Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Will the real Maggie Thatcher please sit down!

It's official: the Iron Lady has joined Ronald Reagan, Jane Roe, and Jesus in the pantheon of human projector screens.

How are we to reconcile George Will's encomium of Baroness Thatcher as the one who with Reagan “helped bury socialism as a doctrine of governance” with Lawrence O'Donnell citing “her unyielding support for socialism” including her staunch support of socialized health care, regulation of greenhouse gas emissions to reduce global warming, and proud defense of Darwinism and the scientific method?

Does it even matter that the hagiographically enhanced Ronnie and Maggie, if running for office in the US today, would be laughed out of CPAC, kicked off Fox News, denounced by Sarah Palin, and heckled by Tea Partiers? For that matter, did it matter that the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., so loved in death, might have been denounced as unpatriotic if he had lived long enough to dare oppose our post-9/11 invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as he once opposed the war in Vietnam?

Not in the least. The courts did us a great favor in giving Norma McCorvey a pseudonym, so that when she later found Jesus and went from out lesbian to anti-choice evangelical, she did not get to take Jane Roe with her. Jane Roe the defender of reproductive freedom belongs to me and every other pro-choice American, just as Thatcherism and Reaganomics have a right to a life independent of their eponymous hosts. Ms. McCorvey no more owns Jane Roe than Dame Maggie owned Thatcherism.

Calculus doesn't need pebbles, algebra doesn't need integers, and great -isms cannot become truly great while still shackled to their flawed -ists. When I hear the names Thatcher, Reagan, Darwin, and McCarthy, I am quite unbothered that the real Maggie Thatcher thought Nelson Mandela was a terrorist, that the Ronald Reagan who opposed discrimination against gays while governor could not later as President utter the word AIDS, that Darwin apparently had a soft spot for colonialism and eugenics, that Joseph McCarthy even in ignominy was supported and liked by the Kennedys and Catholics.

Through the miracle of historical revisionism, I get to reinvent these heroes and villains to support my cause as I see fit, and I don't intend to let the real-life versions get in my way.