In Mourning for America (Again)
Dear Nancy Reagan, who art in heaven:
I’m just so relieved and happy you lived long enough to see the glorious revolution that your late husband launched finally reach its purest form—like a caterpillar growing into an enormous, majestic, monochromatic butterfly. (I would say it “evolved,” but that’s silly talk.) After all, what is “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” but “IT’S MORNING AGAIN IN AMERICA” updated with one less word so it would fit more easily on an inexpensive Chinese-made ball cap?
Looking back, your husband’s original vision now strikes us all as so charmingly naive: I mean, he didn’t even mention dismantling the IRS once! (He must have hated acronyms in general, because he also never said the word “AIDS” a single time in office, whereas nowadays we hear about Ebola and Zika every 15 seconds. Why do those thoughtless brown folks keep coming up with new diseases to frighten us? Don’t they know the only good virus is a viral video of a rival candidate eating his nasal discharge on live television?) By today’s standards, as many people on all sides of the political spectrum have pointed out, he was essentially a …. a l-l-libbbberrrrr …. Oh, I can’t say it. It’s too, too horrible.
In his defense, he made the most of the humble tools that were available to him all those decades ago: a ton of money, and a undistinguished career in low-budget black-and-white westerns and forgettable screwball comedies, which made him a familiar, even comforting presence to voters who had grown up with his projected image, and—just as important—taught HIM how to use the primitive cameras and PR gimmicks of his day, like the teleprompter (oh, how we love to mock Obama when he uses one!), the sound bite (the tweet of its era, with the fatal flaw that you couldn’t always control exactly how professional reporters—remember them?—were going to screw it up), and the photo op. Why, it was during the Republican conventions when your husband was around that what is now the basis for the set design, lighting, camera angles, and color scheme for every reality TV talent show now on the air was first devised! Talk about an American Idol!
Another thing the Grand Ol’ Ronnie had going for him was the good fortune to follow a lackluster Democrat who started out strong in a war-and-political-scandal-ravaged nation with populist appeal (remember Carter’s sweaters? how he WALKED to his Inauguration? GREAT optics—and ripe for the taking!) and rock star support, only to lose his mojo and become the dictionary definition of an ineffectual loser who failed to save the economy or adequately capitalize on our fresh new fear of Muslims. (“Malaise,” my ass! Jimmy was just plain boring compared to your ever-smiling movie star husband, as all 3 networks reminded us for a full half hour every single weekday!)
They say it was you who convinced the PR firm behind the 1984 reelection team to tone down the hardline rhetoric of the 1980 campaign and go warm and fuzzy instead. Brava, Mrs. R., brava!
Given how revolutionary (that stirring, versatile word again—so inspirational when it’s Our revolution, so terrifying when it’s Theirs!) that decision was for its time, even inadvertently paving the way for the sweater-bedraped Cosby Show to rule the airwaves (those were the days, when there were still Good Blacks; sigh…), I kind of hate to break it to you, o first and foremost of all First Ladies, but the times, they have a-changed once again.
Change can be SO painful sometimes, can’t it? Other times it can be just what the doctor ordered, like adding an extra pinch of cinnamon Jelly Bellies to the hubby’s candy dish to spice things up a little, you naughty minx. In that spirit, careful market research into what the younger voters are responding to lately (three words: Post Apocalyptic Hellscape) have led us to abandon your and your husband’s feel-good fireside aesthetic once and for all in favor of something a little (OK, make that a LOT) more Mad Max-ish, which now includes name-calling, YELLING!!! AND SCREAMING!!! (REALLY amps up the overnights), and—get this— straight out of the very same WWII movies you two used to love so much when you first began dating. Everything bold is new again! I know, I know, the bad guys used to do the salutes back then, but it is SUCH a visually strong gesture and makes for SUCH a good Instagram pic that we figure, what the hey? Gotta keep up with those Kardashians!
In short, we’re working a feel-bad campaign this time. Feel REAL bad. As in “I feel sick to my stomach. I feel like I’m about to shit my pants. [Don’t worry, you can USE words like that in public now! Nixon’s tape recorders all fell apart EONS ago! It’s what the kids WANT—and as Whitney taught us, THEY are our FUTURE!] I feel like the system which has served my country for more than 225 years is SO broken at this point that the only—the final—solution is to elect someone who has never held ANY elected office in his LIFE and just let him do whatever the hell he wants, as long as the cameras are always rolling and he promises to trash-tweet his enemies every 15 minutes. Because THAT ought to teach our kids what the Founding Fathers REALLY had in mind when they prayed the Constitution into existence while fellating each other’s wives with the barrels of their crude but beautiful, beautiful guns.”
Come to think of it, why should it just be morning in America, anyway? That’s SO last millennium at this point. Let’s make it high noon in the blazing hot 120 degree desert sun, with ravenous vultures circling and scary turban-clad Arabs clutching the very same machine guns your husband sold their granddads back in the day!
Picture this, Mrs. Reagan: We move the convention to the middle of Death Valley —the heartland, get it? AS WELL AS the setting of your husband’s grandest TV triumph—during the hottest week of what I THINK we can already PRETTY safely agree will be the hottest summer on record (in more ways than one, if you catch my drift). Opening night, blinding white klieg lights circle the darkest darkness of the midnight sky (zero clouds, because in this business black skies MATTER), searching … searching … for what?
CUT TO: helicopter shot of a golden glowing light. What can it be? The closer we get, the more dazzling, the more enticing—it’s like the kickoff of the brightest, whitest Academy Awards ceremony of all time.
Eventually we are near enough to make out what appears to be a gigantic bonfire, the biggest anyone has ever seen—why, you could even see it from space if NASA had not been downsized so very long ago. But this is clearly no ordinary fire; no, it is the result of years of extremely close examination of the famous annual “Burning Man” sculpture that the kids all love so very much these days, designed and built by the brilliant young 12- to 14-year-olds at the helm of our Youth Imagineer Program. (Their motto: “We are builders. And builders build.”)
By this point the cameras are so tight on the shot that viewers will be wondering why their screens aren’t melting. Do you feel the burn, Mrs. R? Do you feel it yet? Believe me, you will!
There, at the tippy-tippy-top of this impossibly large, impossibly tall structure composed entirely of discarded wood and other highly flammable items no one uses or wants anymore—children’s school desks, acoustic guitars, old textbooks, copies of the Koran, printouts of incorrect Supreme Court decisions, and such (the kids call it “repurposing” these days)—there at the very SUMMIT of this veritable altar of all that it is now, at long last, time to let go of as we Make America Great Again—
—is a platform made of gold. On that platform there are two huge towers. Twin towers, if you will, instantly recognizable as symbols of the Dream. You know the one: the AMERICAN Dream. These monoliths are themselves so incredibly high that one wonders why they do not pierce the heavens. At the top of each one is a form roughly six feet long, wrapped in the finest linen money can buy, its brilliant white simultaneously evoking both a swaddling cloth and a shroud. Vast streamers of the cloth trail down what seem to be miles of gleaming, glowing conflagration. No one alive has ever seen anything remotely like it.
And do you know what is wrapped so elegantly under those layers of fantabulous flowing fabric, Mrs. Reagan? Can you guess?
Why, it is the exhumed corpses of your late husband Ronald Wilson Reagan and yourself! Side by side as you sail off into eternity upon whisps of immaculate smoke. A divine end to your human existences, and the fulfillment of a divine destiny for all mankind. For the universe!
THAT, we believe, is the only truly appropriate way to honor the lasting legacy of your beloved bedmate of so many wonderful years. During his lifetime, we looked up to him like he was the Second Coming—but now that a little time has passed and we have a little more perspective, we have come to our senses. Perfect and flawless as he was during his brief 9 decades dwelling among us mere mortals, it turns out he was not the Messiah after all—merely John the Baptist.
And we all remember what happened to him.
Rest in peace, you beacon of liberty! Shine on, you crazy diamond ankle bracelet on the foot of the Blessed Virgin Mary! May your memory blaze forever and ever, AMEN.
Yours in the glorious revolution,
PS: Almost forgot your OWN greatest legacy to future generations! KUDOS on launching our nation into a never-ending War on Drugs—that one has worked out FABULOUSLY so far, hasn’t it? Truly a gift that keeps on giving and giving and giving.
PPS to readers who are not Nancy Reagan: If you love and miss Mrs. Reagan and her husband as much we know you do, please share this letter with like-minded patriots far and wide, THIS VERY MINUTE (and if you don’t, you better watch out, you filthy Hate-America-First-er, because WE ARE WATCHING YOU).