Let the flag fly tall and proud

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Finally, we can raise the flag to full staff after a month of honoring a fallen president.

It should have been raised for Independence Day even if that didn’t give Ronald Reagan his full 30 days of national mourning. I don’t say this to dishonor Reagan, but simply because I don’t think the flag should ever be flown at half-mast on Independence Day. Not for Republican or Democrat or national tragedy. On July 4, the flag should fly high.

While the rest of us have moved on to other things, Republicans, after the death of their nearly sanctified leader, have redoubled their efforts to erase the memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt from our memories. They want to remove FDR’s image from the dime and replace it with Ronald Reagan’s.

I have no problem with honoring Reagan, but at the expense of FDR? I don’t think so. History will one day objectively assess Reagan’s presidency to determine if he falls into the &uot;great&uot; category of American presidents, but history has already determined that President Roosevelt was one of our greatest.

I tend to think of Washington and Roosevelt as topping the list. Washington’s unique blend of brilliance and humility allowed democracy to take root. If anybody else had been our first president, I believe the Revolution would have resulted in a tyranny – which is what almost always happens after violent revolutions – and our &uot;experiment with democracy&uot; would have failed.

FDR, on the other hand, brought this nation from an abyss of poverty and stagnation, offering hope and prosperity for millions of Americans – including our parents and grandparents. He created jobs so people would have a sense of worth. He fostered a pro-business climate that allowed them to give people work. His social programs defended the defenseless and told all Americans that their nation would not abandon them in an empty field of ignobility.

Then there was the whole saving the world from fascism thing.

His policies and those of another great president, Harry Truman, led to what Republicans now view as the &uot;golden age&uot; in America – the 1950s. Don’t deny it, Republicans, you love the &uot;Father Knows Best&uot; world of the ’50s – where the father comes home from work every afternoon and never works on weekends, the kids are well behaved, and the wife is home all day keeping house and cooking fantastic meals.

That family – and all the idealized ’50s families – did not want for what they needed (even the families in the subversive &uot;Honeymooners&uot;). Husbands and wives always got along because the women were deferential and fulfilled their roles in life – cooking, cleaning and raising the kids – without complaint. The income provided by the husband/father was sufficient for everybody’s needs.

In the Republican idealized ’50s, starring Republican President and WWII hero Dwight D. Eisenhower, the only people of note were white and well to do. On the rare occasions that a black or brown face became visible, it was for comedic effect. There was no race problem in this Republican fantasy because everybody knew their places and happily accepted their role in the story.

Yeah, you did have them pesky rock-n-rollers luring little Patty and Petey away from the starched & staid toward subversive blue jeans and t-shirts, but it was still relatively benign at this point. It wasn’t until the ’60s that blue jeans, t-shirts and bare feet combined with politics to create a movement that really ticked off the Republicans.

But we’re not talking about reality here, are we? The Republicans still believe the happy fantasy of &uot;Father Knows Best&uot; and &uot;Leave it to Beaver&uot; and are determined to bring that glorious age &uot;back&uot;. Ignoring, of course, the fact that it simply never existed for the majority of people.

So, the Republicans want to take FDR off the dime and put Reagan on it. Maybe that’s appropriate, not because Reagan has done more for middle class Americans, but because he is the Republican hero who has made the two-income, workaholic family a necessity – which, by the way, is shrinking every year despite the enormous efforts of moms and dads across the country.

Shame on you if you have fallen for the demonization of FDR the Republicans have been engaged in for the past 35 years. His policies were designed to strengthen the middle class and keep businesses afloat. The Bushites don’t give a flip for the middle class except at election time and are doing all they can to destroy everything FDR, HST, JFK, and LBJ did to give everyone a fighting chance to pursue life, liberty and happiness. Put Reagan where he belongs – on the $1 million bill – and let us folks with coins in our pockets remember the great things those presidents did for us before their policies were dismantled and their good names smeared by radical, right wing demagogues.