Letters

Cold War hero, media icon, governor who tear-gassed me: Salon readers remember Reagan. Plus: Debating Alessandro Camon's "American Torture, American Porn."


Salon Staff
June 10, 2004 10:43PM (UTC)

[Read "The Reagan Legacy," by Rick Perlstein.]

Rick Perlstein's assertion that Reagan's popularity was due to pandering to evangelicals is far too simplistic.

The source of Reagan's support wasn't evangelicals but traditional FDR, blue-collar Democrats, people who rejected Democrats for pandering to special interest groups like NOW, the Rainbow Coalition and gay rights organizations.

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It's worth noting that Clinton figured this out -- by the dissing of Sister Souljah, he brought these same "Reagan Democrats" back into the fold.

Reagan's appeal to more traditional lifestyles and to a belief that America was great resonated to those appalled by the '60s and deeply disappointed in Vietnam, Watergate and Carter's "Hellfire and Brimstone" lecture that the national malaise was our fault.

-- Geoff Woolocott

I can't agree with Perlstein's contention that Reagan deserves respect for his service as an elected official.

Much of Reagan's popularity derives from his status as the first president who was almost wholly a media creation. He was more corporate spokesman for Brand America than president of all Americans.

While many people may only remember Reagan for his telegenic media mastery, I've got my own memories of him: I lived in Berkeley in the '60s, and was one of those trapped and gassed in Sproul Plaza -- with military CS gas, not the OC teargas used by police.

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I listened to his snarling, demagogic speech that day encouraging the police to "spill some blood," which resulted in 13 protesters being shot and one bystander killed. Reagan learned to present himself as reasonable and moderate, but on those occasions when he slipped the leash, he was vicious toward anyone whose politics he didn't like.

-- Patrick McKernan

According to the message that Salon's editorialists have put out, the folks who gave Reagan two landslide national victories and two more in California must have been the biggest dunderheads in the world.

While I'm not a "he's right on everything" type of Reagan supporter, I'm curious how Salon.com can believe that it's being objective. According to Salon.com, the verdict's unanimous that Ronald Reagan was one nasty cruel man.

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-- Jacob Plummer

In the interest of "remembering" Reagan, let us also remember that he proposed dismantling the Department of Education, kicked the drug war into overdrive, made trickle-down economics a household curse, turned a blind eye to Central American death squads and forged a relationship with the religious right that has given us the likes of GW.

Goodnight, Mr. President.

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-- Michael Black

Growing up under Ronald Reagan, I appreciated his good humor, gregariousness and optimism but the mythic tale claiming that he won the Cold War continues to be a popular theme with many fictional biographers.

In fact, Mikhail Gorbachev is the man who was most responsible for the fall of Communism. This innovative thinker rose through the ranks of the Kremlin following the sudden deaths of Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko -- all of whom were entrenched in communist orthodoxy. It was therefore by accident that a closet reformer like Gorbachev made it to the top post in the Soviet government.

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The abortive secret coverup of the devastating Chernobyl nuclear meltdown provided a platform for Gorbachev to introduce two bold democratic initiatives -- glasnost and perestroika. Once Gorbachev cracked opened the door of freedom, Russians and Eastern Europeans rushed through it, ripping away the hinges from its frame. Make no mistake about it -- if it were not for Gorbachev's entry into the Soviet scene, Russia and its former satellites might now be following the path of North Korea.

The contention that Reagan's defense buildup and Star Wars agenda forced Gorbachev to sue for peace does not make any sense. The Cold War was never a battle over military superiority. It was primarily a war of ideas. The people living under communist tyranny demanded change. The Reagan administration had minimal influence on their homegrown pursuit of liberty.

-- Daniel Zim

[Read "American Torture, American Porn," by Alessandro Camon.]

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Alessandro Camon's somewhat tortured thesis that an American "need" for pornography is responsible for both Mel Gibson's film and the Abu Ghraib prison pictures is stretched, to say the least.

Most of the negative criticism of Mel Gibson's film oddly avoids mentioning the immediate relevance of its political portrayal of a nation under the boot of an occupying imperial power. If you substitute Paul Bremer for Pontius Pilate and update the hardware used by the soldiers, the scenario is a very familiar one indeed. What's more, this is hardly a new theme for Gibson, who portrayed the same political situation in "Braveheart," not to mention "The Patriot."

There is indeed a connection one can draw here between fact and fiction, and the juxtaposition of the two images at the beginning of the article speaks larger volumes than the article itself. One needn't evolve simplistic psychological theories about "porn" to explain the resonance of these images to people in a variety of cultural situations.

-- Ralph Melcher

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Camon's analysis linking Mel Gibson's "Passion" with 9/11 is exactly the kind of deeper cultural analysis that America could use a lot more of. We need to dig and keep digging until we finally figure out how to explain the political facts we live with today.

Why do so many people believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11? It's not enough simply to point to Bush administration propaganda. Clearly there is some sense in which we "need" to believe these things. What is that sense, and how did it arise? Camon doesn't have a complete answer, but at least he makes a start.

-- Chloe Pajerek

The last time I checked, "The Passion Of The Christ" was only a movie. The Iraqi torture scandal might have a connection to Gibson's movie from a "how violence gets us off" point of view, but it seems like Camon is just picking two hot topics in the first half of 2004 and linking them for the hell of it.

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Unfortunately, the pornography of violence isn't just an American problem. Humans hurt, abuse, torture, and murder because we can. That doesn't make a movie or a wartime scandal "a pornography" of anything. It only means that if there's a way for us to do terrible things to each other, we'll do terrible things to each other.

-- Ryan Ellis


Salon Staff

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