his passing. 

But, she never felt more uncomfortable with what the presidency represented than when he was in office.

Although George W. does give her pause.

1 comment:

jeffcomedy said...


It's exactly how I feel.  I am sorry to see the man go, he seemed nice enough, but at the same time..........

W. on the other hand, I just purely loathe.