by Philomene Long

Ronald Reagan's funeral brought new meaning to the phrase: "lie in state."

Still, with all the fibs, fabrications, falsehoods and bold-faced lying, America gave a splendid rite of passage for the former president. Even the climate contributed. Soft rain (Irish burial weather) fell upon the mourners on the east coast, then in the west, a glorious, translucent, golden Southern California sunset shone upon the coffin perched high upon a hill overlooking the Pacific. You would think a deity was being laid to rest, or it was the end of the world. The Rapture.

For two days I watched the rites, weeping for Nancy and the children, weeping for America, wishing that what the eulogizers said about the deceased was true. If one percent of what was said about Ronald Regan during those two days were the truth I would, by now, be a Republican.

But the splendor was a menace to truth. Repeatedly the press and eulogizers compared him to Abraham Lincoln (and his liberating of the slaves) with only these two facts: both were born in Illinois and both lay in their coffins on the same spot in the Washington Rotunda. But the cameras did not lie. Within the procession of thousands who passed by the casket I was able to count only five African-Americans.

How close we are coming to losing it all. We'll take anything that gives us a notion that we still have a democracy. After the realization in the last four years that, in America, a person can boldly steal an election, then live the bold-faced lie of calling himself president, invade another country based upon two fibs and one truth ("liberation") converted into a falsehood, and as the press acquiesces, invade a country, kill, maim and shamefully torture its prisoners with forced aberrant sexual acts, and finally be responsible for the horror of its own citizensÕ beheadings. Never before have I observed America shoulder such shame.

America needed a new face.

Ronald Reagan's face was used to save face; to replace those images with a cowboy hat, an "aw shucks" expression and vision of the wide-open spaces for the rich. His positions, in the mind of many, may have been askew (as the position of his coffin in the rotunda was slightly askew). But during these two days America did not seem to care.

It did not get the truth because it did not want the truth. It needed a vacation from the truth. It needed the image of its face with lips repeating: "a shining city upon a hill - - a shining city upon a hill - a shining city upon a hill..." (The biblical phrase Ronald Reagan used to describe America) as if saying it over and over would make it true again.

Much of America's willingness to accept the former president's face above its drooping shoulders shows just how desperate we are. Ronald Reagan's funeral brought new meaning to the phrase: "the body politic."

© 2004 - Philomene Long

Orig. pub. by AMASS Vol.12, No. Issue #28

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