Just how far have we come? When you’re a child, twenty years is a theoretic span; as an adult, that period is a paradox. What seems so far away passed by so quickly. What seemed so familiar recedes into strangeness, transforms into myth.
I don’t remember what I said. I mean, it had something to do with the Reagan administration, and characterized someone, or some people, within that cadre as criminals. I despised Reagan; my political conscience came online about the same time he was elected. I cannot recall ever thinking nice, or merely positive things about the man.
I was seven when he was elected. The only thing I remember clearly from that election was that Reagan struck me as condescending and dishonest, exactly the kind of person my parents would repeatedly through my childhood tell me I didn’t need. And that stuck with me. By the time we got to Iran-Contra, the pretense (that later proved at least partway true) of Reagan’s senility was insufficient to excuse him in my eyes.
What? It was how I was raised; those conclusions reflected the principles impressed upon me especially by parents, but also teachers, my pastor, and any number of talking heads inside the idiot box.
But this isn’t about indicting Reagan. He’s dead. He’s gone. Whatever.
This is about a moment that stands out despite the dissolution of its details. My father, disgusted, glaring at me. “You can’t say that about people,” he stormed. “These are good men. They’re trying their best. You can’t say that about people.” It was not an explanation. It was not a retort. It was an order.
Whatever condemnation I had poured over the Reagan administration had upset him. And, yes, there is also a story to the difference between the man I remember and the one I know today. Maybe someday I’ll try to tell it.
Perhaps it had to do with an adolescent daring to condemn the president. Maybe he was so fiercely Republican during those years that he could not face the possibility that his president was a sack of shit. Maybe it had to do with respecting elders, and respecting authority. Maybe, maybe, maybe ….