In 1983 I gave a speech calling for the impeachment of Ronald Reagan using evidence of his perfidy published by the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL). In 1984, I went to US Navy Boot Camp. I made the speech and joined the service with equal honest fervor, and resolving those two moral choices has been a profound difficulty for my family for twenty years. In remembrance of Ronald Reagan's passing, I will attempt to resolve this.
The speech was for a public speaking class that I took to round up my grade point because I had been a National Forensics League geek in high school, and had kissed the Blarney Stone as a child. Additionally, public speaking is good for you; it forces you to confront your fears, makes you organize your thoughts in a coherent fashion, and subjects you to evaluation of your stated beliefs. In my case, I had cribbed a bunch of factoids from a NARAL pamphlet calling for Reagan's dismissal and presented them as an oratory to complete the assignment. Something strange happened, though. In a university campus in the United States, criticism of a call to impeach a Republican president was made by otherwise normal students and a member of the faculty!
The simple reality was that although my facts were accurate and my delivery smooth, my argument did not hold up. Reagan had floated trial balloons and changed his position when they got shot down. He did not commit perjury. He did not deliberately mislead the citizens of the United States for personal gain. He was a politician engaged in practicing politics. This was explained to me at some risk by the speakers, most of whom did not actually like Ronald Reagan, but they felt that impeaching him was just over the top. Imagine it, speaking blasphemy like that out loud at a center for higher learning!
Alright, I have to admit that my Alma Mater is the University of Portland, a Catholic school run by the liberal priests of the Order of the Holy Cross (CSC). Those priests allowed the weed of centrism to run rampant through the campus, and even encouraged it by adhering to high standards of ethical education. All the students were required to be exposed to dangerous ideas like, logic, ethics, morality, theology, and philosophy. Those educations, which public universities keep a safe distance from most students, are probably responsible for why I got creamed in the analysis of my speech.
The most galling thing about that analysis, in the middle of what was a pretty humbling semester, was that they were right and I was wrong. More than that, my call for Reagan's impeachment was petty and for trivial faults. Of all the many, many crimes that can be attributed to Ronald Reagan, the worst is one that he would admit guilt for cheerfully. Ronald Reagan trivialized the Left. It was a process they started themselves and have continued with wild abandon since the end of his administration. Ronnie threw their pettiness back in their face and made it stick. While he was confronting the greatest genocidal dictatorship the world has ever known, the Left was calling for his impeachment over trial balloons.
I could never stand to be unimportant. Confronted with the reality that all my efforts on behalf of the Left to accomplish meaningful change were nothing more than meaningless noise, I stepped away from politics. A year of exasperating aimlessness later, I joined the Naval Reserve for a summer job while in college. While in Boot Camp, I found things that mattered and were important. I learned about safety as well as the high price of recklessness and abandon on your fellows when something important is going on.
A lot of people forget that in the 1980's, we really had every reason to believe that at any moment the balloon would go up and that it was not beyond the realm of possibility that the Soviet Union could invade. With immaculate hindsight, defined as knowledge of past events without the possibility of personal sin, the Left today points out that there was never a possibility of the Soviet Union accomplishing a military victory. I suppose that they are trying to return the favor and trivialize Ronald Reagan in retrospect. At the time that Ronald Reagan was working to free the slaves of the Warsaw Pact, the Left was working on ousting him for trivial reasons. At the time, I chose to be part of something important instead of something inane.
It took a long time for me to change my views. I disagreed with Reagan about a lot of things, and still do. I never voted for him or George H.W. Bush. As late as 1988, I was mouthing off about the incompetence of the CIA, until somebody who worked with their real spooks corrected my ignorance. I never attempted to obtain a Top Secret clearance while I was in the Navy, due in no small part to my call for Reagan's impeachment.
I still support the right of women to control their reproduction. I think that many of the Right to Lifers have abandoned the morality of their cause by supporting and engaging in despicable, criminal acts. Opposing that kind of intolerance is vital. In summer 2001 though, I heard a speaker at a Pro-Choice rally call for the ouster of George W. Bush. After the Chief Justice of Supreme Court swore the man in, the reasoning for ousting him was flatly trivial. Since then, this "false" president has used the power of his office to free fifty million slaves, including the most repressed women in the world. I did not walk away from the Left, I just stopped playing Trivial Pursuit.