Saturday, June 12, 2004

Farewell to Reagan

Partly because of insomnia and partly because of my love of history, I stayed awake and watched funeral of Ronald Reagan.

The sounds and images brought many memories, some of them hardly anything to do with Reagan. I remembered the way another great man was laid to rest twenty four years ago. And as I watched the sunset on television, the dawn began to break in our country. This was the good time to remember the old proverb in our lands. "One man's dusk is another man's dawn."

I didn't remember that proverb because I felt any hatred towards Reagan or what he stood for. I was just reminded of a truth that eluded me twenty-four years ago. It is only the history which is true judge of someone's importance. In case of Reagan, he became history while he was alive and his death and funeral were only the final formality of that inevitable process.

I was also reminded of my thought during the similar occasion less than five years ago when our country left its president. Death and passage of time put everything in proper perspective. And history tends to be kinder to great men than their contemporaries ever could be. Arguments of those who deify great leaders when they are alive are as hollow as arguments of those who demonise them during inevitable backlash. Great men are judged by their deeds and the long-term imprint they left on the world, not by the feelings they stirred in the process.

Yet, I, just like anyone who was alive during Reagan years, am not able to conform to those high ideals of historical objectivity. I can't write about Reagan in the same way I can write about Eisenhower or Kennedy. My perception of 40th American President is forever tainted by my own experiences in those times – times that I see, as people always do, as simpler, kinder, gentler, happier and more innocent than present day.

Because of this Reagan, despite all the political and other controversies (and my own views on Reagan that have changed in past two decades), is going to be among the better liked American presidents. At least for me.


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