Let me say one thing before I continue: Nobody, not one person on the planet deserves Alzheimer’s or the many similar illnesses this world has to offer. Nobody. I’ve seen it first hand and consider myself lucky it lasted only four and a half years. You must understand this before you read what I have to say. You might not like it. You might agree. You might disagree. But this is what I feel, honestly.
I don’t like Ronald Reagan, and I never really have. Perhaps it’s the natural reaction a staunch Errol Flynn fan might have to the occasional sidekick to the man himself, but I can’t help recalling the rather contemptuous feeling I had when I read, a while ago now, that Warner Bros. planted the idea Reagan might be in the running for the lead in Casablanca just to get him some- any- press. He never was, by the way. It’s not just about him being, at best, a middling B-Movie actor, not least because he admitted as much himself, and because I think that that honesty is refreshing.
I did feel a little sad when I heard he’d died, but nothing more than relief for him personally that the horror of his illness was now over. That was replaced by my usual feelings towards the man that I’d had before. I’ve never paid him all that much thought, to be honest, not least in Politics class last year when we got to his era. I wasn’t surprised that he never seemed to actually decide anything himself or anything else. He just didn’t surprise me. I suppose the feelings/opinions of him have always leaned more towards disrespect anything. I don’t, in all honesty, know enough about his administration’s policies foreign or domestic to speak about them. It can’t have all sucked to bring the end of the Cold War (although I wonder if the world will be so vocal in praising Gorbachev when his time comes?), but it can’t have been much cop either if it also includes what he didn’t do about AIDS and what he did do about Iran-Contra.
Anyway, that’s not really my point. My opinion of him is shaped less by the man himself than one of his pals, and I realised it the second I saw the news and her frail little hand reaching out to touch his coffin.
He was mates with Margaret Thatcher. Not just allies out of convenience or necessity- these were actual friends. Some have gone so far as to call them political soulmates. I am of an age to have lived through Thatcher’s reign of terror but not to have felt directly affected at the time (I was still at primary school when she got booted out on her arse, weeping for the tattered shreds of her career). I don’t know if you can understand the depth feeling towards her in this country. There’s really no middle ground on The Iron Lady- you either love her or you hate her. I, and a large proportion of this country, land firmly, squarely, forever in the latter category. I didn’t consciously live through her times, but I really fucking detest her. I’m not joking on this when I say I’d rather snog Phil Collins while listening to one of his records than ever have to deal with her.
Margaret Thatcher’s policies are still ringing down through the years. I don’t like the way the current government are still blaming 18 years of Tory rule for the problems we have (there’s lots of them), some seven years after they strolled nonchalantly into power before proceeding to emulate their predecessors. Margaret Thatcher’s blatant disregard of many of the people of this country still impacts on us today, sometimes in ways we don’t even notice. The most obvious thing is to mention the miners and the trade unions, but it’s not unfair to say that there’s an entire generation of young men in this country drifting, a large proportion on heroin, because of her. Perhaps the coal pits would’ve closed anyway (probably) but not in quite the humiliating, degrading way it’s happened. It’s not a coincidence that heroin troubles are incredibly high in former mining villages and towns. You say the unions had too much power back in the day? Perhaps so, but Thatcher destroyed them all. She ripped the hearts out of many British communities and they haven’t recovered yet. I’m not going to blame her for all the problems this country has, but you can bet your arse if you look closely enough she’s involved somewhere.
I once told my dad, not very long ago, that it would be cool to be the first Catholic prime minister. The first woman prime minister too. He looked at me quizzically and reminded me of her. I replied that she was no woman. Strong? Perhaps, especially for someone not apparently directly affected by her. But she affected everything in this country. Thatcherism, by the way, is British for Reaganomics. They’re much the same thing, albeit it tailormade for the particular place. Yuppies are her fault. “I’m all right Jack” feelings are her fault. Tony Fucking Blair is her fault. I know they used to say William Hague/whichever dude was leader of the Tories at the time was her protege, her pupil, but Grinning Tony is more her successor than anyone else. You think I’m ranting mindlessly? I’m not alone in these opinions. She may not have totally screwed this country up, but she set the ball rolling. Actually, she got hold of the ball and lobbed it as hard as Joe DiMaggio.
The point of all this was to point out the woman I see as Ronald’s closest political friend. The two agreed on stuff. Not always- apparently she took him to task over star wars- but on the stuff that matters. And for me, although ending the cold war is admirable (but again, surely at least some of this is down to the Russians? It does still take two to tango, right?), he will be, forever and always, the best mate, chum and compadre of that bitch whore of Satan I can’t help but despise. She looked frail and elderly at the funeral, just like she has since the strokes that left her unable to speak. You know what? I didn’t care. I really don’t. She tore the very fabric of Britain apart, and I’m not alone in not caring. I don’t wish her strokes on her, but I can’t find it in my heart to empathise. Incidentally, neither could she with the people in this country who most needed the help of their government. When that performance artist guy broke her statue in a gallery, the other year, causing the head to break and roll off, this country fucking cheered, because we knew it was the closest we’d get to venting the disgust, detestation and other stuff that starts with D that many of us feel for her.
And I’m sorry to you American guys on my friends list, especially those of you who did like the guy, but for me, he’ll always be her partner in crime. I’m not attacking him, nor am I ever suggesting he was an evil man. I can even understand why he did inspire the scenes we saw in DC and across the USA this week. But he’ll always be Maggie’s partner in crime as far as I’m concerned and that will always bar me from respecting or liking him.