Someone recently sent me one of those "fun" email surveys. On it was the question: Who was your first enemy? Without hesitation I wrote: Ronald Fuckin' Reagan.
I was (of course) too young to remember the Civil Rights struggles of the 60's and I didn't understand the bitter disappointment and rancor in it's aftermath during the Nixon years, but I was in my early teens when Reagan was elected. It was the first time I remember feeling that government was indifferent to me and best and actually out harm me at worst. My parents had split up in 1978 and my father moved back to Georgia the following year in order to closer to his family. My mother was a preschool teacher raising two kids pretty much on her own with only sporadic help from the old man, who was busy trying to get his own shit together, all the while proclaiming he could do a better job. Needless to say, cash was tight, especially during the summers and just to deal, we needed -- shall we say "help" from time to time. After a pretty solid middle class upbringing where I never wanted for anything, it was quite an adjustment.
Do I blame Reagan for this? No. What I do blame him for is his cracks about "welfare queens" and the nightmares I had about nuclear war and his message, heard loud and clear, that he did not give a fuck about me and mine...and was quite proud of that fact. To be poor, and sometimes to be black and poor makes you a target in this country. Never did I feel more unsafe than during this time.
Reagan was the one, through Iran/Contra and covert action in South and Central America who showed me firsthand that America was not always the good guy in a white hat and that patriotism could have an ugly side.
Yet, with time and distance I understand a few things better now. For all his faults, at least there were some guiding principles at work there. Flawed, sometime fucked up principles but unlike our current President, Reagan at least had some.
I'm really surprised at the length of this post...! But if you wanted to know the start of my political awakining, it began that day in January 1980 when Reagan took office.