Wanted Immediately: Revisionist History Shelter
By Max Burbank
Can't you feel it? The eerie, dead calm, and the jaundiced sky? The hot, fetid air mass has already arrived, harbinger of the unstoppable, Empire State Building sized Tsunami of human offal racing toward us from beyond the horizon.
The birds have stopped singing, the crickets are silent. I need to put this mixed breed offspring of an 'I told you so' and a Last Will and Testament down on virtual paper now. Once the shadow falls over us it will be far too late to do anything but gawk in slack jawed wonder and wait.
Pile up sandbags, hide in the basement, duck and cover, cling to your loved ones, whatever makes you feel like you're doing something. It won't make a bit of difference.
Ronald Wilson Reagan is going to die.
And when he does, anyone who has anything negative to say about him had better keep their clam snatcher stitched shut or they'll get the same free dance lesson Reginald Denny got. Anyone who feels just a little queasy seeing the Gipper's vague, old, dried, apple doll puss up on Mount Rushmore next to Teddy Roosevelt is going to have to keep it to themselves. One little peep that maybe, just maybe, Ol' Dutch doesn't quite deserve to be rubbing jowls with the likes of Lincoln and Jefferson, and the Tooth fairy is going to need scuba gear and rubber gloves for about a month, if you catch my drift.
So listen. I'm saying it now. He was a lousy president. Clueless, vapid, mean spirited, disinterested, disengaged, shallow, self absorbed, and deluded. An empty costume in thrall to wealth and celebrity, a red baiting, dundering, Grecian Formulaed, Cigar Store Indian of a man. The addled old bastard had Alzheimer's maybe as far back as his governorship, he certainly had it while running for his second term, his doctors knew it and any investigative journalist out with a spine one size larger than a Pygmy Shrew could prove it with about an hour's work.
I don't mean to belittle Alzheimer's but that doesn't make Reagan a better Leader of the Free World any more than AIDS made Roy Cohn a better weasly, self loathing, closeted son of a bitch. If Michael Milken hadn't been too evil to die, his colon cancer wouldn't have gone back in time and made him any less of a junk bond pushing, life savings devouring swindler. And Ali Mcgraw's death in "Love Story" doesn't change the fact the she was Ali McGraw in "Love Story"
Do you recall Nixon's passing? You know how it turned out he really was a great president after all, despite the whole criminal paranoiac thing? The way minor imperfections like the secret bombing of Cambodia and the assassination of Salvador Allende seemed to just add a little human dimension to our Thirty Seventh President, kind of the way those severe acne scars make Edward James Olmos even more attractive? What was it an understandably simpatico William Jefferson Clinton said at Tricky's Bon Voyage party? "He gave of himself with intelligence and energy and devotion to duty. And his entire country owes him a debt of gratitude for that service." Nice, huh? Well, as Reagan himself was fond of saying, "You ain't seen nothin' yet".
It will be soon. Hack actors rely on a sense of timing more than anything else, and with W's popularity dipping in the polls, Shadow President Cheney requiring Darth Vader-like technology just to get up in the morning and that whole, nasty 'I put up with Reagan, I put up with Bush senior, but Damn, W just makes being a Republican too distasteful" Jeffords deal, it's just about time for a beautifully lit, tearjerker exit. Like John Wayne at the end of "The Cowboys" or that Dog in "Old Yeller".
You thought Reagan's multi million dollar inaugurals were Roman entertainment? Wait 'till the funeral. We'll begin with a media death watch. All television programming will cease for twenty-four hours as Jennings, Rather, Brokaw et al, gnaw the gristle off whatever bone of processed information makes it's way through the Public Relations IV they've come to rely on in lieu of actual reporting. I promise you, computer graphics and a John Williams score are already in the can, misty photomontages are already edited, waiting to be played. As the Gipper passes into legend with the rising of the sun, Republicans and the media will unite over a shared goal; to create a larger, grander, more inescapable American Moment than Kennedy's funeral. A whirlpool of Pap will open, and Democrats will dance like happy Kapos as they're sucked in. Clinton will blubber publicly if they let him, that's a given, but I'm predicting Teddy Kennedy will heave his bloated, liquor logged, proto corpse to the podium for a few choice words. You think not? The family already gave Ford an award for pardoning Nixon, what was that if not a warning shot over the bow? Jimmy Carter will be required to step up to the final mike the Great Communicator paid for and admit the better man won, and the poor old peanut farmer will probably do it, too. He'll be lucky if they don't make him rejoin the Southern Baptists. What choice will he have? Who'll give him lumber and nails for his silly little 'houses for the poor' hobby if he shows up on the front page of USA today as the only living president who didn't wear sack cloth and ashes to the Funeral of the Century?
After all, this is the guy who made the world safe for democracy, the President who won the Cold War, who bearded the Russian Bear in it's own den, Right? Remember him naked to the waist pumpin' iron on the cover of 'Parade', remember him splittin' wood and ridin' on the range, saying 'Go ahead, make my day', remember Mr. T. dressed as Santa sitting on Nancy's lap? Remember watching Dallas and getting your car filled up cheap and fast, remember The Great Communicator beating the crap out of that pussy Walter Mondale? Remember how you realized that Vietnam had been hard on us all, but the right thing to do? America was number one again and it was okay to say it right out loud, it was great, you loved it, and by God if you didn't what the hell kind of American were you? More to the point, what kind of American ARE you?
You adore that kindly/stern Grampa Face, and it's a good thing, since it'll be staring up at you from every ten dollar bill, every town square, every hastily renamed street and elementary school, an aircraft carrier, the next shuttle, hell, maybe they'll use space based lasers to gouge his wrinkled old kisser into the moon so he can gaze down on us forever. We are going to have ourselves a positively necrophiliac love fest, attendance to be taken by your friends and neighbors. Flags will be flown at half mast for a year and if you don't have a flag you better buy one now as they will be in short supply and going without one might be a bad idea. His picture will be on every mug, every T-shirt, his portrait in every window. If they're aren't six Reagans in every state for each Sadam Husein in Iraq we'll know the reason why. There will be speeches and memorial services and vigils and a week of official mourning and a national holiday and a State park on the spot he was born. Think I'm exaggerating? Well, we won't have to wait too long to find out. It's just a question of whether he croaks for midterm elections or if they keep him on a respirator until the W needs a bump for reelection.
Did I say a bump? That happy frat boy will be surfing the Tidal wave with a full brace of Supreme Court Nominees in Brown Shirts on his shoulders! He'll be shouting "Hang Ten! Cowabunga! The Bombing Begins in Ten Minutes! I Have in my Hands a List! Remember the Maine!" Junior's gonna grow fat and shiny as a tick on Reagan's death because W is the direct descendant! Newsweek and Time have spent the last two years telling you he's more like Dad's boss than Dad, he's 'genial', he wages a 'charm offensive' he's 'willing to delegate', he's 'dumber than a woodchuck with head trauma', what do you think those phrases are code for? And if you're not full bore for W, well, you might as well say you're GLAD Dutch died.
So I'm getting it off my chest now before there's a Constitutional amendment forbidding it. He was HORRIBLE. It's going to be a hundred years before someone lifts up the rug and finds Ed Meese, The Invasion of Grenada, Tax exempt status for Bob Jones University, James Watts, The Contras as moral equivalents of Our Founding Fathers, The Ball Turret Gunner Story, John Poindexter, "Mistakes Were Made", Nancy Reagan, Trees that cause pollution, Robert Mcfarlane, Trillion Dollar National Debt, Catsup as a Vegetable, "I Don't Recall", "I Can't Recall", "I don't Remember", "Raise Your Hand if you Remember", FBI informant T-10, Iran Contra, Oliver North National Hero, BITBURG!
So when they play Taps at Arlington amid the twenty-one gun salute and release of the doves, and the quarter inch of Vaseline oozes over history's lens; When you realize a few years later all that you can recall of those years has been replaced by an endless rolling hagiography crafted by Phil Dusenberry, the ad exec responsible for those God Damn "Morning in America" spots and for whom Satan is personally redecorating a whole circle of hell; When eight years from now Dan Quayle's political rebirth causes you to scratch your head and think "Golly, the Reagan years seem pretty neat in comparison", don't give in!
Tell your children that once, a very long time ago, while it was possible that a bad man could become President, even an evil man; a bad, evil man who was really, really, really stupid would never hold the office. Tell them once upon a time being an actor or owning a baseball team would have disqualified you just as surely as being born in another country or bathing in baby's blood on national TV. Tell them the face on the moon is just an optical illusion and two fives in your wallet is just as good as a ten any day of the week and that once, before the storm hit, not everybody got Bonzo's birthday off, that sometimes it's just better to get up, go to work and face the music.