Thursday, June 10, 2004

Reagan memorialization gone wild

Honestly, I don't get it. I don't understand the great passion people on the right have for naming crud after Reagan. It baffles me. I mean, he already has the airport and the trade center here (isn't it ironic that a man who hated the govt. so much has a building named after him which houses the largest number of federal employees outside of the Pentagon?). The death has brought renewed cries from the naming zealots to put him on the $10 bill or now the dime. Senator Frist now says 'let's name the Pentagon after him' and before you know it, you'll see renewed calls for a memorial on the Mall to him.

Today, I recalled the classic editorial written in the Post back in the fall of 2000, which says everything so much better than I could ever hope to:

What's Next? Reagan Brand Raisin Bran?

Reagan, D.C., Jan 21, 2021
With a nod of his head and a flash of his electronic signature, President George P. Bush today signed the historic legislation that changes the name of the nation's capital, honoring the 20th-century president who famously railed against the federal government.
In his first signing ceremony since tasking office, Bush acknowledged the "George Washington was the Father of Our Country, but Ronald Reagan was our country."
While pro-Washington protesters maintained a silent vigil on AOL Avenue outside the [Starbucks™] White House, Bush -- grandson of Ronald Reagan's vice president and now the nation's first Hispanic president -- said the renaming of the capital city will "send a message to the world that all Americans strive to be genial even in these fast-paced times."
The long-awaited day marks the culmination of the decades-long drive to memorialize the 40th president. The effort began even before Reagan died, when first a trade center -- long since razed to make room for a commuter heliport -- and then an airport were named for him.
But it was the 2000 congressional mandate to put a Reagan monument on the Mall even while the ex-president was still alive that opened the floodgates of memorialization. Congress ignored a ban on memorials to people who had not been dead for at least 25 years and eluded a moratorium on new memorials on the Mall by voting to "repurpose the past" and change the name and content of the Jefferson Memorial. Now known as the Reagan Forever Dome, the graceful marble structure beside the Cleaner-Than-Clean-Tide™ Basin houses the holographic projector that keeps Reagan's smiling face hovering over the
city's night sky.
To celebrate the renaming of the city, passengers arriving at both Reagan National and Reagan Dulles airports today were given free souvenirs of the new Reagan Golden dollar. The coin was redesigned last fall after Washington Redskins Owner Steve Case, Jr., son of the AOL founder, finally ended the long struggle over the football team's name, buying rights from the U.S. Mint to Sacagawea, the Native American woman whose face had been on the failed dollar coin. Bolstered by their new mascot, the Sacs went on to win TacosOnLine™ Super Bowl LI in an upset over the Los Angeles Reagans.
The renaming of the city comes even as Reagan's standing among both the general public and academics has waned.
Presidential documents shielded from public view for 25 years following Reagan's time in office turned out to include suprisingly frank admission that have diminished the former president's legacy. For example, diaries from Reagan's tenure showed that the president himself thought social conservatives "couldn's possibly be serious about all that stuff."
Despite such revelations, Reagan biographer Standish Worba of Ronald Reagan University in Foggy Bottom said the torrent of renamings across the nation may well continue.
"We have long since lost any connection between the mania to memorialize Reagan and the actual work and life of the man." Worba said. "By surrounding ourselves with his names, we are truing to convince ourselves as a nation that we, like Reagan, can be genial and greedy at the same time, that we can smile even as we sneer at the less fortunate."
Other scholars say the renaming craze has simply taken on a life of its own. "Probably the ultimate example was the rechristening of the Academy Awards," said presidential historian L.S. Bep of Hormel Ham™ Harvard University. "Just as Oscar was cherished name for so long, the Ronnies slide of the tongue, and while Hollywood was never very keen on Reagan's politics, they did love the show.
The film industry's annual ceremony has flourished since the name change and the move to the Nancy Reagan Center for the Performing Arts along the Evian™ Potomac River.
E-mail:marcfisher@washpost.com

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