Two Views Against The Grain

The treacly encomia, bordering on hagiography, that greeted the death of Ronald Reagan left some of us bemused, some of us angry, some of us feeling like strangers in our own country once again.

Why is this the case? In the words of one eminent black scholar, "Reagan was so genial that no one could possibly believe his policies were as mean-spirited as they were." But the truth is they were mean-spirited, a fact no one is better equipped to appreciate than disabled Americans and gay Americans, whose rights Ronald Reagan ignored or abrogated with avuncular charm, but abrogated nonetheless.

Hendrik Hertzberg's litany of domestic abuses (below) is no more than a summary reminder of Reagan's domestic "achievements." The editorial that follows was brought to our attention by a BENT reader abroad. Let the Philippines stand in for a handful of other countries where Ronald Reagan's policies brought forth a harvest of rotten fruit.

George Bush used Ronald Reagan's death to draw parallels between his own administration and Reagan's. Nothing could be more accurate politically. Nothing could be more telling morally. Remember that in November.


On Domestic Policy
"He Made Callousness Respectable"

Ronald Reagan's domestic policies, like those of the current incumbent, were almost uniformly appalling. He shifted the tax burden downward, exacerbated economic inequality; created gigantic deficits, undermined environmental, civil-rights, and labor protections, neglected the AIDS epidemic, and packed the courts with reactionary mediocrities. He made callousness respectable.

-Hendrik Hertzberg
The New Yorker
June June 28, 2004


On Foreign Policy:
" Reagan Was No Friend To The Philippines"

MANILA - The "Palace in the Sky," the hilltop mansion that Ferdinand Marcos built in Tagaytay City, outside Manila, is Ronald Reagan's monument in the Philippines. It is a monument to the cynicism and extravagance his leadership inspired in Filipino politicians.

For all his sense of vision, his devotion to the American brand of democracy and his conservatism that changed the political landscape of America, Reagan's influence on the Philippines and Latin America represented nothing new, and in fact, represented a darker more sinister permutation of American policy. Democracy was something to be insisted upon in Europe, but was something unnecessary, and even inconvenient, in Asia and Latin America. Democracy in the Philippines was inconvenient and unnecessary in Ronald Reagan's worldview. Having a loyal lackey in Manila was, however, essential.

We can never forget Reagan sending his vice president, George Bush, to proclaim their "love" for Marcos' "devotion to the democratic process." We can never forget, nor forgive, Reagan's public statements that in a country where Filipinos were chaining themselves to ballot boxes and dying at the hands of Marcos' goons, "there was cheating on both sides". We can neither gloss over nor understand, then, as now, Reagan's last-ditch efforts to try to form a government composed of Marcos and the opposition. When Reagan began to suffer from Alzheimer's disease, he engineered a bowing out from the public eye, all the better to preserve his image and his legacy. Undeniably, he was and remains a beloved American president. We are not, however, America, and we are not Americans. At the bier of Reagan must be laid, posthumously, the eradication of a bond of trust nurtured by World War II, and dissipated by martial law. We cannot be kind to him in death, because every day of our lives, our country continues to suffer from the manner in which Reagan confused his friendship with the Marcoses with the broader interests of his country and ours.

It may be that everything Reagan did was less due to affection for the Marcoses, and more along the lines of American interests in our region. This only goes to show how those interests are so widely divergent from the interests of our own country.

The billions of pesos stolen; the thousands of people dead and maimed; the lives crushed and wasted; the ideals ground in the dust: all these are factors in the delicate democracy we are still so hard pressed to sustain. Ronald Reagan turned a blind eye to all these sufferings. As he rests in peace, this country must remember its uneasiness will long outlive the man. That he is a great man by American standards only goes to show how different American ideals can be from our own.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer
June 10, 2004



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BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/July 2004