Monday, June 7, 2004

Ozymandias Memorious

"Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The long and level sands stretch far away.

--from Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ozymandias"

I suspect, however, that he was not very capable of thought. To think is to forget differences, generalize, make abstractions.

--from Jorge Luis Borges' "Funes the Memorious"

The death of Ronald Reagan has me thinking about my America in the '80s, a world he ruled over yet had no knowledge of. It's only now at 36 that I can appreciate the ironies upon ironies of his administration: relentless challenges to Soviet rhetoric and ideology with no clear understanding of his own, certainly no critique of it; virulently anti-big government yet quick to increase military spending at the drop of a hat; and finally, what about AIDS? What about AIDS?

The Iran/Contra scandal was not the only thing he was "out of the loop" about. And yet, just as there was little mention of Watergate when the great President Nixon died, we, too, shall speak no ill of the dead. And America is whole and complete and united and blessed by the Hebrew deity YHWH, whose statues, too, must lie in ruin amidst the sand. America will share in his great amnesia, and all will be right with the world.

As part of my own most serious (yet somehow sardonic) commemoration, if it were not for Ronald Reagan, I would not have studied Russian in college, lived in and traveled extensively throughout Central/Eastern Europe, become politically involved, nor be currently teaching political science (where I most enjoy teaching Marxist theory). So let us not forget about what lies beneath those sands: the underground.

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