Monday, August 11, 2014

The Great Missed Opportunity

Like Digby, I was 15, and I remember it and the consequences the same way:

I didn't experience euphoria.  I was stunned though. Seeing the most powerful man in the world brought low by his own hubris (and psychic wounds) was an early lesson in human nature. A real life greek tragedy in front of my very eyes.

Perlstein said something very interesting yesterday on MSNBC. He pointed out that all of this was really a very fine moment for America.  The system worked.  The leaders of our nation were able to come to a consensus about something gone very wrong and rectify it.  It began a period of national self-reflection, a reckoning of sorts with the dark side of our power which had been sorely abused in the post war world. It was painful and difficult but as a nation we were facing up to ourselves and attempting to make adjustments in order to live up to our ideals. We were maturing as a country.

And then along came Reagan with his happy horseshit about American goodness and patriotism, giving excuses for everything, assuring the citizens that we could do no wrong. He infantalized us, making it impossible for America to become a truly mature nation able to face its own past and deal responsibly with its immense power around the globe. You know, actually be the "exceptional" country we like to pretend we are today.

This was a big moment, one that could have truly changed the trajectory of our nation in a positive way.  But apparently we just couldn't face up to what we were becoming. And so we turned to a man who made us feel like children again.
My very conservative republican grandmother never directly criticized Nixon, for whom she had voted three times. But in 1974, the very early days of Second Wave Feminism, my very un-feminist grandmother took me aside to say this:

"What this country needs is more women in politics, because they aren't corrupt." She was wrong about the second part - Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin are proof of that - but dead right on the first part.


Anonymous said...

I was born in 1961. That means I have a very vivid memory of the late 1970s. It was a dark time in our country's history. It was bleak and cold, and that's not just because of the three harsh winters we had in a row. I remember the national malaise. I remember energy crises/shortages and I remember when everything in Lexington closed at 6 p.m. I remember outrageous inflation and interest rates.

Yeah, we learned a lot from that time (the Carter presidency). We learned that it was a disaster. The optimism and enthusiasm that Reagan brought, which was 180 degrees different than Carter's defeatism, was exactly what we needed to move ahead.

Yellow Dog said...

LOL! You're a hoot. Yes, the Reagan Years were indeed the ur-moment from which all our current problems spring: neo-confederacy, chicken-hawk warmongering, rape-culture misogyny, murderous homophobia, demonization of public service, deliberate destruction of the social contract, public abuse of everyone who is not white, straight, male, Xian and rich.

And Iran-Contra! Who can forget the terrorist-supporting deal the failure to prosecute which led directly to the depredations of Smirky-Darth.

Yes, alien historians centuries from now will stare at the Reagan Years in horror and agree with you that it did, indeed, change everything.