Life and American history

Ronald Reagan wearing cowboy hat at Rancho del...

Ronald Reagan wearing cowboy hat at Rancho del Cielo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have about five years of college credits, but I only have an AA degree. However, I believe that my life experiences and study of American history are the equivalent of at least a master’s degree in both life and American history. I do not consider myself an expert in either subject, just well-educated. Let me recap my story as briefly as I can.

I was born in Oak Park, Illinois, across the street from Chicago. My family was conservative Republican and I was weaned on the world’s greatest newspaper (self-proclaimed), the Chicago Tribune. When I reached adulthood, I added the Wall Street Journal to my daily reading. I believed the editorial pages of both papers were gospel.  Over the years, I began to notice that the editorials never changed even though events did. That discrepancy caused me some unease, but I remained a conservative Republican.

In my late 50s in the late 1990s, I wondered if Ronald Reagan had been a great president. I was not willing to take anyone else’s word, and decided that I would make my own decision. I decided to research the answer by reading a biography of each and every president. I am about two-thirds of the way there, but I have already decided that Reagan was near-great, not great. There is a black hole in American presidential history filled with mostly one term presidents between Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt. The principal exception being Lincoln.

I did not limit myself to the biographies of presidents. I added the US Supreme Court to my reading list and prominent Senators and members of Congress. Over time I feel that I grew to have a more balanced perspective on US history, and my life experiences altered my strictly conservative views.

I have been poor and I have been relatively well-to-do. I have been subject to age discrimination, and I have gone through healthcare insurance hell. I have been in an auto accident where my vehicle was totaled by an uninsured semi driver. In my hospital career, I have dealt with gang members, billionaires, the homeless, people with AIDS and the uninsured. I like to think that I have seen it all, and I try to walk in another’s shoes before I judge them.

I am not always successful in not jumping to conclusions, but I am trying to do better. Rather than talking at each other, I believe that we should be trying to understand each other’s life experiences first. Then we can talk to each other with understanding. My life experiences have made me the person I am with the political views I possess. Someone else with a different life experience, will probably see the world differently. That does not make one of us right and the other person wrong.

5 thoughts on “Life and American history

  1. I will share a few thoughts… I’m an in my ealry 40’s and grew up in a conservative republican family, with many family members, and family friends, who were very high ranking NSA and CIA. I grew up in the first strike triangle of DC, Camp David, and the underground pentagon. So I have a little less favorable opinion of the arms race he instigated with the USSR- despite the assertion that it was a, largely sucessful, attempt to bankrupt them. That- and his own “hot mic” incident (the congress has declared the soviet union and outlaw nation, bombing begins in five minutes)…which brought us dangerously close to a nuclear exchange. It was a dangerous gamble- regardless of sucess, and one we are still paying for financially.

    Then, the Iran/Contra scandal. While supplying chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein in his war with Iraq, and then playing both sides- illegally selling weapons to Iraq, while moving cocaine for the Contras and funding them in violation of US law… (and yes- a relative was one of those convicted in this sordid affair). But to me this- and ultimately, the lack of public interest (complaining their soap operas were being interrupted by the hearings) – this to me was a watershed moment on the state of america.

    And I’ll close with one of my favorite Reagan quotes… This is the man who directed the forest service to log a checkerboard pattern around national parks- guaranteeing there would be no untouched forest that would allow the parks future expansion. When he was flying out to Mt St Helens, with press on board, (I think it was when he designated it a national monument in 82) he looked out the window and said something to the effect of “My God- the devestation is amazing”. To which one of his aides replied – “um- sir. We’re not their yet. That’s logging in the national forests”.

      • The willingness to admit this- on any subject- is a sign you are an intelligent person.

        And I don’t mean this in relation to Reagan. There are certain things I respected about the man- and in may ways he was who he was unlike far too many politicians. We all, myself included, are deeply flawed individuals- and are flaws and failings aren;t necessarilly to be condemned- unless we never learn from them.

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