"Ronald Reagan died just as I was completing this book. After all of the gruesome murders I studied, and all of the infuriating cultural-economic changes I researched and tracked, I started to assume, as one does when far too deep in his work, that everyone finally understood what a vicious old cannibal Reagan was.
Rage as we know it today did not exist when Ronald Reagan took power in 1981. Americans lived completely different lives then. The word stress had a far less lethal meaning then. The vise hadn’t yet been applied so intensely and so broadly, from the middle-class employee’s eighty-hour workweek down to the three-year-old’s preschool exam prep course. Instead, malaise was the cultural toxin. Executives and shareholders earned a far smaller portion of the wealth and the middle class had a much larger chunk, not just of the economic pie, but of other scarce resources such as leisure and pleasure and cultural dignity and the sense of entitlement. That is gone now. No one wants to remember this part of the pre-Reagan past—because it’s too depressing and speaks too obviously to the real decline in America. We went from the seventies malaise, which is just a euphemism for not feeling squeezed hard enough, to today’s post-industrial slavery, where we have accepted, with a cheerful attitude, the notion that our master’s interests—the constant transfer of wealth upward into the plutocratic class’s pockets—are identical with our own interests. And we serve out their interests on our own initiative, rejecting any politics or ideology which might threaten our masters’ pursuit of ever-increasing wealth and pleasure.
Before Reagan, there was no such thing as “going postal” or schoolyard rampage murders. It all started with his reign and his revolution—specifically, with his reckless mass-firing of the striking air traffic controllers in 1981. In a sign of the sucker-collaboration which was soon to become the norm, PATCO, the air traffic controllers’ union, was one of the very few unions to support Reagan’s run for president in 1980. In 2004, after Reagan’s death, newspapers reported on members of that destroyed union who are today still unemployed and impoverished, including one former Vietnam War veteran who lamented that he had been “shafted twice” by his country and another former controller who had been made homeless.
When Reagan fired the striking air traffic controllers in 1981, he told America he was literally willing to kill us all if we didn’t give in to his wealth-transfer plan. It was so shocking that it worked. The air controller’s union broke—and so did a whole way of life. Thanks to Ronald Reagan, we are all miserable wage slaves, or schoolyard wretches being pressed and prepared for life in the office world. There is no other choice but that, or death.
The way this country supplicated before Reagan’s corpse, elevating him to a kind of Khomeini status with the seven-day funeral and the endless orations about his humanity, intelligence, and how wonderfully simple life was under his reign, only reinforced the most disturbing conclusions that I was reaching as I wrote this book: that Americans have become perfect slaves, fools and suckers, while a small elite is cackling all the way to the offshore bank. Take this example from National Review editor Stanley Kurtz, posted just after Reagan’s death:
"[T]he president bit the bullet and fired the striking controllers. That set the tone for labor negotiations with national, and even municipal, governments for years to come. More important, the whole world was watching Regan's conduct during the strike. This was obviously a man who would hang tough under pressure, and risk serious costs to back up a decision he believed to be necessary and right. The Soviet's took note.” Firing the controllers wasn’t about smashing a union and destroying workers’ lives; it was a test of the master’s character, or a collective tribal battle against the Soviet Union and “big government.”
You expect to get this kind of toe-sucking propaganda from high-paid right-wing mandarins like the National Review or Fred Barnes or William Kristol—it’s the countless nobodies who prostrated themselves before Reagan’s corpse that is most galling. Take this posting on a blog, www.gutrumbles.com, posted by JMFlynny at June 5, 2004 09:43 PM:
I was at the Reagan Library yesterday. What a coincidence, my daughter's class was there competing in a “We the People” constitutional debate. I walked by a display commemerating his stand against the air traffic controllers union during their strike early in his first Presidency. His exact words, upon firing all striking controllers for breaking the law: “now people know what to expect from me; I say what I mean, and I mean what I say.” I believe the world came to know the truth of those words, and was better for it. At least JMFlynny was right about one thing: we learned that Reagan and the plutocrats meant business. Why do we need to love our own wretchedness? What stake did JMFlynny have in kissing Reagan’s dead feet? Why do we need to celebrate, with a kind of malicious pride, our worsening condition? What the hell is wrong with us? Have we lost all of our dignity? Why is it that in those rare, exceptional cases when Americans take up arms against the malice that Ronald Reagan bequeathed to us we only turn on each other, in our workplaces, our post offices, and schools, rather than turning on the real villains in this tale? Why did we let Ronald Reagan die calmly in his sleep, at age ninety-three, almost a quarter century after he destroyed everything decent in America? This book is an attempt to dig up Reagan’s remains, hang them upside down from the nearest palm tree, and subject him, at last, to a proper trial."
-Mark Ames, Going Postal