By Clyde Ussery
Too often when one of our “public servants” dies, even if he is a blot on the human race, he is elevated to sainthood before they can get a tag on his toe. Then the press eulogizes him right into heaven before St. Peter can check his credentials. Even those who are a bit skeptical of this revision of history tend to adopt a “forgive and forget” attitude. Margaret Thatcher’s recent death seems to indicate that the British are less forgiving and have a better memory.
The former Prime Minister’s death was celebrated with “death parties;” and the 1930s song, “Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead,” shot to the top of the charts. This legacy of hate and anger was the result of policies that “brought unnecessary calamity to the lives of several million people,” according to her biographer, Hugo Young. “Everything was justified as long as it made money—and this, too, is still with us,” Young said.
One of the most insightful articles I read about the Thatcher era was written, amazing though it might seem, by British comedian-actor Russell Brand. He said Thatcher’s ability to ignore the suffering of others was what made her so formidable. Brand said those of his generation who grew up during the Thatcher years were taught that it is good to be selfish, that other people’s pain is not your problem, and that pain is in fact a weakness, and suffering is deserved and shameful. It seemed, he said, that “Thatcher’s time in power was solely spent diminishing the resources of those who had least for the advancement of those who had most.”
If all this sounds familiar it is because Ronald Reagan, who ushered in America’s greed-is-good era, and Margaret Thatcher came out the same test tube. Although bigotry, racism, and contempt for the poor have been around a long time, Reagan brought it out of the closet. Like Thatcher, Reagan saw the poor as lazy and government dependent. And that, too, is still with us. During the last presidential campaign, it was in full view.
My feeling is that the “death party” behavior of the British was over the line. Regardless of her destructive policies Thatcher’s journey from this life to wherever she ended up should have been treated with some degree of dignity. However, the people are right to remember what she did to their country, just as Americans should remember what Reagan and other presidents have done to our country. I’m not discriminating by party; believe me, I remember Vietnam. Decisions presidents have made in the past continue to affect our lives every day. If we are oblivious to history, we will indeed repeat it.
Instead of the monuments (AKA presidential libraries) former presidents build to burnish their legacies, there should be a reminder of the human costs of their policies. They should erect a cross, star, crescent or whatever for each man, woman, and child whose life was destroyed by their decisions — whether it was by bomb, bullets, lack of medical care, or starvation.
Again I quote Russell Brand because it is something we need to think about: “I know from my own indulgence in selfish behavior that it’s much easier to get what you want if you remove from consideration the effect your actions will have on others.”
• • •
This column represents alternative thoughts to other published columns in the Crossville Chronicle. “We the People” is published each Wednesday. Opinions expressed in “We the People” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact John Wund, editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.