June 06, 2004


The thing I loved about President Reagan was his ability to convey a sense of wonder and grandeur at the American project of liberty.

I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still.

I read those words and am reminded of my yearning to live in the United States. I am a Whig in that I believe there is a direction in history, that direction is toward freedom and that freedom is divinely ordained. These are beliefs I shared with the President and which were in no small part inspired by him.


***Dave expresses his reservations at the Reagan legacy. I remain opposed to much of the Reagan administration's platform on issues of sex and sexuality. People died brutal deaths from AIDS related illnesses but it was only in 1987 that the President could bring himself to speak the word. I cannot help but think that reluctance stemmed in part from the prejudice of those to whom the deaths of gay men count for less than those of other people.

Much has changed in the last fifteen years in attitudes toward chronic illness (including Alzheimer's Disease) as well as more general attitudes toward gender and sexuality. We have come to take for granted liberal ideas that would have been anathema to liberals only a hundred years ago. In this sense it is small wonder that the medievalists of al Qaeda and its ilk look on in horror at the prospect of women unveiled, armed and enfranchised. Or that their apologists in the United States should call on gay men to be sent to the fire. We have a lot of work to do to change the hearts and minds of those that could harbour such Satanic hate.

We are not finished yet. Liberty is a work in progress and I have every reason to expect the change that is to come will be as uncomfortable and fractious as the change that has come before. Despite my disagreements with the President I share his conviction that for America, and for democracy, there will always be a bright dawn ahead. Thanks to that belief, dawn has come to countless millions in the old Soviet empire and the old dictatorships of Latin America. And now perhaps to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at June 6, 2004 11:47 AM
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Tracked on June 6, 2004 02:11 PM

"People died brutal deaths from AIDS related illnesses but it was only in 1987 that the President could bring himself to speak the word."

Flea, this late date is being contested in some of the blogospheric discussions of Reagan. You might want to investigate it a bit more.

Posted by: Varenius at June 6, 2004 01:27 PM

I would love to be proven wrong on this point. I will do some googling...

Posted by: Flea at June 6, 2004 01:29 PM

Yes, I think the Corner had some discussion on this last year. The consensus I believe that the 87 speech was Mr Reagan's official pronouncement on AIDS, but it was preceded by several years of discussions and lobbying to try and sort out exactly what the problem was, and then what to do. Evidently, he was given little support by those who were making the loudest noise about AIDS.


Posted by: J.M. Heinrichs at June 6, 2004 06:04 PM

It looks like that conversation happened in the conext of the reportedly scurrilous CBS miniseries, "The Reagans".

That said, I am less interested in whether President Reagan spoke about AIDS publicaly on Sept. 17, 1985 (;f=6;t=000035;p=0) or the more popularly reported date of May 31, 1987 ( than in the public indifference of his administration to a disease thought to belong to the "Four H Club" of homosexuals, haemophiliacs, heroine users and Haitians. This was not a cause that was going to produce much sympathy among many of President Reagan's supporters or, indeed, all too many lauding his memory.

Of course, there was much ill will on the part of leftists attempting to co-opt what was percieved by many as a gay cause. Those folks ignored the early and exemplary response of Margaret Thatcher's government to the epidemic, the current work of President Bush (the Younger) toward fighting AIDS in Africa or, indeed, the purges of gay men from organizations such as the International Socialists. As usual there is plenty of hypocrisy to go round.

Posted by: Flea at June 6, 2004 06:57 PM
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