Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Sunday, June 06, 2004

Reagan Remembrance
Written by: Answerman

I never would have thought it, jaded as I am about politics, but I have been overcome by a significant sadness this weekend at President Reagan's passing. I've known it was coming for ten years, but only the event itself could inspire the nostalgia that I've been feeling so strongly. Given the timing of my birth in 1976, Ronald Reagan was, for my entire childhood, the only person I associated with the Presidency of the United States. Everything that resonates within me about that office, its meaning, its possiblities, its responsibilities, comes from the sense I developed of President Reagan between the ages of 4 and 12.

He combined a philosophical vision with political pragmatism in a way that seemed neither utopian nor unprincipled. He embodied not only the image of a strong yet benevolent leader, but of the quintessential American man. He was a conservative without being a scolding ideologue. He believed in the power of American political ideals without succumbing to the temptation to spread them by force without reference to historical context. He contributed to the longest period of sustained economic growth this country has ever known. He won the Cold War. Trite as it may be to say so, he made America feel like America again.

That last one is the most interesting aspect of his many accomplishments to me, for the simple reason that President Reagan's vision of an older, prouder, self-confident America always believing in tomorrow was all I knew as a child. I was born after the terrible social convulsions of the 1960s and 1970s, and yet as a child in President Reagan's America, I felt a part of a society on the rise, vanquishing its communist foes, setting an example for other polities to emulate if they so chose, and sustained by a vibrant entrepreneurial spirit capable of achieving countless achievements and solving countless problems. To me, America during the 1980s WAS a shining city on a hill, and I feel I owe that positive, exuberant since of my country and its place in the world that sustained me during my childhood to the great man who died yesterday.

Thinking back, I really do treasure that sense, even more so because of that to which it has given way. As any of you who reads this blog regularly knows, I am a gloom-and-doom conservative. I look around at the shattered institutions that once supported American life, at the tremendous dangers for America that lurk out there in the broader world and to which so many Americans seem dangerously oblivious, and at the onward march of technology and scientific "progress" capable of doing so much more harm than good. I look at these things and I despair.

But President Reagan never despaired. President Reagan most certainly was not a gloom-and-doom conservative. And as pessimistic as I might have been had I been old enough to notice things in 1979, President Reagan was not. And he was right as opposed to the gloom-and-doomers of his era. It is my hope sitting here tonight, despite the dozens of intellectual reasons I may think I have for arguing otherwise, that the Reagan attitude of eternal optimism, faith in America, and belief that the best is yet to come, is the correct one even today, and that events will bear out President Reagan's lasting vision of a shining city on a hill. I don't think I have the moral or emotional strength to believe confidently in that vision, and it saddens me that a man who did, a man who could have given his country and his world so much more in these times of trouble had he had just a little longer on the stage, is no longer with us. My hope is that his vision has inspired others capable of keeping it alive, and dedicated to making America and this world a better place no matter the odds.

God bless President Reagan, and may he rest in peace.

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