Reagan en Perpetua 

Or how best to remember a caricature

Or how best to remember a caricature Okay then, that's about enough grieving, don't you think? Jeez, it's not like he was Ray Charles or somebody.

But listen, I don't want to rush those people who considered Reagan the best thing to happen to the U.S. of A. since we got the A-bomb. You folks go right ahead and fly your flag at half-mast as long as you feel the need. It's only that we have something to discuss now that he's gone, and I think we should do it before a bunch of Young Republicans get all drunked up and drive out to Mt. Rushmore with a jackhammer. Seriously, Ashcroft ought to put a guard on South Dakota 24/7 until we decide what's an appropriate memorial and what isn't.

And when I say "we," I mean all of we. When it comes to messing around with a national monument, we need to get opinions out of more than just the Republican Central Committee. As you know, right-wingers have a tendency to foist their wishful thinking off on everyone else before other considerations--such as history and truth and good sense--are given their proper due. So before somebody goes to renaming all the government buildings and changing the faces on our money and maybe even carving a 60-foot Ronnie into Mt. Rushmore, maybe we should talk it over. Explore other options, even. You down with that?

Now, obviously, we should stick to commemorating whatever Reagan accomplished during his term in office, since presidents are always memorialized for what they did as presidents, not for things they did before they got there. Take Abe Lincoln, for instance: that memorial statue doesn't have him splitting logs, as he so famously did as a young man. Hell, a lot of people split logs in those days, but how many of them got a statue on the Capitol Mall, huh?

Besides, what Reagan did as a young man barely earned him a star on the sidewalk outside Grauman's Chinese Theater, let alone a place in history.

So how best to remember Reagan's eight years in the Oval Office, that's the question. And, starting from the beginning, here are a few possibilities we might mull over:

• Since it's entirely possible that Ron and Nancy might never have occupied the White House had Iran given up those hostages before or during the '80 campaign--and seeing as how a lot of us are convinced Irani leaders were bribed by Reagan operatives into not giving up those hostages until the election was over--maybe the biggest memorial should be in downtown Tehran. Something in sandstone with two faces ... Reagan on one side and the Ayatollah on the other. That way, see, his major foreign policy achievements--the "October Surprise" and the Iran/Contra Scandal--would be covered with one big block of rock.

• Oh, and remember how Nancy threw out Rosalynn Carter's china like she was cleaning up after a sick cat, and then got a whole new set, bragging how she was bringing "class" back to the White House? How about a set of fine, collector's edition, dinner plates with Reagan's portrait in the middle saying, "Where's the beef?" Hah, that'd be good. I might buy one of those, myself.

• On a more serious note--to remember how dismissive Reagan was of the AIDS epidemic--how about a big, ornate fountain with a gilded gay guy on top and an engraved caption reading, "Had Ronnie paid more attention, I might not be dead now."

• For those American's who pray the environment is here to stay, I suggest we name something wild and untamed in honor of Reagan. Like, oh say ... 40 acres of parking lot outside the biggest Wal-Mart in Virginia. Or the next big oil spill off Alaska's coast. The "Ronald Reagan/ James Watt Industrial Sludge Sump" ... does that make your heart swell?

• Nor must we ever forget how "the Great Communicator" also managed to drive the national debt into realms only astrophysicists can comprehend. So instead of putting his likeness on a coin or a bill, what if we put it on every future Form 1040, along with a subtitle saying something to the effect, "You, your children, your children's children ... ad infinitum ... will be paying for Ronald Reagan's vision of America until humans evolve beyond the need for money."

• And finally, to acknowledge how Reaganites believe he had something to do with the downfall of the Soviet Union, what if we reconstructed the Berlin Wall, swarming with life-size statues of freedom-seeking East Germans, Lithuanians, Estonians, Poles, etc., who are taking it apart brick by brick, and the engraving says "We did it ... and Reagan took the damn credit!"

But what if the Reagan-ophiles just plain won't give up until they get his mug on Mt. Rushmore? It could happen, you know. Think about it: these are the same people who managed to get Richard Nixon buried in sanctified ground instead of a weedy prison plot like he deserved.

Okay then, I say fine. I say, Yeah, Right-wingers. Go ahead and put Reagan up there with those good presidents, but only under certain conditions. I say, as long as you have the scaffolding up and a sculptor there, you have to rework the other four, too. You have to give them faces people recognize.

George Washington, for instance. I suggest you make him look like Jeff Daniels, since Daniels was the last actor to portray Washington and everyone knows him. Maybe they didn't see Daniels play Washington, but I'd bet they saw him in Dumb and Dumber, and that's close enough.

Teddy Roosevelt is a little harder. But Brian Keith did a pretty decent Teddy in a movie with Candice Bergen about 30 years ago. The Wind and the Lion, and even if you don't remember, once you see Keith on Mt. Rushmore, it'll come back to you.

Jefferson just has to be Nick Nolte. Jefferson In Paris ... did you see it? Wasn't Nolte great in that? And I have no doubt he'll do as much for South Dakota's tourist trade as he's done for the mug shot industry.

As to Lincoln, I suppose about a million actors have played Honest Abe over the years. Maybe more. But my vote goes to Raymond Massey. I can't remember the movie's name, but brother, Massey was one somber, log-splitting, tortured Abe, I tell you what. And besides, Massey had one of those faces that belongs on a mountain somewhere, Lincoln or not.

So, there! That's what you have to do if you want Reagan on Mt. Rushmore, right-wingers. I mean, as long as you're making a mockery out of what constitutes a great leader, let's give some credit to those other Americans who dutifully learned their lines, followed direction like a good puppy, and pretended to be a president.

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