THE END OF AN ERA? NOT EVEN CLOSE

BY SKEPTIK SINIKIAN

I have a confession. I wasn’t really upset when I heard about the passing of President Ronald Wilson Reagan last Sunday. Judging from the media frenzy and the hordes of people lining up to view his casket–I’m probably in the minority when I say that I wasn’t really moved by the loss of our 40th President. In fact–I felt bad but it wasn’t because Reagan had suffered from Alzheimer’s in the last years of his life but because I had thought that he had already died some time ago. C’mon. As if any of you knew he was still alive. Some folks in the media have gone so far as to say that the passing of President Reagan is the end of an era. I wasn’t sure what era they were referring to. Would it be the era that plunged our nation into its worst deficit ever–caused thousands to drop out of college due to slashing of federal gran’s for poor students–ignored the AIDS crisis which cost thousands of lives and is ravaging Africa today? Or was it the era that witnessed blatant disregard for the rule of law in the way of the Iran-Contra scandal–the ludicrous invasion of Grenada and Lebanon–and the Savings and Loan disaster? Your guess is as good as mine. Now some may say that Reagan was responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union through his staunch support of the arms buildup. But there were plenty of other factors that contributed to the breakup of the Soviet Union which was bound to happen anyway. Taking credit for the "Cold War Victory" is like taking credit for slaving away over a microwave to cook a TV dinner. Personally–I was more upset and shocked to hear that R&B (that’s Rhythm & Blues for the culturally challenged) legend Ray Charles had died than I was when I heard about President Reagan.

I’m not trying to rain on Reagan’s funeral procession. I’m just trying to bring us all back into reality before we carve into Mount Rushmore the face of a man who starred in such Hollywood classics as "The Voice of the Turtle" (1947)–"Brother Rat and Baby" (1940)–and "Bedtime for Bonzo" (1951). Contrary to what you may think–"Bedtime for Bonzo" is not a documentary on Reagan’s tendency to fall asleep at White House cabinet meetings but a movie about a College professor who tries to teach human morals to a chimpanzee. Trust me; I’m not making this up. The remake is currently being pitched as a reality show starring the Bush administration.

But as an American of Armenian descent–I’m obligated to judge Reagan on his stance on Armenian issues as well. Here’s the list of things that Reagan is credited with doing. As we’ve heard now many many times over–he was the last President to use the word "genocide" in reference to the annihilation of the Armenia’s by the Turkish authorities. He sent aid to The Soviet Socialist Republic of Armenia in 1988 after the devastating earthquake. And finally–he encouraged and supported the idea of a free and independent Armenia when it was a still a Soviet Republic. The first point is significant since every other President to follow has avoided using the term–opting instead for any possible euphemism that does or doesn’t fit. Pretty soon speechwriters are going to run out of things to say and we can expect a statement saying that "Armenia’s suffered a very nasty boo-boo between the years of 1915–1923." So the Gipper (Reagan) gets a point for saying "genocide." But that point should have an asterisk next to it because it wasn’t Ronnie who wrote his own speeches. Everyone likes to remember Reagan as the "Great Communicator," but the real credit should go to individuals like Republican activist and speech writer Ken Khachikian (not to be confused with Ken Hachikian–ANCA National Chair)–who has climbed up the ladder of success in the Republican Party while always staying true to his Armenian roots. Khachikian by the way–also wrote Reagan’s 1987 State of the Union Address–tell me that isn’t cool.

As for the last two items on the pro-Armenian list–I’m not all that impressed. In terms of sending aid to Armenia after the earthquake–the decision was a no-brainer. The only country that didn’t send aid was the Republic of Turkey. And promoting the idea of a free and independent Armenia during the Cold War is as predictable and contrived as the last episode of "Friends." Think about it? What else would Reagan have done during the Cold War? Urge Armenia to remain part of the Communist block? That’s like telling a battered spouse to stay in an abusive relationship.

I’m fine with mourning the dead. I even felt a bit of sorrow when Richard "I-sold-my-soul-to-the-Devil" Nixon died. But I didn’t drive out to Yorba Linda (home of the Nixon Library) to slowly march around his casket like mourners viewing Lenin’s body in the Red Square Mausoleum. I didn’t jump on the bandwagon of praise for a man who ordered US soldiers to open fire on protesting college students.

Reagan was a charming–articulate (albeit by proxy)–Hollywood cowboy. And until his last day in office–he was always an actor. I don’t understand why so many Americans ran out to stand along freeways waiting for a glimpse of the hearse. Who were these people that could afford to take time off from work to view the body anyway? Assuming they had jobs in this horrible economy to start with. Maybe they were the thousands of air traffic controllers that Reagan fired during his term in office after they went on strike against the Federal Aviation Administration. By the way–Reagan is the only President ever to fire federal employees from their jobs for exercising their right to go on strike.

Whoever the masses were–it is obvious that this country is at a point where it is looking for heroes. Unfortunately–we are looking in all the wrong places. The real heroes aren’t Hollywood actors and millionaires (Republican–Democrat–or Green) turned politicians–they’re the people who work hard every day against all odds to eke out a piece of the American Dream for themselves and their families. They’re the everyday working stiff like you and me who make America the land of the free and the home of the brave (By the way–we apologize for the inconvenience–but the Land of the Free ride is temporarily closed courtesy of the Patriot Act). That’s right! You are my hero–not Ronald Reagan. Yes! You are my hero! (Are you OK? Do you need a tissue?).

Maybe history will prove me wrong. Maybe the Presidents that follow Reagan will be so inept that they’ll make Ronald look like George Washington. But if the last three Presidents are any indication of what’s to come–Ronnie is en route to replacing Alexander Hamilton on the ten dollar bill and joining Teddy–George–Abe–and Tom on Rushmore. It’s a mad–mad–mad–mad world. Thank God I’m only passing through.

Skeptik Sinikian is trying to become an actor so that he can break into politics. After his first movie starring a gorilla–orangutan or chimp–he plans to declare his candidacy for Governor of California. His campaign can be reached at SkeptikSinikian@aol.com.

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