I am an immigrant. A naturalized citizen of these United States. I consider myself an American (unless I have to tell someone abroad where I'm from, in which case the answer is a quick-shot “New York.”) My family came, escaped here from the Soviet Union. My fascination with that fallen empire exists only through the visors/blinders of nostalgia. I can't deny where I came from, where I had my formative experiences, where my love for art and culture sprouted. However, I also can't deny that it was a quagmire of a country, started on genuinely valiant terms and eventually run into the ground by a psychotic despot. I don't love the USSR (or Russia, for that matter,) but it is my homeland, just as America is my home. I cannot claim my grasp of history is anything but cursory, so everything I write from hereon may very well be inaccurate, but it is the way things went down in my head. I invite, welcome and cherish corrections.
I am an unabashed member of the left, and a radical one at that. My politics did not come from an even-handed observations of the two sides and a conscious choice, but rather my personal convictions thrusting me into the lefthand wall at 88 miles per hour. You could say I started climbing the damn thing just as I hit it, to see what was on the other side. I can honestly say that every individual within the legislature can agree on some bill, the ends of which result in my imprisonment. I'm being a bit hyperbolic, but you can see my point.
Twenty years ago today the Berlin Wall fell, and a good part of that fall revolved around Ronald Reagan. Between heated proxy fighting (my old tennis coach used to fly planes for the Soviet forces in Afghanistan) and increased worry over the “assured” part of “Mutually Assured Destruction” (not to mention the USSR's inability to feed their populace) the great symbol of superpower division was toppled. The fall wasn't nearly as spontaneous as history makes it out to be, but there is precious little truly spontaneous history. I'll admit to this being a facile treatment of the issue, but I'm no historian.
Ronald Reagan, whether you think of him as figurehead or mastermind, is partially responsible for who I am. Without the Gipper's nominal efforts, without his administration taking a step back from the brink of nuclear annihilation, my family may have never been able to emigrate to the United States. This leaves me conflicted.
One the one hand, Reagan holds a lion's share of responsibility for the mess our country is in right now. The co-opting of the GOP by hardline conservatism is inextricably linked to his bringing Nixon's “Silent Majority” campaign tactic to a fever pitch, molding it into a veritable religion of intolerant Christian extremism, anti-intellectualism and the very denouncement of reason itself. The 43rd presidential administration, riding Reagan's coattails and stealing an election, dropped us to a nadir as a culture. I never thought I'd see the day where issues settled by the Scopes trial in 1925 would be brought up for questioning. Also: Iran-Contra? The president committed treason. Plain and simple. Our fightin' boys in the Middle East are getting blown to shit with the veritable armory he sold them. How did it all end, you ask? Ollie North, the grand co-conspirator, has a show on Fox. And Reagan himself received a sending-off I can only compare to this Russian joke I found on Wikipedia:
Seeing a pompous and lavish burial of a member of the Politburo, Rabinovich sadly shakes his head: "What a waste! I could have buried the whole Politburo with this kind of money!"
...oh did that felt good to get out. Now here's the other side: I can say all that I just said without fear. I can say that President Ronald Reagan was a treasonous blight upon the citizens of the United States of America. I can say that instead of a funeral procession, they should have dumped him in a potter's field. And you know what? I'm not going to get “disappeared.” I was rescued from a life of poverty and anti-Semitism in the shithole that became of Russia after its turnover to “democracy.” I live in a country where the only reason I am waiting on line for a loaf of bread is because I decided to shop at Trader Joe's. My voice, no matter how insignificant in the grand scheme of things, can be heard by anyone willing to listen, and all the while my teapot remain unsullied by Polonium-210.
Ronald Reagan helped me live the life I do today -- and I love this life because I'm free to spit on his grave regardless.