Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Everything's an Opportunity

The Ronnie Raygun hagiography heads into its epilogue with the passing of his widow Nancy, and of course her death, like everything that happens in our universe anymore, becomes a tedious cudgel with which to beat fictional apostates over the head.

Now, the predictable snark from smartass liberals focused on the well-known rumor about the deceased's talented mouth in her younger years, which may be a bit unseemly, but is not necessarily untrue. Near as I can tell, none of the people pushing that one around are motivated by hate or even dislike of Nancy Reagan. But given the incessant moralizing and slut-shaming of the Republican Party, it is at least humorous to note that the woman they insist was the classiest first lady since Jackie Kennedy was also renowned as an accomplished fellatrix. That's not necessarily an insult; maybe it's just me, but I tend to prefer women who enjoy giving blowjobs over women who don't.

More seriously, as first lady, Nancy Reagan did some indisputably silly and useless things:  ordered $200k worth of china for the White House in the midst of a recession; used an astrologer to run her husband's schedule; had a goofball teevee star serve as a flack for her nonsensical "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign. Certainly nothing terrible or catastrophic, but also nothing meriting the worship and adulation that, to be honest, comes mostly from managing to hang around for so long.

Those above three items (the china, the astrologer, Mr. T), the designer outfits, the redecorating sprees in the White House, all befit what you would have expected from an aging (when the Reagans moved into the White House in 1981, he was 70, she was 60) couple from "old" Hollywood. Even though neither Reagan starred in anything particularly noteworthy (though you could give him a nod for King's Row), they carried themselves in the manner of a "classic Hollywood" pair.

And after the austerity of the Carter years, the sweaters and the solar panels and the stagflation, it was what psychologically-stunted 'murkins wanted to see. Jimmy Carter made the mistake of treating Americans like adults, of trying to tell them the hard truth, and to lead by example by showing that he was willing to tighten his belt along with us.

The Reagans understood the folly of all that, that even broke-ass 'murkins would be mollified by meaningless, empty glamour and pageantry. And their years in front of the camera had trained them both very well in their roles. They understood what their audience expected of them. That's the mark of a real movie star, and the presidency is, above all else, a big act.

Whatever their politics or personal histories, the fact is that Ronald and Nancy genuinely seemed to adore each other. That was very sweet. They were clearly each other's world, and that's a fine thing.

You would think that the hagiographers and fantards would be happy with that, that no honest broker could possibly -- nor even want to -- dispute the deep bond the Reagans had. But again, since social media exists to empower the dullards and freaks of the world, they chose instead to use Nancy's "class" merely to contrast her with Michelle Obama, who apparently is a terrible person for trying to get tubbelard 'murkin fatbodies to eat just a little bit healthier and go outside.

The cognitive disconnect required for someone to think that Grandma telling you to "just say no" is "powerful" is significant on its own. I grew up in that era, and I don't know a single person at the time who said, "Oh, well, the first lady says I should 'just say no,' so that settles that." I knew people who did drugs, and people who didn't. None of them made their decisions based on what Nancy Reagan and Mr. T had to say on the subject.

But to use that empty slogan to contrast with a rather colorful characterization of Michelle Obama's sincere efforts to get kids to eat healthier and be more active -- simple things that will get kids to form good habits that will help them live longer, better lives -- is about as stupid as it gets. There's just no other way to put it.

Here's a counter-example:  Laura Bush's pet cause was literacy and reading. Now, I can take or leave her, and I detest her husband and everything he did as occupant of the White House. And I seriously doubt that Laura Bush's literacy campaign got many kids or adults into reading as a hobby or frequent activity. But I still respect the effort; it's easy to say that it's a worthy cause that was worth undertaking.

More importantly, it's the intellectually honest thing to do. Only a hack would condemn Laura Bush's efforts to get Americans to read more, surely an activity that they should do far more than they do. (Again with the anecdata:  I know very few people who read books with any regularity at all, and I know far more adults who have not read anything beyond magazines since they were in high school. Seriously.) And in fact, if Laura Bush had chosen nutrition and Michelle Obama had chosen literacy, the above-linked twittard would be whining about the "elitism" of Michelle Obama telling people to read.

First ladies have a tough and unappreciated job, and it varies depending on the political party of the office-holder, at least since 1980 or so. In modern times, Republican first ladies understand their job as making their husbands look good, and being quiet and "classy". Democratic first ladies -- well, Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton -- see the role as an opportunity to work on something they sincerely care about (nutrition and health care respectively).

That can be detrimental, as it is in the right-wing media's DNA to portray such activities as meddlesome and disrespectful to the proles' gawd-given right to gorge on deep-fried twinkies until they have a stroke or a coronary at age fifty, and then gum up the health-care system for another two or three decades with their refusal to walk a fucking block once in a while.

That's really what this is all about, and baked into it is how a large number of Americans really want their national leaders to be -- enabling parents who will sign off on their worst instincts, and make them feel validated for it.


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