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Reagan: A tribute

Barry Smith

P resident Ronald Reagan was very influential in my life, so I feel it’s only fitting that I join the avalanche of revisionism and pay tribute to the man to whom I owe many thanks.* The first punk album that I ever bought was a compilation called “Let Them Eat Jellybeans.” The title was, of course, in reference to Cowboy Ronnie’s love of the little multicolored confections, and the sounds contained on this slab of vinyl spun me out in directions I never could have imagined. Ronnie, though it’s well known that you never, ever dyed your hair, thanks for inspiring me to dye mine orange.* Though one could argue that the “Just Say No” campaign was more Nancy’s doing than Ronnie’s, we have to give him some of the credit. He did marry her, after all. The “Just Say No” concept, along with the continued drug war hysteria that it fueled, serves as a wonderful punch line and riffing point for many years to come. “Just Say Grow” comes to mind, as does the bumper sticker, “The Only Jar I’m Going To Pee In Is The One Nancy Is Drinking From.” The funny thing is, I had never actually tried drugs before the “Just Say No” campaign, or even thought about trying them, but the more I saw of the Reagans, the more I realized that I should probably do exactly the opposite of what they tell me. So thanks, man, for turning me on.* In 1986 President Reagan referred to members of the press as “sons of bitches” because they dared ask him questions during what was supposed to be a staged photo op. He said this under his breath, but alas, a little too close to an open microphone. Even though it existed on tape, Reagan denied saying it, and in a shrewd bit of damage control White House Press Secretary Larry Speakes claimed that what Reagan actually said was “It’s sunny, and you’re rich.” One week later I saw Reagan’s now-famous SOB quote on a sticker on someone’s skateboard. One week later! Thanks for teaching me both the power of lying AND of adhesive vinyl.* One of my favorite T-shirts of the Reagan era featured a picture of Nancy with the words, “Nancy says: You love the smell of your own farts. Think about it. Talk about it.” Thanks for, um … yeah.* In 1990 I attended my very first protest. Former President Reagan was speaking at my former community college and I joined my friends in some sign-making. I wrote “He Can’t Recall” on a piece of cardboard and held it aloft as Reagan talked about going to church with Russians, or something like that. We were so far back in the crowd that I’m certain he couldn’t see us, but it was the symbolism of the action that counted. It was an important lesson in free speech, democracy, dissent and, most important, an opportunity to spend time with a certain female protester who I really liked. Thanks, Mr. President, she was really cute. * I went to the post office last Friday to mail out some seriously overdue utility bills only to find that it was closed in honor of the memory of former President Ronald Reagan. As I rattled the door, angry that my electricity would now probably be cut off, I suddenly stopped, looked at the sky and thought to myself, “It’s sunny, and I’m rich.”The Gipper was right after all. So off I went to the liquor store.Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Mondays. His e-mail address is barry@Irrelativity.com, and his very own Web page is at http://www.Irrelativity.com


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