Monday, February 21, 2011

I Did Not Have Soviet Relations With That Evil Empire

ENJOY THIS IMAGE while you can. I am betting that I will very shortly put some of you off your lunch.

It is good to get back to the basics, so here's pastrami on rye with mustard and plain ol' Utz chips. The Adirondack Lager you see there is the first of two, which was just perfect for the situation. Good, basic deli. Although it could have been a shade better: the folk at the Happy Lucky Family Food Store seem to have taken to staffing the butcher shop/deli area with people who speak English as a second language, and have only a passing familiarity with deli goods. Not that I have a problem with either of those things, per se. it's just a combination which makes it difficult to convey the concepts of "shaved thin" without provoking embarrassment. (Also, this time, I feared that dusting off my basic Russian from college would have only complicated matters immeasurably.

This, for good or ill, was the movie of the day. (The HBO documentary Reagan; I couldn't find a good "poster" image for it.) I knew I was going to watch this from pretty much the first time I heard about it, and it was everything I had heard and imagined about it. It was even handed, fair, balanced, and maddening. Just damnably, damnably maddening.

Because Reagan, as a person, was just maddening to me. He was such a liar. He was probably the very least authentic person ever to walk the face of the earth. He willingly, knowingly did things and had things done which were not only wholly illegal but also morally wrong. Innocent people died due to operations he understood and put into motion.

When I was in junior high school, the day Reagan was shot, when they announced it over the intercom, all the poor, lower-class black kids in my class applauded. Years later I understood why: under this man's administration, a great number of very whacky and rather nasty things were done in the name of helping the poor. Like giving away processed foods made with rancid meat and terrible, terrible cheese. And making sure that all the folks living in subsidized public housing had basic cable. (Okay, so they didn't mind that so much, it just always bugged me that it happened under Reagan's HUD.)

On the other hand, he really did seem to think what he was doing was best for America. And he got us talking with the Russians, and he did more than any other president to help eradicate our national store of nuclear weapons-- mission incomplete, by the way, and we really ought to be still working on it. NO nation really needs nukes. They really don't. We don't need war, either. No, we don't.

The big criticism I heard about this early on was that it came off as a little too slick and facile. Which it was, which was all too much to the point. The guy himself was a little too slick and facile. In the name of smaller government he put us into deficit spending. In the name of prosperity he made things hard on the poor. In the name of industry he fired the air traffic controllers. Often what he did sounded right and felt wrong. Often what he did sounded momentous and did little to nothing. Often what he said sounded innocuous but was deeply poisonous.

And often it was flatly inspiring. I can't deny that. He was a master propagandizer. He also had great scriptwriters. Sorry-- speechwriters.

He was the prefect embodiment of the eighties: terrible ideas predicated on great truths executed with every ounce of aplomb money could buy. And, in the end, he doddered poignantly into the sunset. A better ending than any movie he had ever been in.

So I have seen it. It has been seen by me. And now, if I wanted to, I could watch it on HBO Latin. In Spanish!

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