There are events in life which remind one of what’s truly important. Last week, for example, the subject for this column was going to be the depraved absurdity of O.J. Simpson attempting to explain himself to the media. Again. On this ten-year anniversary of the murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, Simpson was making the interview rounds as the car wreck of the week.
Then President Reagan died. Once again, in a world which seems to be swamped in the ugly and hopeless (think Michael Moore and O.J. Simpson), Reagan emerges as a reminder of the class, style, compassion and brilliance that makes this nation great.
You will read many tributes to the Great Man in the weeks to come. For my part, I present to you an abridgement of the confessional tribute I wrote a year ago about Mr. And Mrs. Reagan in my book, The Death of Right and Wrong.
Ronald Reagan inspired me to become a better person. With his death, perhaps those with whom I used to associate in the gay and feminist establishments will have the courage to look honestly at him and themselves.
In 1994 I was in my fourth year as president of the Los Angeles chapter of NOW. I had also served on the National NOW Board of Directors. It was a year I remember, for several reasons. It was the year O.J. Simpson killed Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman, and the year my town was hit by the devastating Northridge earthquake. It was also the year Ronald Reagan announced to the nation that he had Alzheimer’s. …
Ronald Reagan was hated, and still is, in the feminist-establishment circles in which I grew up. That milieu subsists on enemies and hatred. I took my cues from the women around me, women I admired. They were strong and confident, and they knew. They knew who was out to get us. They knew who was determined to throw us back into the Dark Ages. They knew Reagan was evil.
I tell you this not as an excuse for my past actions but as a further illustration of what I’ve been discussing throughout this book – the way malignant narcissism is spread. You see, the seed of my politics, the politics I espouse now, were already manifested in my voting for President Reagan 10 years earlier. I liked him, and I believed he had the best interests of Americans in mind. During my involvement with NOW, however, what took over was my need to be accepted, the romanticization of my “victimhood,” and the power I could achieve by following the models of the women at the top. Those women were happy that Reagan was sick, so I would be, too.
The conditioning of the Left Elite works so well partly because the people attracted to that camp are looking for family, they are looking to belong; consequently people like that – people like me – are easy pickings. My emptiness compelled me to cheer when a decent man who followed his principles was struck down by an unforgiving assailant. Alzheimer’s had done what many feminist leaders fantasized about doing themselves, if only they could get away with it.
Today, I am still pro-choice, and I still support fetal tissue research. But I now realize that those who disagree with me also have good points. I hope they reflect on their position as often as I do on mine, because both camps are on the razor’s edge. I have made my commitment to women and reproductive freedom, while my compatriots on the other side of the fence, mostly because of their religious faith, have made a pact with what they call “the unborn.”
We will have to agree to disagree, but only now do I consider those on that other side decent people – as decent as I, but with a different focus. Ronald Reagan is one of those decent people, but in all the feminist establishment’s mirth about his illness, never did they consider, never would they consider, the humanity of the man. Some may have made sympathetic public comments, but, like Madelyn Toogood, the woman who beat her little girl in a parking lot, they were simply looking around to make sure no one was watching before they returned to privately declaring that Reagan deserved to suffer. …
By now, you may not be surprised to learn that in certain gay and feminist circles, bottles of champagne wait in refrigerators to be opened when Reagan dies. …
I write this on the night Nancy Reagan appeared on “60 Minutes II.” Mike Wallace interviewed her about the former president, their marriage, and their history. Watching the show, I remembered why I liked Reagan so much – old footage of an early interview with Mike Wallace, at the time Reagan announced his first candidacy in 1976 (I was 14), deeply moved me and reminded me what great leadership was to come. ...
During the interview, Mrs. Reagan disclosed that she’s not sure her husband recognizes her anymore. Long ago he had stopped recognizing his children, but he always knew her. Now, it seems, he doesn’t. There was a deep sadness in the woman’s face. It was the “long goodbye,” as she called it.
The Reagans, like so many other people, had probably approached their Golden Years trusting, assuming, that memories would be shared, and laughed and cried about. For Nancy Reagan that doesn’t exist. She hasn’t said goodbye to her husband because “he’s still here,” but the welling of tears in her eyes revealed a wounded, sad woman. I found it heartbreaking to see, as would any decent person of any political persuasion.
Part of my life, however, is still reflective of what I call my “old” life – my years of leadership in the feminist establishment and involvement in the gay-rights movement. This night, those two lives collided. As I cried after the interview because of the sadness of it and my own guilt and shame, I checked my phone messages. There was one from a gay male friend, whom I see infrequently these days but with whom I share some fun and important activist memories.
He had been watching the same interview, but he was cheering. “Woo hoo! It looks like we might be opening up that champagne sooner than later! I hope you were watching the Dragon Lady on “60 Minutes” tonight. I suppose with Alzheimer’s, he’s not suffering anymore, but it sure looks like she is! There is a God after all.”
I had never thought of my friend as an indecent person, just as I never thought of myself as one. But he really hates those two people and wishes them awful things. He believes he’s in the right and they’re wrong. He also believes that the questions that divide them are moral issues about life and death. The difference, however, is that I think it’s safe to say neither Nancy nor Ronald Reagan ever had a bottle of champagne in the fridge waiting for a gay man or a feminist to die. The Reagans, I’ll bet, don’t hoot and holler at someone else’s pain.
Mrs. Reagan’s humanity illustrated by counterpoint the soullessness of the Left. We, the Feminist and Gay Elites, inflicted on society narcissists’ biggest crime of all: We couldn’t see beyond our own interests and desires. We became indecent in defending our principles. …
While I don’t hold out any hope for the damaged Left Elite I’ve exposed for you in this book, I know that we as individuals can overcome and reject what the Left demands of us – the abandonment of right and wrong, the banishment of decency and integrity, the rejection of what the Reagans, both of them, represent.
We can instead do our best to live honest lives, replete with the discomfort of shame, the difficulties of personal responsibility, and the joy, the genuine happiness, that only right and good can bring. We will have the reward of being better people.