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Rose Colored Reagan and Bush Blues

June 7, 2004

Ronald Reagan is dead.  And all of the talk about what a great president he was cause endless amounts of conflict in my head.  On the one hand, yes, he was a great man.  He sped the fall of communism in Russia.  He was a powerful force in American politics.  And his decline in health touched the nation.  But to be brutally honest, his presidency sucked.  His policies on AIDS, abortion, economics, and other topics too numerous to mention brought about an era where Americans didn’t talk about It.  They didn’t know quite what It was, but they didn’t talk about It.  Even to this day, it is rarely mentioned that Reagan’s Trickle Down Economic policies were the very reason that the recession of the early 80s hit so hard.  His service as the leader of our country has been cast in a golden glow of nostalgia that is hurting us even today.

I love my father.  He’s a wonderful man who tried his very best to raise three girls, despite not knowing how to handle female children.  He raised me, provided for me, gave me chances in life another father might not have given.  However, despite how much I love him, that does not blind me to his faults.  Neither does my love for my country blind me to the faults of its leaders and population.  And no amount of spin will convince me that the current leader of this country is doing anything but running it into the ground.  The numbers do not lie.

For the past three months, there has been a lot of optimistic talk of the rise in jobs.  There has been very little mention made, however, of the decline that lead to a rise in jobs being so newsworthy.  There has been an awful lot of effort lately expended on attempts to convince the people that the current rise in jobs is due to Bush’s economic policies.  I’m not buying it.  If Bush is going to lay claim to the last three months, then I expect him to lay claim to the previous three years as well.  Years where the job market was so tight, that even highly qualified, experienced, college educated men and women couldn’t find jobs in their own home towns, let alone all of those people who haven’t been so fortunate.  I remember a time when college graduates were hired straight out of college.  Companies scrambled to grab the best candidates in the hopes of catching a rising star.  People with years of experience under their belts could take comfort in the knowledge that if their skills were not appreciated at the company they were with, there were hundreds of other companies out there who would be perfectly willing to hire a good worker out from under the nose of their competitors.  Last year, however, the two phrases I heard most often in my search for a job were “Not enough experience” and “Too much education.”  Companies couldn’t afford to hire more workers.  In fact, it is currently cheaper to hire one worker and make him work overtime rather than pay for the rising healthcare costs for two workers.  But that gets off into a whole other story, which I may or may not write about later.

At one point in my life, I wanted nothing more than to be a journalist.  I still do, to some extent.  These articles are an expression of that desire.  They may sound off the cuff and pseudo stream of consciousness, but I do actually spend time thinking about them.  Today I read a news story which made me both sad to be an American, and angry for the profession that I once so desperately longed to be a part of.  It took me a while, though, to really figure out why.  On May 3, security officials at the Los Angeles airport detained Elena Lappin.  She had been declared a security risk.  She was handcuffed, driven to a detention center, and spent 26 hours in custody, and finally forced to return home.  At this point, you’re probably wondering why you should care.  You don’t know who Elena Lappin is, and you don’t really care about some foreigner who probably had done something horribly wrong in her past to make customs officials deport her.  But you should care.  Elena Lappin’s crime was that of being a journalist from Great Britain.  Her only mistake is in not knowing that a 1952 law regarding journalist visas was being enforced more rigorously since September 11th.  She is married to an American, has friends and family in America, and were she simply visiting wouldn’t have need of a special visa.  In fact, as long as she intended to stay for less than 90 days, she wouldn’t need a visa at all.  However, because she intended to write a news article and didn’t have the paper work to accommodate an obscure law that hasn’t been enforced for half a century, she was deported.

There are few countries in this world that require journalist visas.  In general, the practice is considered paranoid and only used in those countries that have something to hide.  However, in reenacting this law, the United States has placed itself in the dubious company of countries such as Cuba, Iran, and North Korea, all of which require that journalists obtain a special visa prior to entering the country.  In a country where freedom of speech is among the first of a long list of constitutionally protected rights, the idea that we would enforce laws limiting those freedoms to other countries astounds and appalls me.  How can we claim to be a country of the free when journalists are treated as terrorists?

It may seem like a little thing.  But Bush has been making hundreds of little changes that in the course of his presidency have added up to one huge democratically elected mistake.  He has even re-enacted a Regan era policy that proved to be one of the biggest deterrents to family planning, AIDS education, and distribution of contraceptive products of all types.  Say what you want about family planning, bring up abortion rights if you want, but the numbers don’t lie.  When access to condoms and AIDS education goes down, AIDS cases go up.  I will be the first person to advocate teaching abstinence in schools.  However, when you don’t explain that not being responsible for your sexual well being leads to unwanted pregnancy, STDs, emotional problems, and a number of other problems that most developing teens aren’t ready for, all you are saying is “Sex bad.”  By pulling funding from organizations who provide abortions in foreign countries, the United States is also pulling funding from sex education programs which are the first step in allowing a developing country to take control of their sexual well being.

For today’s America, sex is It.  This taboo topic is avoided whenever possible but drives the country.  A president was nearly impeached over it.  Bush has taken a step back into the Reagan era and brought the country with him.  There have been efforts to paint Bush with the same golden glow that Reagan somehow managed to pull off, despite the scandals, the poor economic policies, the obviousness of his role as a puppet president to his cabinet.  However, if I’m not going to accept the rose colored glasses for a man whose major role in the last decade was a caricature of someone to be pitied, I’m sure as hell not offering it to Bush.

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