There’s a line in the movie Zoolander, uttered by Will Ferrell’s character responding to the absurd actions of all those around him. It goes something like this, "I FEEL LIKE I’M TAKING CRAZY PILLS!!"
Which is precisely how I felt all week last week. Ronald Reagan was proclaimed dead and I kept reading over and over about a nation and world in mourning. Which nation? Whose world? Did I wake up in another universe? Does APA (American Public Amnesia) really kick in that fast? I mean, Reagan was a fucking asshole. Did we already forget that?
Here’s a conspiracy theory for ya: Reagan was probably dead for over a decade, kept in a refrigerator, waiting to be trotted out during a Republican Party Crisis (read: idiot incumbent is sliding in the polls during an election year). They called him the Great Communicator and a true optimist. Hello? He was an actor with a script up his ass moving his puppet mouth. He was a racist, elitist idiot. And—as if anyone could get worse—he was in love with, and in mean, rotten cahoots with "Let Them Eat Placebos!" Nancy Reagan, the original witch with a B.
Here are a couple of personal items from the Ronnie Would’ve Wanted it That Way Department. Last Friday, the federal government closed to "honor" the guy. Which meant no mail on Friday. Which is the day my state check comes in the mail, compensating me for caring for a child with a disability, a ten buck-per-hour job I use to augment my small artist’s income. And Friday, when I called to straighten out (yet another) Medicaid error on behalf of my uninsured son, I was informed the office was closed. I guess Texas State workers also needed time to grieve the Gipper.
I say let’s have a parade. I say let’s wake up. Isn’t anyone else terrified that Bush, who likes to brag that Reagan was his role model, actually stands a very good chance of stealing the office of president again? We have all been so lulled, so lulled. The war protests have stopped. You hardly read about Afghanistan in the news anymore, as if Afghanistan is "all better" now. You have to dig really hard to find the death count for U.S. soldiers (unless you happen to be walking by my house, where I post updates on a sign in my front yard). You won’t find death counts for the Iraqis that have been slaughtered.
You know what shocked me most about the Abu Graib prison torture? It’s this: that anyone is shocked at all. What the hell did people think the soldiers were doing over there? They aren’t trained to have tea parties and gently coerce information from their prisoners. These are a bunch of men and women with a pack mentality and a commander in chief who fabricates a story about a connection between falling towers and (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction and the majority of Americans support a so-called pre-emptive strike. A man whose sick, power hungry, world destroying advisors wrote up documents exempting the current occupant of the White House from laws defining and outlawing torture.
What good has all this secrecy, all this fighting done? And what have you done to change it? And what have I done? Not much. I complain a lot. There’s that aforementioned sign on the lawn. I protested whenever I could, though I haven’t been to any protests in ages. I went to a concert and helped register folks to vote, though only one person took me up on the offer. (I somehow doubt everyone else in the crowd was registered, but this was the Indigo Girls’ show, so you never know.)
But what else? What else can we do?
Ray Charles also died last week. God bless him for that timing because, even though it meant he got less attention, what with all the Reagan ass kissing going on in the name of distraction, it also meant that occasionally the radio stations could break from state funeral coverage on two coasts and give us a little "Georgia on My Mind." NPR's Terri Gross played an old interview with Ray last week and I wept as I listened to it.
Let’s talk about a small black child, pre-civil rights, who watches his brother die, who loses his vision at seven, who gets sent to a segregated state school for the handicapped, and who is orphaned and living alone at fifteen. Let’s talk about a man who overcomes a twenty-year heroin addiction and changes the fronts of four types of music profoundly and permanently. And let’s listen to him tell the interviewer he never felt sorry for himself and he just views his life as a testament to persistence paying off.
Okay, now who’s the true optimist and the real great communicator? Who transcended race and class and disability and offered a permanent something to the world that doesn’t cost any of us a dime? Maybe Ray Charles, unlike Ronald Reagan, grew up not hating black and poor folk because he was one. But, then, if we’re supposed to be compassionate and empathetic to who we are and what we’ve come from, shouldn’t Reagan (and Bush, and Bush, and all the other white, old, assholes) feel something for people?
I was walking through the neighborhood this morning, looking at everything green, safe from the car bombs being described on NPR in my headset. Some woman in a war torn country was talking. She’d been imprisoned for "fighting for freedom." And when she was offered her release, she insisted on staying behind bars to continue "fighting for freedom." I’m not so sure I would make a choice like that, knowing how short life is. Just contemplating such a choice made my head hurt. I mean, what is so funny about peace love and understanding, right?
Trying to analyze and grasp all this world fighting might make me out to be a perpetual sophomore in the school of life. And finding personal examples of strife in my daily life—lord knows there are plenty of people I can’t stand and no doubt the feeling is mutual—should clue me in to the fact of, if not why, then at least how we can’t all get along.
But it was eating me up all the
same. Making me think we all better find a way to put down these damn