Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Mystery of the English speaking Weevils

In one columbo episode that din't quite make it into my top 10 there's a scene where he's invited to a podium to speak about being a police officer and admits he often liked the murderers he had to arrest. I think that being interested in politics, it's best to have a Columbo outlook, and not try to totally dehumanise your opponents.

And I am sorry that the Gipper had to go through Alzheimers. I get the impression he would be an affable and charming enough bloke to speak to.

But, really: what on earth is going on here? For Conservative Brits, Reagan was a supporter of the IRA and Argentina. For lefty Brits he was a friend of death squads throughout the American Continent.

He wasn't a friend to either of us. He charmed Mrs T, and through her the British nation.

It's debatable if he was even a friend to the American nation?

The Scottish writer Alasdair Gray wrote that the Scots are 'a nation of arselickers.' Maybe he's not far off, but I do like to think that we've learnt a few things over the centuries, like:
-Don't make out you like it too much
-Don't back the wrong horse
-Try to keep as much self-respect as possible

Of course, that advice would only be applicable to someone with an iota of pride in their own country. Which William Hague self-evidently doesn't feel.
"You may be sure that the people of London will take this statue to their hearts."

Why? did they ask for it or something? What was his full quote:

"On behalf of the British Government on this moving occasion, as a Briton, as a Conservative and as a passionate admirer of America, I am proud that we have made a home here in the centre of our city for President Ronald Reagan. It is a great honour for me personally to take part in a ceremony for a man who changed the political landscape at the time I first became involved in it He joins the ranks of great men and women whose statues adorn our London streets; Nelson, Wellington, Lincoln, Churchill, Roosevelt, Edith Cavell and Nelson Mandela. Statues bring us to face to face with our heroes long after they are gone. Ronald Reagan is without question a great American hero; one of America’s finest sons, and a giant of 20th Century history. You may be sure that the people of London will take his statue to their hearts."

Passionate admirer of what? The poor whites? The African Americans? The blue collar workers in Reagan's native Illinois? The homeless? The elderly? The Hispanic labourers? Herman Melville? Edgar Allan Poe? The large areas of public land?

Or of a political system with entrenched inequality? The ridiculous media? The banks that caused a global economic meltdown? The businesses that give billions to the Chinese dictatorship? The military industrial complex?

My feeling about this isn't outrage, so much as embarrassment. Reagan was a bad president, who should have been impeached over the Iran-Contras affair, who damaged the American economy and who empowered the Mujaheedin in Afghanistan. Yet he gets the fawning adoration of a tiny number of middle aged middle class Brits, most of whom have inherited their position and/or benefited from the post-war consensus. Most of these aging men feel virile by supporting bloodshed in any nation the USA decides to attack, yet are so fat and unfit they know they would never be allowed to serve even if they volunteered (which they wouldn't').

In coming centuries, people may very well walk past the Reagan statue and wonder 'what on earth were they thinking' installing this here.


  1. Reagan was a bad president indeed. His mix of veiled racism, jingoistic nationalism, and simplistic "blame the gubmint" ideology is still keeping large numbers of regular Americans from discovering that they have been swindled.

    Reagan is also partially to blame for America's deficit problem, as he (well, his administration) was the originator of the "tax cuts will pay for themselves" idea. Americans want low taxes and exceptionally good public services but cannot see why the two probably cannot be combined without big deficits.

    Now we have to accept austerity because politically it is so difficult to tax the rich, again, thanks to Reagan’s changes in the American federal tax code.

    To the credit of the people of Great Britain, I get the sense that Britons are more realistic in their assessment of Margaret Thatcher, while here in the States, even Democrats are expected to sing St. Ronnie’s praises as somebody who lifted American spirits after Vietnam, which would essentially make Reagan a great cheerleader but nothing more.

  2. @John
    Thank you for your interesting comment. I'd say the thing with Brits and Thatcher is that Mrs T didn't seem to have any very coherent ideology. The ill-thought out privatisation programs are her main legacy, and many continue to defend these, though the NHS and benefits systems seem to be safeguarded.

    Mrs T is also divisive throughout the country: loathed in Scotland and much of Northern England and Wales, she is hugely popular in the south.

    I think it's partially because the English missed the Empire more than the scots did, and we were generally more pleased at seeing Britain become social democrat isolationist. Given how feeble Argentina was I find it astounding the level of pride that some people (usually English) feel in this conflict. Without that, I think Thatcher would have been utterly forgotten.