Southern Exposure

Ruminations of a Native Son


Greater Washington. DC., United States
February 06
Compulsive writer (mostly memoirs and sociopolitical rants), musicologist, hermeticst, fiscal conservative, radical centrist, agrarian socialist; Charter member, Factualist Party; born and raised in DC, healthcare professional, retired businessman, civic and political activist on two coasts, civil rights movement veteran. An empiricist's worst nightmare, I believe in everything but I don't believe everything, including many things I believe in. Turned down by US Army in 1966 for medical reasons, thrown out of Col. Hasan's Black Man's Army in 1967 for being "too militant." Scion of a family only Tennessee Williams could have dreamed up. There's more. There's always more.


FEBRUARY 22, 2011 11:00PM

The Next Despot to Go: Ours

Rate: 29 Flag


No? Too late. It already happened. Now it's our turn to kill the zombie and in doing so perhaps kill the motivation for all the zombie's minions.

Much has been said, and rightly so, about the remarkable peaceful turning out of Egyptian former dictator Hosni Mubarak, and some of that talk has centered around why it took thirty years for Egyptians to finally become fed up and stand up to the "Laughing Cow." Meanwhile much of the Arab world has been inspired by the sudden dismissal of a self-serving despot in a very peaceful but determined revolution. Not all the subsequent ones will be so peaceful, but revoutions rarely are.

The inspiration felt by Arabs may even have been felt in the U.S., where in the formerly very liberal state of Wisconsin a Tea Party governor has decided to play his assigned role in the seizing of power for the corporatist apparatus which controls said Tea Party, by attempting to disable collective bargaining by unions representing public servants: police, firefighters, teachers, all those who deliver "socialist" services like teaching, protecting life, fighting crime, etc. You know, stuff we by rights should be doing ourselves. Yes. Of course.

Well a funny thing happened en route to breaking the unions in Wisconsin. People stood up, a la Cairo, and are still standing.  Meanwhile, in a move similar to the defecting public officials and military in Libya, a bunch of Democratic state legislators have lit out for parts unknown, to jam the Wisconsin legislative system until Rick Scott is willing to at least listen to reason, even if he doesn't understand it.

Other states with Republican/Tea Party governers are girding for similar standoffs.

Why this? Why now? And where is this all leading?

It is time. The political cycle of most countries tends to average about 30 years. For the past three decades this great Republic of ours has been squirming under the heel of a tyrant, one who has been out of office (officially) since 1993 and has been clinically dead since 2004.


That's right, that's him right there, giving the White Power salute, our undead President, the man who has continued to haunt us through his minions, admirers, worshippers, voodoo economic spin doctors and various sycophants and simpering catamites. The Gipper. The Duke. The guy who's hair, at 90, was still a greasy dark color. Actor and one-time wannbe American Communist Party member, Ronald Wilson Reagan.

But...but...he's dead. His term ended in January, 1993 and the New Age was ushered in by Bill Clinton.

"...'I never died, said he."

Yes, that borrowed line was intentional irony, gentle reader, in the event you thought it was just an interesting artifact of my poor brain.

Since 1981 when this nation went stark raving insane and elected Ronald Reagan President we have been haunted, tormented...ruled by a zombie. As it turns out he may have been functionally a zombie while still in office. As a second-rate actor he was just good enough at his craft to pass himself off as something we wanted, someone we could relate to, the kindly Uncle Ronnie who always knew best, even when he was whistling in the dark as Ollie North delivered bald-faced lies regarding the Byzantine Iran-Contra treason cooked up with Reagan's tacit approval, even as the national deficit was driven to three trillion USD, even as the one-time applicant (turned down) to the American Communist Party worked a strange dog-and-pony show equal parts corrupt neoconservative and incompetent liberal.

Since Reagan left office (thank the lord for term limits) he has hovered in the  halls of power in D.C. and has slowly taken on a mythic godliness so that even our current far more than establishment President has a time or two made fawningly admiring remarks about the abilities of Mr. Reagan.

Ronald Reagan, who recently got more ink for having been born 100 years prior to, well, what would have been his hundredth birthday, had there been a living guest of honor to honor, than any other President ever -- and can anyone here name any former President, including Washington and Lincoln, who have gotten as much attention for having had 100 years pass since their birth? I didn't think so.

The neoconservative movement which has devolved (as impossible as that seems) into the self-titled and ineptly yclept Tea Party has set up Ronald Reagan as a sort of political Alexander the Great, an unassailable hero of all things good and worthy, even though the man was largely full of shit.

"Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" was a stroke of pure genius that only Tom Sawyer could have equalled when whitewashing that damn fence. The spine of the former Soviet Union had already been broken by their decade-long engagement with Afghanistan. Even a dimbulb like Reagan could smell death in the air, and took advantage of the moment to cleverly steal some political momentum by giving an order to someone who was already in the process of trying to figure out how to gracefully do just that: tear down the wall.

Of course if we listen to the spiritual descendants of Reagan, most prominently Ms. Sarah Palin, half-term governor of the most sparsely populated state (Dick Cheney's Wyoming is the least populous in absolute terms) and a cultural and political illiterate who owes a great deal of her noteriety and one-time popularity to the Reagan School of Charm, it was the Soviet's Sputnik tin can satellite that not only broke the bank for the Great Bear -- though the effects were not felt til 34 years later. Interesting, that.

"It's morning in America" was another unforgettable hit by "Ronnie the Popular" (as named by John Fogerty in the 1970 Credence Clearwater Revival hit "It Came Out of the Sky"). Of course it meant absolutely nothing (the Reagan slogan, not the song, which meant a great deal) but it sounded so positive. This was to be the legacy assumed by what may well be, in history's long view, the worst American President ever, George W. Bush, the guy everyone thought they'd like to have a beer with. Family types. Senile old uncle, punchy frat brother Dubya, perky halfwit Sarah. There is something in a good part of the nation that wants a relative -- a simple-minded, mentally defective relative -- in the White House. And the godfather zombie President has been dictating policy here for 30 years.

The herculean task of freeing the Iranian hostages, negotiated by the oft-dismissed Jimmy Carter, was co-opted by the Reagan camp and has been turned into some sort of gospel: that the Iranians crumbled before the awesomeness of the genially blithering Gipper and to this day it is widely believed he somehow made that happen.

Even George H. W. Bush, the halfway likeable Veep who stumbled into the White House for a term clinging to Reagan's coattails, called Reagan's supply side economics "voodoo economics" prior to being invited to be Reagan's Vice President. It seems no one had much faith in what was later to become known as "trickle-down economics." It was a highly questionable, illogical, faulty scheme which essentially favored the already-wealthy, large corporations and the slow-motion sellout of the United States Government to said corporations (creating a poltical class of corporatists which would make Italy's Facists of the 1930s and '40s blush).

Shameless tax cuts for the rich, based on the premise that the more capital the rich owned, the more poor and working-class people they could afford to hire, were implemented and have continued on in various forms til the present moment.

Another article of faith of Reaganites was -- and remains -- that getting government out of the lives of ordinary (read: you and me) Americans would somehow help boost the economy, that deregulation of industry would give it more room to maneuver and grow, that de-unionizing workers would not only help the overall economic picture but would be more "fair" to those capitalists who had earned, begged, borrowed or stolen their "own" to keep their "own," This last is a very peculiar and strikingly un-American notion that has become a keystone of neoconservative thinking: that the wealthy got that way by fair means and that there is some sort of imperative somewhere in the Constitution that this is not only good but required. Of course just as there is no national religion and this is not a religious state, there is also no national economic policy.

Except of course when one speaks to a conservative, neocon or Tea Partier, in the minds of whom these things are not only true but manifestly obvious. When they cannot point to the location of these Constitutional mandates they simply go all Bill O'Reilly on us and "can't remember," then try to turn their fantasies on us, as though the burden of proof of their own negative lies with us.

This is, of course, insane, or perhaps just plane brainless -- like true zombies, who only eat brains for nourishment instead of growing and using their own.

We know how they get rid of zombies in the movies.

We also know how they get rid of them in Egypt and Wisconsin.

Our deadest President may be George Washington, but our livingest dead President remains the one, the only, Ronald Wilson Reagan, "The Old Ranger," who would this year be 100 years old -- and who thought and acted like he was 100 for most of his life. He also seemingly had more nicknames than any other President. This in itself says something unsettling about him and his admirers, the worshippers who sacrifice to him their own human brains as they continue to vote against their own best interests by electing Scott Walkers and Rick Scotts and Rand Paul's and John Boehners and who listen raptly to the demented babblings of Glen Beck and the poison gaseous pronouncements of Rush Limbaugh.


And now, after the rapid and peaceful dismissal of "Laughing Cow" Mubarak, the open mano a mano challenge by Libyans to Moamar Qadafi Duck, and now the runaway Democratic legislators in Wisconsin and the tens of thousands of demonstrators in Madison, which will shortly spread to those other states where so-called Tea Party governors will try to lead union-breaking movements only to be confronted by thousands of Americans who will be turning the tables on the zombies by employing "Night of the Living Dead" tactics, by coming forward, wave upon wave, not looking for brains to eat, but bringing brains to use, slowly, state by state, city by city, brick by brick, will overthrow the longest-lived despot the United States has ever endured: Ronald Wilson Reagan, and with him his anti-American, anti-human economic and power-gathering policies.

It may not all be pretty, but we've done this before. A generation now largely having "fat stomachs and responsible jobs" (Burroughs) once brought the government to its knees, deposed two Presidents, guaranteed civil rights for all Americans and ended a seemingly endless war.

Most of us are still alive and well, despite the oversize guts and investment funds, and some of us are coming back to life, inspired by Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Wisconsin. We are out here, and we are ready to help in any way we can to launch an assault on Ronald Reagan and to burn down Zombieland.

We can do this. We must do this.

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The US media has totally failed to report on the role of the Egyptian trade union movement - which has been building steadily since 1998 - in the recent "revolution." According to Al Jazeera, there were 200,000 workers on strike across Egypt on Feb 8th - and calls for a general strike - and this was what led the military (who own 40% of the Egyptian economy) to pressure Mubarak to step down. Between 1998 and 2011, there have been 3,000 strikes in Egypt (at least one a day) involving more than 2 million workers.
I only hope that we can rid ourselves of his awful legacy, but even with the flames burning brightly in Wisconsin, I fear that this is one hope that will disappoint.
Dr. Bramhall: Very true and very important. Thanks for adding this to the thread. There is a very definite connection here in terms of solidarity and inspiration. Why this had been ignored is a mystery to me.

Tea Tom: The thing about hope is it implies, by its very definition, things don't look to go so well. Otherwise "confidence" would replace hope in a sentence referring to future events. I continue to hope where confidence is in short supply. It is not unlike faith. It can move mountains and even kill zombies because hope is not rational.
Of all Reagan's sins -- and they were multitude, the worst is seldom mentioned. The decline of unions that began with Reagan's gutting of the Air Traffic Controllers has contributed to an anti-labor atmosphere and an attendant reduction in union membership from roughly 20% of the workforce when he took office, to around 10% today.

But it hasn't been only jobs and wages that suffered with that decline; it's been political power, too. But let us not forget Reagan didn't get the job via a coup -- he was voted in twice thanks largely to defections by the so-called Reagan Democrats who drank the rank, racist Kool-Aid stirred up by Reagan and his lead hatchetman/henchman Lee Atwater.

So as for the electorate, all I can say is When Will They Ever Learn?
Tom: This one was the really Big One, firing the air traffic controllers. It was the near-death touch for unions, which is why they are the primary players in overthrowing his dead ass now. And of course you're absolutely right, way too many otherwise sensible Americans bought into this lunacy. It's how it works. I won't mention the obvious name, but it has happened before. It's just kinda rare the despot sticks around after terms have expired and even the guy himself.

One hopes they have learned or are at least learning as we speak.
Great carve-up of the Regan myth AJ. You do have to give the rich right-wingers creit for their masterful politicking. Somehow they've got lots of poor folks to fight their battles for them. And they've persuaded lots of folks with crap jobs to resent those who have unions to protect their conditions, instead of resenting the upperclass who deny them the same conditions.

They're good at campaigning too. One rejected approach would have had Reagan pledging to "run up the biggest deficits this country's ever seen" while "selling arms to our enemies in Iran" to "fund an illegal war in Nicaragua". Alas, "morning in America" won out.
Abrawang: Thank you. And as for those brilliant right wing strategies, there's a really phenomenal deconstruction of the whole history and process on Youtube, courtesy of a fellow names Rick Wise. It's called "Tim Wise on White Privilige: The Creation of Whiteness." I'd give it a listen before dismissing the seemingly predictable content. It's really quite illuminating, and it does give a sort of grudging credit to the generations of schemers who brought us to this pretty pass.

It is a pity RR couldn't have run on his actual intentions instead of some euphemism about "Morning in America," but he was fed his lines by those rich white Republicans Wise talks about. They've been with us a long time. We need to show them the door and Reagan's ghost along with them.
One thing about Hollywood success: it really gives form to the reality of how one can, quite easily, spread anything you want packaged in the flag of whatever institution the hoi polloi associate subject X with.

Reagan won the California Governorship by scaring the Orange County crowd over Free Speech, yes folks, Free Speech demonstrations ... isn't the 1st Amendment what his so-called ilk hold sacrosanct?

Add a touch of racism- fears post-Watts; demonetization of the Panthers- and you quickly see how this success repeated itself with a States Rights (N-Word; N-Word; N-Word) campaign launch in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Voila, and Pat Buchanan crows over it to this day, admitting every detail.

I surfed a lot in Latin America during the 80s. One of our best, and most dangerous spots, was nicknamed "Ollie's Point" and I doubt it is hard to figure out why. No matter what or where, there are always witnesses.

It takes about 30-50 years to elevate a dead human into a demi-god with phantasmal powers ... history is rife with examples.

rated for fine work
"The thing about hope is it implies, by its very definition, things don't look to go so well. Otherwise "confidence" would replace hope in a sentence referring to future events. I continue to hope where confidence is in short supply. It is not unlike faith. It can move mountains and even kill zombies because hope is not rational."

yeah baby! ; )

Now let's go burn down Zombieland! Oh boy, my grandson, 8 years old, would love all of this talk about zombies...way to get kids interested in what's going on in the world. Us big kids, mainly. Thank you, AJ!
didn't do it then, and won't now. getting rid of presidents just gets you another one, 40 years later, you still haven't noticed.

needs a revolution, preferably to democracy, preferably non-violent, but voting for 'change you can believe in' didn't work out all that well, did it?
Standing in the voting booth so long ago: Reagan- pfftt!

Please get a copy of The Zombie Survival Guide by Brooks. You're going to need it!
Absolutely the best post I have read on this whole mess AJ.
I wish this was on the cover and I could rate it a zilloin times for the truth.....
This was so well done I read it twice. Should make EP and cover. Thank you for taking time to write this!!!
Channeling your inner H.L. Mencken. faved and rated
I loved this AJ. What a thoughtful and well stated piece. And like you, I believe we can do it. We must do it. And we can be compelled to do it. Highly rated.
An excellent discourse on much of what I believe, including Carter's not being duly credited with his role in the solving of Iran hostage crisis and
Reagan's mass firing of air traffic controllers laying the groundstone towards the demise of unions. Americans have to wake up to see reality and stop being mezmerized by glamor and myth.
Oahusurfer: Thank you for the kind words, the intelligent comment and especially for "there are always witnesses." There are, and I know my witness.

angelkisses: Your enthusiasm energizes me and makes me smile. That's two huge things. Thanks for your comment. I love it, and yes, us big kids really need to burn down zombieland. :)

Al Loomis: You never let me down. Or something. There is a place in the world for a skeptic. Thanks for filling that spot.

Elijah Rising: Thanks for the comment. I would go back to "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and start yelling "They're already here!" What's coming now is The People. A manual on how to deal with zombies would be handy, but this time the good guys are outside the house -- and we're coming in.

Bonnie Russel: Yes. If nothing else they are masterful at manipulating via media. Not since the legendary, game-changing "Daisy" commercial of 1964 have Democrats (or any sane group) come up with anything remotely crafty. Image manipulation is the strong suit and they play it like a violin. Why we can't counter this is a complete mystery to me. It's time we set about deliberately learning the game. Lord knows they've given us enough examples.

Mission: Thank you so very much. You're too kind. Just, well, thank you.

From The Midwest: Thank you also. It started almost as a joke, but as it unfolded I realized it's not even funny -- but one has to laugh to keep from crying. Wonderful comments like yours don't hurt, either.

old new lefty: Ha! I can see Baltimore from my front porch. ;)

Jonathan Wolfman: Thank you very, very much!

Marytkelly: Thanks. Not only does your opinion of my work matter a great deal, but your wonderful ability to keep believing in the best in people always has lifted me up, and this is one of those times when it really, truly makes a difference.

FusunA: It is absolutely time for sane people to wake up. If it is morning in America (and at this moment it happens it is) then we really ought to open our eyes and keep them open. Why? Because we look like fools walking around with them closed. Thank you very much for your comment.
Powerfully expressed! You need to post this on Facebook where the debates continue. I'm glad I found you!
patricia k: Thank you! It is already linked on Facebook -- twice, in fact. I am a shameless self-promoter. ;)

Glad you found me, too. It's always nice, being found.
Ronald Reagan was dead about a month after he took office when he was gunned down with his entourage by Bush pistolero John Hinckley, Jr. Or perhaps you think it is just a coincidence that a month into office a president and his entourage are shot by the son of his vice presidents biggest backer in his primary run against him, that the whole thing ironically enough is blamed on his demented affection towards another Hollywood movie star, and Hinckley never serves a day in prison for it.

Public servants like the police, firefighters, teachers, and as you well remember air traffic controllers are covered under the Taylor Law. This is because they are already compensated well beyond what the performance of their respective jobs are worth because any form of work stoppage is deemed unacceptable by the community's that pay them. Their unions form states within states and call themselves by euphemisms like the Patrolman's Benevolent Association. They exert tremendous pressure on the outcomes of elections and the policy's that are instituted through them. Having said all that perhaps if we would just make the rich pay their lawful amount of tax’s none of this would be necessary.
Jane Optimus Prime Smithie: Thanks for your comments. While it would seem RR had no influence on such items as the windfall tax vote, the very fact our current President, who has in many ways emulated certain practices of Reagan urged the then-majority Dem congress not to *and enough of them were willing to go with this urging* represents a lingering effect of the very policies Reagan left hanging in the air like a dank effluvium. It is almost as though we dare not think beyond those changes that were made during his terms and for another term after that. It became Conventional Wisdom. People quit questioning, including a significant number of Democrats. It is one of the most amazing examples of seeming mass-hypnosis in history.

As for cursing, please, feel free. If you look through my archives here you will find I am probably the biggest curser in the neighborhood. It works when it's sincere. :)

Jack Heart: There are things in both you points we could discuss at great length, and I there may be some merit to both. However, since the assassinated Reagan somehow survived the "Jodie Foster Grandstand Passion Play," even though the facts you cite were strangely overlooked, and so did his influence, even though it was not cooked up by him alone. As for the second point, regarding Taylor Law protections, you offer some opinions which are debatable, and I'd like to do that, but this isn't the place for more than an "I agree" or, in this case, "I do not agree." Still, it is a rational and debatable opinion and I respect and appreciate it.
Thank you. I now understand a little bit better what's going on in Wisconsin. (I'm from Australia, and I am very interested in US politics, but have had trouble keeping up with world news lately. Well, there's been a lot going on!)
Wow. We're so lucky we have such a smart person like you to lead us to hope and change.
Misrule: How nice to meet you! You know, having lived a while on the west coast here and noting how unreal most of the east coast is to those folks, I often wonder what we as a nation must look like to those at a considerable distance. There really is a lot going on here, possibly more than meets the eye. I think it is part of a far more broad change in the sociopolitical weather worldwide. It's nice to see fellow Americans once again waking up to the notion of being enaged and involved.

Deborah Young: I don't know why I feel this, but I may be walking into a trap by saying Thank you. Me smart? I've heard rumors of this before. Leading? Not likely. Maybe part of the solution instead of part of the problem, hopefully. And toward hope and change? Hope is easy. Change is the challenging part. I hope we can change. We'll see who's leading as this thing unfolds. Thanks for your comment.