Sunday, October 12, 2008

Burying Ronald Reagan

Let it be known that I do not like Christopher Hitchens. If you don’t know of him, he’s a proper-speaking, British literary snot (no misspelling there) with the finest education that our world can offer. Unfortunately, the good Lord -- working in his usual mischievous ways (nor there) -- has seen fit to give Mr. Hitchens an intellect to match his education. Despite the appearance of being drunk, he has been able to outthink anyone in the room on the few occasions I’ve seen him.

I’ve just finished reading “America the Banana Republic” by Mr. Hitchens in Vanity Fair. The man is disgustingly brilliant.

”I have heard arguments about whether it was Milton Friedman or Gore Vidal who first came up with this apt summary of a collusion between the overweening state and certain favored monopolistic concerns, whereby the profits can be privatized and the debts conveniently socialized, but another term for the same system would be “banana republic.” “

He is, of course, talking about the current economic mess and the fact that the very same people that got us into it will now be rewarded for delivering it to our doorstep. And he cuts right to the heart of the matter.

”Now ask yourself another question. Has anybody resigned, from either the public or the private sectors (overlapping so lavishly as they now do)? Has anybody even offered to resign? Have you heard anybody in authority apologize, as in: “So very sorry about your savings and pensions and homes and college funds, and I feel personally rotten about it”? Have you even heard the question being posed? O.K., then, has anybody been fired? Any regulator, any supervisor, any runaway would-be golden-parachute artist? Anyone responsible for smugly putting the word “derivative” like a virus into the system? To ask the question is to answer it. “

As to my choice of a title, you won’t find mention of President Reagan in Mr. Hitchen’s piece. Playing off of an allusion contained therein, Ronald Reagan, no mere parole officer but the Warden in Chief, let loose these criminals upon our economy -- empowering them with his famous words;

"Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem."

As we drink from this bitter cup that Saint Ronald proffered us from the altar of the Free Market, perhaps we will share a collective epiphany; That Reagan was naming us -- We the People -- as the problem. We -- you and I -- surrendered our government to the servants of the money changers.

Let’s drop the intellectual facade. We forgot that smarter doesn’t mean better. Our sense of worth isn’t in our brains, it is best measured in our hearts. Sophistication doesn’t equate to wisdom. Our wealth -- no matter how enchanting -- is no substitution for what is found in our souls. Greed, no matter how sophisticated, is still greed.

Don’t mistake my religious imagery for direction. I might be a Samaritan, a stranger, an infidel, a heathen. The point of the Parable of The Good Samaritan is not that he was a Muslim, a Socialist, a Republican, a Democrat, a lawyer, a thief or a banker. The point is that he was good.

As a wise man says on most days, “be well, do good works and keep in touch “.

Do good. If you can’t love your neighbor at least try not to hate him. Get to know what good feels like, looks like and sounds like. That way, the next time some actor tries to demonize Hollywood -- or your Government -- maybe you’ll recognize the hate. The next time, when someone preaches hate -- even your preacher -- maybe you’ll recognize it. Hate, just like greed, can be sophisticated. But it is still hate.

It is time to bury the illusion of Ronald Reagan along with his legacy -- Reaganomics. Lack of a good government got us into this mess and we will only get out of it by making sure that our government is good. Less government didn’t make it good. It just made it less.

And we will pay. You may not have had as much fun as others at the party but it was our party and now it is time to pay the tab. When the hung-over college boys of Wall Street turn out their pockets to show you they have no money left, take their car keys. Trust me, they’ll find a way to pay. At a minimum, they won’t be able to drive the economy into the ditch again. And if they really can’t pay, we can sell the car. Call it tough love.

Don Brown
October 12, 2008

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