Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Giving an outstanding figure the credit due to him

Popped down to Grosvenor Square this lunchtime, to admire the latest fine piece of statuary to adorn the streets of our great capital.

The Great Communicator and his smile, bringing comfort to us all
Yes, it’s a that fine figure of a man, Ronald Reagan, late President of the United States, smiling benignly on the world. That’s what he did so well in his time – smile benignly, possibly because he wasn't too sure just what was going on, but was basically a likeable old fellow so he would smile to cheer us all up. I’ll bet he was just as amiable to his good friends in Hollywood in the fifties, when he was spying on them during the McCarthy witch hunts.
Anyway, there he is, not a stone’s throw from the US embassy. Though I’d never want to test the distance in quite so rash a way: throwing anything in the direction of that Embassy would be distinctly career-limiting. I’ve never seen such a concentration of armed British police. I asked one of them where the statue was – it’s well hidden by trees – and the glower he gave me made my blood run cold. Fortunately, he realised I wasn’t making a subversive suggestion – to read the Koran, say, or endorse something dangerously radical such as an environmental movement – but merely wanted to admire the statue of Thatcher’s great friend, at which point he became all sweetness and light. It was with a face wreathed in smiles that he pointed me in the right direction.
Thatcher certainly thought the earth of Reagan. The man who won the cold war without firing a shot, she reckoned, and her judgement in these matters was generally pretty sound – after all, though many who were less loyal and less resolute abandoned him, she remained staunch in her support for the man who restored order in Chile, Augusto Pinochet, and she must have been among the last to give up the courageous view that the ANC in South Africa and its leader Nelson Mandela were a bunch of terrorists.
In any case, no-one can deny that Reagan never fired a shot in the Cold War. Of course in 1984, he did announce my fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you I just signed legislation which outlaws Russia forever. The bombing begins in five minutes’ but he didn’t actually drop any bombs. It was just one of those endearing bits of Reagan humour and, hey, if you can't take a joke, you shouldn’t be in politics. Even in Moscow.
And the Cold War certainly ended while he was President. So he must have won it, right?
Come to think of it, the sun rose 2922 times during his reign – sorry, period in office – and that too was of immeasurable benefit to mankind. Is this another area, I wonder, where we haven’t sufficiently acknowledged his contribution to the wellbeing of his fellow creatures?

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