|"Cold War Hollywood" inks on bristol / 2009|
In the early 1940's, Reagan (then an actor and Democrat) became a board member and eventually president of the Screen Actors Guild where he began his life-long mission to rid the world of Communist scum. In the heat of the "red scare" later that decade, he testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee with a vehement defense of Democracy and denouncement of all things Socialist and Communist. As an act of his own patriotism, Reagan even served as a Hollywood informant for the FBI, providing them with names of actors whom he believed to be Communist sympathizers. In effect he helped author the infamous Hollywood Blacklist.
Reagan's film and television career began it's decline in the late 1950's. He flipped sides of the isle in the 60's after endorsing Eisenhower and then Nixon for their presidential bids. He famously stated that "I didn't leave the Democratic Party. The party left me." After giving his famous, "Time for Choosing" speech in 1964 in support of Barry Goldwater's presidential run where he stressed the importance of limiting the government's role in the economy, Reagan earned the admiration of much of the public as a well-spoken political figure. This catapulted him into the limelight for which he was nominated and elected Governor of California in 1967 and served as such for eight years. In 1976, he attempted to dethrone incumbent candidate Gerald Ford for the presidential nomination of the Republican Party. In 1980, he succeeded in gaining his party's support and was elected President, also serving in office at the White House for eight years.
Reagan never lost sight of his hatred for all things Communist. In 1982, he said, "the forward march of freedom and democracy will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history." One year later in a speech to the National Association of Evangelicals, he called the USSR an "evil empire," coining a phrase which has stood to this day. He also stated, "Communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages even now are being written." Over the next few years, he would go on to fund anti-communist efforts in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. He also deployed the CIA to train and arm groups of militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan to help fight off occupying Soviet troops. This Covert Action program is credited for ending the Soviet occupation of the Middle East and at the same time creating the resistance movements which we ironically still fight and lose American soldiers' lives and limbs to on a daily basis today in the midst of our own 10 year occupation of Middle Eastern countries. With the Revolutions of 1989, communism fell in many European countries and Russia followed suit in 1991, just a couple of years after Reagan's presidency.
Another staple of the Reagan Years (and the inspiration behind an element in my illustration) was his contribution to the War on Drugs (began by Nixon in 1971, who The Gipp supported.) In 1986, he kicked the program into high gear by signing a $1.7 Billion drug enforcement bill, which also created a mandatory minimum sentence for drug charges. This bill led to the overcrowding of American prisons and was criticized for creating racial disparities among inmate populations.. Drug trafficking in America and street sales only increased along with the inmate tolls nation-wide. Nancy Reagan championed her husband's effort by creating the Just Say No campaign to attempt to educate America's youth about the dangers of experimenting with narcotics. She appeared everywhere from Dynasty to Diff'rent Strokes to Good Morning America to music videos on MTV to campaign her cause. In the end, a catch phrase had as insignificant of an effect on drug use as throwing money at the "problem."
During his terms as President, Reagan quadrupled the national debt while seeing through a peaceful end to the Cold War (mainly due to the eventual collapse of the USSR, not from "winning" the Cold War.) He created "Reaganomics," changing tax brackets and policies nearly every year of his presidency. The American taxpayer was footed with the bill to fund a bulging defense budget and combat drug use among our youth. We created the largest weapons arsenal in human history and then signed a bill to curb those numbers and destroy a portion of the weapons we paid to manufacture. All of this, after building a career around the idea of limiting the government's role in our finances and economy. Reagan passed away on June 5, 2004 at his home in California. His body was moved to Washington D.C. where nearly 105,000 people filed through his viewing.
And now for the star-studded music video your tax dollars from the mid-80's paid for....