here in the US this week has been absolutely dominated by the
death of Ronald Reagan. I guess you would get a sense of it back home,
as US events always get a thorough coverage, but the outpouring of emotion is
really something to see - about 100,000 people (many travelling great distances,
some in tears)
waited hours in line to file past his coffin as it rests in state
at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, an outer suburb to the north of
The funeral is a week-long production, with the body being driven along
empty freeways (closed for the occasion) with military escort from a
funeral home in Santa Monica to Simi Valley. We missed most of this as we
were in San Diego when it happened. We watched live on TV as what looked
to be 'Air Force 1' took off from a military base here carrying his casket to
Washington, where it will rest in the Capitol until the official funeral on Friday in DC.
Later we saw the formalities such as the 21 gun salute, the riderless horse etc, as
the casket arrived at the Capitol.
After all that, he comes back to Cali to be buried at Simi Valley. What we are
seeing now is a minutely detailed plan, developed many years ago, being executed
with great precision now that the time has finally arrived. I understand that similar
plans have existed/still exist in relation to the Queen Mum, Prince Phillip and the
The papers have all had huge supplements on the life and legacy of Ronnie.
As we drove along the freeways yesterday from San Diego to LA, all the flags
half-mast (they call it 'half-staff' here).
I can very much understand what many Americans saw in Reagan - he was certainly
a larger-than-life character and exuded optimism and leadership, if not a competent
grasp of the details. He had the ability to make even his bitter opponents like him.
Few hated Reagan, even if they disagreed with him. The same cannot be said for Bush,
who, rightly or wrongly, is thoroughly loathed by many, especially in those parts of the
US where ‘liberal’
political views predominate.
Interestingly, amid all the hagiography for Reagan, today's LA Times carries a prominent
article pointing out that he is not remembered at all positively in the black and gay
communities here, as they say he did little for the poor and ignored the AIDS epidemic
for many years. As well, quite a few letters to the editor critical of Reagan's legacy have
been published in the paper. Then again, I think the LA Times would be regarded as a