June 07, 2004

Some thoughts on the Old Man (A day late but hopefully not a dollar short)

(I wrote this over in the Comments at Rae's and copy/pasted it over t' hyar - and cleaned up some o' the typos in the process, mheh.)

I remember it well.

In the '70s there was massive inflation and, by '78, it was all anyone talked about. The price of everything from gasoline to milk to bread to utilities, everything, were going up at rates of 8%, 10%, 12% per year!

The idealism of the '60s / early '70s had given way to an unfocused, bland society trying to dance to disco all night while just hoping that, if we ignore them, the Soviet Union would just go away.

Detente was a sham. In late '79 the USSR invaded Afghanistan and President Carter realised that he had to make foreign policy a focus. He threatened military force - while reinstituting registration for Selective Service (the draft) - in an effort to keep the Soviets from moving into Pakistan and to the Arabian Sea.

The gas lines, the Three Mile Island near-disaster and the failure and destruction of SkyLab all happened within a very short time in the spring of '79.

The Shah of Iran was overthrown by Islamist fundamentalists and, by the fall, 52 Americans were being held hostage.

Everything was a mess and the state of the Union was perfectly described (by Hamilton Jordan, I believe) as a "national malaise".

Then, in the spring of '80, there was a rescue attempt and several service men and two helicopters were lost in the desert of Iran.

We just smacked our collective palm into our forehead shouting "Can't we do anything right anymore?!"
The doubt was palpable, stifling, almost paralyzing when it came to looking for an optimistic outlook on the near future.

You looked to President Carter and all you could see was trouble. He seemed to have aged 15 years in 4. We must be in deep trouble; just look at this man's face.

Then Reagan showed up.

Maybe we didn't hear a lot of specifics; just a bunch of talk about getting government off our backs, standing up to tyrants, getting the economy moving again. But, he exuded confidence, courage and optimism about the near future.
All we had to do was reduce the size and scope of government's influence on our lives and the economy; then just restore our belief in ourselves and our values and, by golly, everything will turn up roses.
As if saying it would make it so.

We'd seen what a Carter presidency looked like and weren't too thrilled at the prospect of more of the same. So, we held our breath and took a chance on Reagan.

The crackdown on the Solidarity labor union movement in Poland, in December '81, showed us again just what the Soviet Union represented. Government control over the people and their productivity.

To believe that offering a man only what he needs will inspire him to produce according to his ability is a fantasy that everyone living under such a system can attest to. Reagan didn't need to live under Communism to understand it because he instinctively knew that freedom is the natural state of man, and government's function is to serve the People.

"That, to secure these Rights, governments are instituted among men deriving their just Powers from the consent of the Governed."
--the Declaration of Independence

It was after the institution of martial law in Poland that Reagan said that the Soviet Union was "the focus of evil in the modern world" and he. was. right.

Reagan then said that "we will not defeat Communism, we will transcend it." By that he meant that, by persistently shining light into the dark nooks and crannies of just what Communism was and what it did to people, it will lose it's mask and even the Soviet leaders will finally have to come to grips with what they've done to the spirit of their people.

He called the USSR "evil" -- several times -- and never backed down from that. He explained what he meant so clearly that, eventually, the leaders of the Kremlin began to understand it themselves.

After making the case for years that economic opportunity and the competition of free markets is the way to prosperity, the rhetorical killer blow came in June, 1987 at Brandenburg Gate.

"There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, OPEN this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

And it was done, and seemingly sooner than anyone thought it could happen. Except for maybe Ronald Reagan.

"The wall cannot withstand the Truth; it cannot withstand Freedom" he said that day. And that's why he repeated himself over and over.

He knew that the Soviet Union could not withstand an arms race. That's why he invited one.

Now millions in Eastern Europe are free because detente, appeasement, appologism, all took a back seat to visionary ideas, bold words and decisive action in the 1980s.

Even when his own advisors and cabinet members tried to get him to tone it down, he pushed it forward anyway.
It was often in their good judgement that if he'd just act more cautiously, more carefully, and speak more diplomaticly, he could do more for the cause of peace and freedom than he could do by challenging, so openly, the very justifications of Communism.

Ronald Reagan's judgement was better.

Posted by Tuning Spork at June 7, 2004 09:09 PM

Very Nice, you said it better then I could have; and I tried!
*bows humbly*

Posted by: Jeremy at June 7, 2004 11:09 PM

Thanks, Jeremy! Your posts at Rae's finally got me inspired!

Posted by: Tuning Spork at June 7, 2004 11:40 PM

Wow~ that was just incredibly well said! Man, truly inspiring and a terrific reminder of just how much he contributed. Beautiful! Just beautiful!

Posted by: Rae at June 8, 2004 12:51 AM

P.S. I am so proud to have it on my blog comments (*big grin*)

Posted by: Rae at June 8, 2004 12:52 AM


Posted by: Ted at June 8, 2004 10:14 AM
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