NEITHER AWED NOR SEDUCED
By Geoff Metcalf
June 9, 2004
"The great thing about making cognac is that it teaches you above everything else to wait-man proposes, but time and God and the seasons have got to be on your side." --Jean Monnet, cognac distiller and statesman
We have all suffered the loss of a loved one and will again.
The passing of Ronald Reagan illustrates how the post mortem death rituals are really more about the grief and selfishness of the living than the peace and reward of the dead. Epicurus noted, long ago and far away, "Death, the most dreaded of all evils, is therefore of no concern to us; for while we exist death is not present, and when death is present we no longer exist.
EVERYone seems to be writing about Ronald Reagan.
He is being alternately lauded as the penultimate public servant who defeated communism armed with faith and principles, and vilified as the carrier of a political hybrid AIDs virus that continues to ravage the republic. The reality exists sans hyperbole somewhere in between. However those who loved him and those who hated him agree on one key point: he changed the world.
I am a BIG Reagan fan…despite his deregulation (that gave birth to the media megaopoly behemoths)…despite his duplicity in supporting small government and growing it (kinda like the current administration which I also support and admire)…Reagan remains the gold standard amongst a gaggle of also rans. When he fired the Air Traffic Controllers despite counsel of the potential for political disaster, the moribund Soviets sat up and recognized "this guy is serious as a heart attack…we'd better pay attention".
Some argue it is hypocritical to acknowledge the negatives of the vast Reagan body of work and still praise him. Pickle Juice! Ronald Reagan was a great man…not a perfect man.
People will pontificate ad nauseum with pretentious judgments of Reagan as: World Leader, President, Politician, Actor, Husband, Father, Woodchopper, and Man.
It is significant to note that among most all the analysts, both those who offer praise and those who choose to throw rocks, not dare compare accomplishments, character, or honor.
Ronald Reagan was not perfect and could not walk on water (unless he knew where the rocks were…and he often did).
I am still moved by the scene in the movie 'Rob Roy' when the title character is asked by his sons, "What is honor?" Rob looked at his sons and said, "Honor is something no one can give you…and no one can take away from you. It is a mans gift to himself." Reagan had honor…in spades.
Better men and women than I have and will eulogize 'the Gipper'. I have been a mere spectator and beneficiary of his gifts. I do not often presume to judge my elders or my betters.
At the risk of overusing the ideal quote, "It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat." What Teddy Roosevelt said crystallizes Ronald Reagan. "…his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat."
Ronald Reagan was a leader who less took risks than embraced, lived, and personified 'principles'. Sure, he wasn't perfect. Sure he sometimes failed. And, yeah…he was sometimes wrong. I still think that 11th commandment of his ('Thou Shalt Speak no ill of a fellow republican') was whacked. MY 11th commandment is 'It's not a question of WHO is right or wrong but WHAT is right or wrong that counts.'
The New York Post recently printed excerpts from Reagan's remarks at the U.S. Ranger Monument at Pointe du Hoc, France on D-Day twenty years ago. Reagan quoted a Stephen Spender poem and told the veteran Rangers assembled "You are men who in your 'lives fought for life…and left the vivid air signed with your honor." Somehow that quote seems particularly appropriate for Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.
Reagan answered his own rhetorical to 'The Boys of Pointe du Hoc'. Why did they risk everything in Normandy? For the same reasons that motivated Reagan: "It was faith and belief, it was loyalty and love."
Ronald Reagan faced epic challenges with antique courage and died as he lived with Christian Faith and Hope.
© 2004 Geoff Metcalf - All Rights Reserved
"Geoff Metcalf is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host for TALK AMERICA and a veteran media performer. He has had an eclectic professional background covering a wide spectrum of radio, television, magazine, and newspapers. A former Green Beret and retired Army officer he is in great demand as a speaker. Visit Geoff's Web Site: www.geoffmetcalf.com. While you're at it - pick up a copy of Geoff's latest book! E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org