FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Remembering Ronnie Rayguns’ Morning in America

 

In 1981, a crazed rich kid shot Ronald Reagan. For many folks in Berkeley it was a dream of revenge come true. After all, it was Reagan who called for a bloodbath in the town after he ordered the National Guard into Berkeley in response to the 1969 Third World Strike at the university and the People’s Park insurrection the same year. It was Reagan and his henchmen who had helped imprison, murder and isolate the Black Panthers and the radical left in the Bay Area. It was Reagan who was partially responsible for the rightwing resurgence in Americaa resurgence that has yet to ease it deadly grasp. As the television screen showed the assassination attempt over and over again, we wondered if the old fascist would make it through. Like our buddy Loren said as we watched, it’s not that he would wish anyone dead; it’s just that he wouldn’t shed any tears if Reagan ended up that way–sooner rather than later.

Berkeley was one place in the country that did not rejoice when Reagan won the presidency. In fact, a spontaneous protest of several thousand people erupted. The protest ended with the man being burned in effigy and an occupation of the administration building at the university. My friend R and I were among forty-five people who refused to leave at closing time and were dragged out by the police. The District Attorney did not prosecute any of us. Instead, he brought us each in for a meeting where he tried to convince us that we should work through the system. After all, he told us, he never really effected change until he quit demonstrating in the streets and went back to school to get his law degree. Then he got to tell us hardcore dropouts and radicals to register to vote.

After watching the reruns of the shooting a couple dozen more times, R, Loren and I headed over to Telegraph Avenue to see what was happening. The word of Reagan’s bout with death had reached the street rather quickly and people were beginning to party. The scene was (in a muted way) slightly reminiscent of those pictures you may have seen of the liberation of Paris in World War II or the streets of Teheran after the Shah was unseated from power. People were openly sharing their beers and other drinks while the police stood around somewhat nervously, wondering how to react. Some punkers in a hearse drove up the street several times honking their horns and shouting, The King is Deadout the windows of their vehicle. Street veterans of the battles of Berkeley in the Sixties and Seventies drank deeply and smiled. Shop owners who shared our opinions beamed. The party went on until dark. Reagan survived, probably because he would have needed a stake driven through his heart to die.

I had become aware over time of how different our lives and ideas were from mainstream America. After Reagans election this distance became even greater. Every time I left the Bay Area the Reagan effect was omnipresent. People actually liked the man despite his complete lack of depth or character. Perhaps, now that I think of it, that is why they liked himbecause he had none of either. The rebirth of anti-Left and ultimately anti-democratic impulses under Reagan were not only tolerated by most US citizens, they were celebrated. Greed and material ownership were heralded as the ultimate realization of the American dream. Freedom was defined solely in terms related to the freedom to manipulate others in the pursuit of profit. If I were more of a religious person, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that it was mammon, not God, who ruled America. This, in spite of the commonly held belief that America’s wealth was somehow related to Gods beneficence–a belief perpetrated by the moralistic hypocrites who had helped finance Mr. Reagan’s election (and who peopled his administration).

Another development that was part and parcel of Ronnie Reagan’s “morning in America” was the increasingly desperate scene on the streets. A life that seemed to be a matter of choice for a good number of my fellows when I first hit the street had become a struggle for those of us who remained and those who arrived daily, thanks to the growing unemployment. We were living an American hallucination, although how much of it was someone else’s hallucination and how much of it the result of our own psychedelic-fueled vision will never be determined. Nonetheless, our dream was looking more and more like a nightmare. Somewhere in the country there was an abundance of wealth, but it surely wasn’t on Telegraph Avenue, the transient communities of the nation, its inner city ghettoes, prisons, or the road and train yards. In these places where the very poor gathered, people fought each other over six packs of beer and packages of cigarettes while in the opposite economic sphere, the battles were (like always) over money and politics.

That hallucination has become the everyday reality some twenty years later. Unemployment continues to rise and most of those folks who were on the outside then do not even register in the statistics anymore. The powers of the police, who had too much power, then, are greater than even the most paranoid of us could have envisioned. The Islamic fundamentalist guerrillas that he funded to fight the Soviets have come back to pay their respects. Ronald Reagan’s heir apparent–George Bush–has not only done the old guy one better by stealing the White House, he has much of Reagan’s court in the palace with him. It is a court that believes it has no obligation to the rest of the world, much less this nation. Morning in America? Those guys must have stolen some of those night-vision goggles that the military uses, because it’s been dark around these parts for a while.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground.

He can be reached at: rjacobs@zoo.uvm.edu

 

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

April 25, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Selective Outrage
Dan Kovalik
The Empire Turns Its Sights on Nicaragua – Again!
Joseph Essertier
The Abductees of Japan and Korea
Ramzy Baroud
The Ghost of Herut: Einstein on Israel, 70 Years Ago
W. T. Whitney
Imprisoned FARC Leader Faces Extradition: Still No Peace in Colombia
Manuel E. Yepe
Washington’s Attack on Syria Was a Mockery of the World
John White
My Silent Pain for Toronto and the World
Dean Baker
Bad Projections: the Federal Reserve, the IMF and Unemployment
David Schultz
Why Donald Trump Should Not be Allowed to Pardon Michael Cohen, His Friends, or Family Members
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Binoy Kampmark
Enoch Powell: Blood Speeches and Anniversaries
Frank Scott
Weapons and Walls
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail