Friday, August 05, 2005

the gipper as propaganda tool

Texas Congressman Henry Bonilla wants to rename 16th Street, a main thoroughfare in downtown Washington, "Reagan Boulevard." He introduced a resolution to that effect before the Congress recessed for its annual five-week summer vacation.

No more Reagan stuff, please. We've got plenty in this area. In an oft-cited example of irony that Alanis Morissette couldn't top, Bonzo's former acting partner already has a very large federal building named after him in our nation's capital. And in just one manifestation of the unwillingness of Congressional Republicans, despite their rhetoric, to allow local governments to exercise power, a few years back they forced the local airport authority that runs Washington National Airport -- named after our first President -- to change the name to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. A bit later, Congress forced the local subway system to spend tens of thousands of dollars to change the name of the airport stop on maps and kiosks in each and every one of its dozens of stations to reflect this unwieldy, unasked-for change in its monicker, threatening to cut off their federal funds if they didn't cooperate.

Bonilla's little ploy is just the most recent manifestation of the sick cult that has sprung up around our most befuddled President. Run by anti-tax/anti-government fanatical maggot Grover Norquist, the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project wants to
... honor the legacy of our 40th president, Ronald Reagan. The Reagan Legacy Project aims to fulfill its mission by naming significant public landmarks after President Reagan in the 50 states and over 3,000 counties of the United States, as well as in formerly communist countries across the world.

Isn't that special? Rumor has it they also want to put Reagan's mug up there on Mount Rushmore. Check out their web site. They want to stick Reagan's face on half of our dimes (thanks for nothing, FDR) and to put his genial but addled smile on the $10 bill (what have you done for us lately, Alexander Hamilton?). The whole thing is frankly creepy.

Why this push? Is it simply that Grover Norquist gets a nice warm chubby feeling any time he contemplates the record of our 40th president? Nope. It's all about perpetuating the cult of personality that surrounds Reagan. Reagan, as his sycophants never tire of telling us, was a "great man", the father of modern conservatism, the guy responsible for the current right-wing ascendancy. And since he ended up spending almost his entire, long retirement locked out of public view due to his Alzheimer's, Reagan was never able to say anything to refute claims being made in his name -- unlike Barry Goldwater. Reagan is the perfect idol for the vast right-wing conspiracy.

And so to keep Reagan before us, to keep alive his image to use as a useful tool to put a warmer, more human face on modern American conservatism (which otherwise looks like Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, Tom DeLay, or Rick Santorum), Norquist tries to put Reagan's name on everything possible; statues are a bonus. Irony can be ignored in favor of propaganda value, and they will continue to look for any vaguely logical place to enshrine the name of the Gipper.

It's important to keep alive the name at the center of any cult's veneration, both during his life but perhaps even more importantly after. But names, and societies, can turn around, and I hope ours will. After all, there is no more Leningrad, Stalingrad, or Karl-Marx-Stadt. I can only hope Reagan's name ends up fading as well, before we become the United States of Ronnie Raygun.