We’re down in Southern California for Spring Break, so we’re doing some SoCal stuff. Today’s outing was to the Reagan Library in Simi Valley. My only other visit had been more than a decade ago, and two things were different since that last trip. First, on this trip, I wasn’t a hostile Democrat laughing at him. Second, they hadn’t yet built this amazing glass walled hangar around Air Force One. Both of these changes made it a much better, more interesting visit.
I actually thought, going in, that the thing that would interest me most was the display of dresses from Nancy Reagan’s closet. I discovered, though, that while my politics may have changed, my clothing sense hasn’t. I didn’t like her clothes then, and I don’t like them now. They simply don’t appeal to me aesthetically.
What I found most moving was the footage of the assassination attempt on Reagan. As I blogged once before, that occurred when I was a student at Berkeley. I vividly remember people around me celebrating, not his survival, but the act of the attempt. Any disappointment they felt wasn’t with a crazy man trying to destroy the political process, or with four men, including the President, getting shot, but with the assassin’s failure to get the job done.
I mindlessly repeated those sentiments when I came home from Berkeley and my parents, appropriately, scolded me something awful. It was their moral outrage that reminded me that, whether I believed in Reagan’s politics (and I didn’t at the time), all life is valuable, and that the political process is invaluable. An attack on either is a blow to the heart of what makes us a free nation. I learned my lesson and had the decency to be embarrassed by my initial response.
Anyway, watching the footage again was almost viscerally upsetting, and that despite the passage of 27 years. I felt the emotions I should have felt in 1981, but was too politically blinded to feel then.
I was also impressed by the Secret Service. As I said to my children afterwards, only the Secret Service and the Marines are trained, in a non-combat situation, to run to the gun, not away from it. I mean, normal people, when they hear shots fired, get the heck out of Dodge. The Secret Service, however, sees men throwing their own bodies in the line of fire to protect the President. It’s quite amazing.
My only complaint about the Library was that it was a little over the top in its adulation. I understand that the entire point of the place is to memorialize Reagan (and Nancy), but it was so extreme that it sacrificed some credibility. I certainly don’t mean that it should have been a place filled with jaded, jaundiced viewpoints, but it would have been more interesting if it had some exhibits showing the criticism he weathered. As it was, it was a little to close to a shrine for intellectual comfort.
It was a long day and my bed is singing a siren song — and that’s saying something, since it’s about the most uncomfortable bed you can imagine. I must be really, really tired to want to retire to it.
I’ll catch up with you all tomorrow.