RIP to the late, very, very great Margaret Thatcher

Thatcher dismissing personal attacks

I was living in England in 1981 and 1982, so I was there for the coal miner riots and the Falkland War.  Since I was at a Northern University, the official posture of every student there was that Maggie Thatcher was evil.  I kind of admired her then, and I greatly admired her later.  This is the obituary I wrote for her at Mr. Conservative:

The indomitable Margaret Thatcher is dead at age 87, after having suffered a stroke. Thatcher was England’s Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990. She got elected after promising England that she would end the socialist hold over the British economy and, despite fierce opposition, that is precisely what she did.

Thatcher was absolutely sure of her convictions – she knew that Communism was evil; and that British socialism, a soft form of Communism, was simply a slow-moving evil sapping away the will and moral fiber that had once characterized the British people.

As is always the case when people who have been dependent on government benefits suddenly have those benefits pulled out from them, violence ensued. Thatcher was unmoved, and delighted in the fact that the British adopted the Soviet nickname for her: “The Iron Lady.’ She knew she was right, and she was not going to back down. She relished battle.

Thatcher on socialism

When, in 1982, Argentina attempted to take over the Falkland Islands, a small British governed island chain off its coast, Thatcher unflinchingly sent battleships off to war to take those islands back. The British, even those who hated her economic policies, cheered her on and celebrated what turned out to be a swift victory

Thatcher was the daughter of a conservative grocer and his wife. They raised her to believe in herself and in the fact that others had the right and the ability to be equally self-confident and self-sufficient. In the Thatcher family, dependency on government wasn’t just an embarrassment; it was a destructive force that had to be fought at every turn. This belief guided Thatcher’s entire career. Thankfully, her education at Oxford was in science and then law, so she was not indoctrinated in the leftism that was already then infecting Western liberal arts education.

Thatcher also had a wonderful gift for pithy sayings that readily encompassed serious conservative political thought. Small wonder that she and Ronald Reagan, whose presidency overlapped with much of her time as Prime Minister, delighted in each other so much:

Individualism has come in for an enormous amount of criticism over the years. It still does. It is widely assumed to be synonymous with selfishness…But the main reason why so many people in power have always disliked individualism is because it is individualists who are ever keenest to prevent the abuse of authority.

To be free is better than to be unfree – always. Any politician who suggests the opposite should be treated as suspect.

Because she understood socialism so well, she had the gift of prescience, predicting the socialist future with remarkable accuracy:

The European single currency is bound to fail, economically, politically and indeed socially, though the timing, occasion and full consequences are all necessarily still unclear.

I do believe that political arrangements which are based upon violence, intimidation and theft will eventually break down – and will deserve to do so.

Margaret Thatcher was a great lady, with the highest degrees of moral courage and political conviction. For a short, but golden time, she was able to stop Britain’s miserable slide into socialism. Although her control over Britain ended in 1990, it is her death that truly reminds us how rare her courage was, how difficult her conservative gains were, and how easily they were lost. All that’s left of Britain now seems to be embodied in an ugly, mean-spirited Leftist carpetbagger who seeks to destroy America as he and his kind have succeeded in destroying Thatcher’s Britain.

Let not your heart be troubled — nations can be saved

I thought about Margaret Thatcher today.  Lord knows, she was something.  Brilliant, indomitable, focused, feisty, witty, and absolutely convinced of her right-ness and righteousness.  She was the un-RINO.  Her unswerving commitment to her principles enabled her to turn England around.  We forget that sometimes, because the Labor party managed to take her legacy and destroy it by turning England into an Orwellian state.

For a few brief shining years, though, she fought back against a socialist norm that had turned England into a decayed, drab society.  She privatized businesses, fought victorious wars, and generally reminded the English of their greatness.  I was there during that transition period.  The unions fought back ferociously but Maggie, unlike today’s loosey-goosey Republicans, would not back down.  She wasn’t driven by polls or scared by a Leftist media.  She understood economics and human nature.  The last half of the 1980s and much of the 1990s saw an English economic renaissance.  Had the British people been smart, they could have kept it going; instead, they opted for a renewal of socialism, the EU, unlimited immigration, and the strong velvet chains of a nanny state.

I mention this because I refuse to accept that Obama can “destroy” America.  He can — and will — damage it.  If we can get a handful of Maggie Thatchers, though, or even one Maggie Thatcher, someone who is both a visionary and a fighter, America can be turned around.  And if we’re smart, once that turnaround happens, we’ll stick with it.

Incidentally, although this sounds awful, I think we need to go over the fiscal cliff in January.  Three reasons:  First, this is what Americans voted for and, in a republican democracy, they should get it; Second, the longer we delay, the worse the inevitable fall will be; and Third, this disaster needs to happy during the long haul of a Democrat presidency (and Senate) so that Americans can grasp cause-and-effect.  Only when the socialist economic infection erupts in its full fury will Americans begin to accept that their nation is sick.  When that happens, God willing, we’ll have a Thatcher-esque politician cogently explaining to Americans that the cure lies in reaffirming constitutional and free market principles.

Sometimes you need to see the infection to know you're sick

Sometimes you need to see the infection to know you're sick

 

“The Iron Lady” — a failed hit piece and vanity vehicle

We finally got around to watching The Iron Lady, which won Meryl Streep another Best Actress award.  It was a movie that failed at so many levels, most strikingly in its obvious goal of denigrating Margaret Thatcher and leaving a sordid historical record behind.  To appreciate how the movie failed in this manifest goal, you have to understand its structure.

What irked most conservatives about the film was the way in which at least half of it followed an aged, semi-delusional Thatcher around as she engaged in hallucinatory interactions with her long dead husband, Dennis (played with bizarre perkiness by the usually likeable Jim Broadbent).  Conservatives saw this as an attempt to demean Thatcher.  They’re only partially right.  Yes, it was intended to demean Thatcher, but it was also an effort to give Streep as much screen time as possible.  Had the movie followed the entire arc of Thatcher’s life, Alexandra Roach, who did a very credible job as the young Margaret Thatcher, would have had way too much screen time.  The only way in which the film could simultaneously denigrate Thatcher and let Streep show her acting chops was to have a hyper-aged Thatcher wandering around like Lady MacBeth.

The problem with this plot device was twofold:  it was boring and it was confusing.  Rather than having the viewer engaging in a unique and exciting life, the viewer got to wander around a house cleaning out closets.  (Yes, this imaginary aged Thatcher spent a lot of time clearing out closets.)

I also have to argue with the Best Actress award Streep won.  Streep is a mimic more than she is an actress.  At a certain point, mere mimicry becomes dull unless there’s something interesting to bolster it.  Watching Streep spend half the movie mimicking a confused old lady with a British accent was more akin to an acting school graduation performance than a major movie.  I also felt very strongly that Streep couldn’t shake her role as Julia Child in Julie and Julia.  When she wasn’t a delusional old woman, she sounded like a manic version of her take on Julia Child, only with a British accent.  As I struggled not to doze off during the movie’s boring parts, I had weird visions of Margaret Thatcher in the kitchen whacking away at chicken breasts.

The movie makers also played around with the historical record by focusing hard on the riots (and I remember them, as I lived in Britain at the time), and glossing over the successes.  Yes, the Welsh miners did riot.  Yes, there were protests in London.  Yes, the IRA prisoners did go on a hunger strike.  Yes, the attempt at the poll tax was a failure.  These upheavals, and they were the inevitable upheavals attendant upon using the cold turkey method to break people’s dependence on socialism, happened, and they got ugly.  But they were pretty much over by 1983 or 1984.  Thatcher then settled in for years of economic success, which the movie rushed through with a couple of faux newspaper headlines about a booming economy.  The fact that Thatcher held power for eleven years despite the upheavals speaks volumes for the way in which she enabled the British to begin functioning again for the first time since the end of WWII.

The Falklands War also manages to depict the pain without the pleasure.  I lived in England during that short-lived war and the British people were generally supportive of it and, as I remember, deliriously happy with the outcome.  Even the hardened Leftists at the university I attended couldn’t completely hide their chauvinistic delight in a British victory over the perfidious Argentinians.

Mostly, though, the movie fails because, when it’s honest about Thatcher’s life and career, she comes off so impressively.  Her belief in the individual’s greatness and ability is what won a demoralized British people to her side in 1979 and that kept them there for the next eleven years.  She was tough, she was focused, and she was deeply committed to the old-fashioned virtue of self reliance, one that served her country so well.  The recreations of her speeches are inspiring — which was yet another reason to focus, not on her actual life, but on an imaginary version of what the movie’s makers assume must be a pathetic old age, riddled with the guilt only conservatives can feel.