Ronald Reagan Receives Sympathy From The Devil

by Phil Rockstroh

June 21, 2004   


(Swans - June 21, 2004)  I, sometimes, find myself wishing that the Christian fundamentalists' fantasies of Hell were actually true -- because, in the afterlife, Hell is precisely where they would find themselves... and the most recent soul to be cast down into its fiery pit of eternal torment...would be Ronald Reagan.

I fantasize Reagan saying, "Mr. Satan, tear down this wall of fire."

Satan replies, "Do you think it's actually that easy, Ronnie, my boy... that all you need to do is read the teleprompter and such things will come to pass? Although, I can see why you would believe so -- because you were always so richly rewarded for that kind of nonsense in the last world -- but things are different here in Hell. You see, the purpose of these flames is to burn the lies away from your eternal soul... and between the amount of lies you've told in your lifetime and the massive amount of grease you have slicked into your hair -- you should burn for eons to come"

Reagan: You got the wrong guy: I'm strictly a white hat kinda cowboy.

Satan: I am not the least bit concerned with your kinky, Village People kind of dress-up fantasies. Those are not the kinds of sins that condemn you to be cast into Hell's soul-searing pits of fire. For the misguided people who habitually commit fashion transgressions -- or Sins of the Fabric -- as they are known here -- I have devised other forms of punishment: Here in Hell, we give them an involuntary infusion of good taste -- and then we force them to watch film-loops of themselves walking around in public dressed as they did during their lifetimes. Oh, the wails and lamentation, they emit! Oh the sweet music of perdition!

Reagan: Watch it there, buddy. Don't you go implying I'm one of those... those... types... just because I was an actor.

Satan: Those types of what?

Reagan: Oh come on, now. You have plenty of them down here.... Those prancing, limp-wristed, light-in-the loafer sort of people.... You know....

Satan: Are you referring to homosexuals? You still can't say the word out loud, can you? Just like you couldn't lift a finger to help those who were afflicted with AIDS during your presidency -- isn't that right? You caused a huge amount of pain and suffering with that choice.... My complements. Fine bit of work that was. Couldn't have done a better job myself.

Reagan: But...but I thought it was God who wanted me to allow queers to suffer for their sins -- not you... Next, you're going to tell me that God didn't want to me fight commies, either.

Satan: You donned a uniform and risked life and limb facing the enemy on the battlefield -- You did that personally...? Sorry, I must have missed that.

Reagan: I wore the uniform of the Commander and Chief and it's said that my steely resolve brought down the Evil Empire.

Satan: Do you actually believe that nonsense? Or did General Electric pay you so much money that you actually started to believe it? You know, I'm somewhat of an expert in that area -- The business of buying and selling of souls is my particular specialty -- and Ronnie, let's face it: You were simply a snake oil salesman, peddling the goods of the National Security State.

Not that I have anything against snake oil salesmen or war profiteering, mind you. And you were good, damn good -- you had the technique down: Just keep the dumb bastards reeling between fear and false hope -- that's the trick -- and you'll end up with their loyalty and their money, if not their very souls, every time.

You had enviable technique. You had the gift, Ronnie Boy -- The ability to convince people to support actions that were against their own interest... by employing the seductive ploy of telling them that their virtues are sins and that their sins are virtues... That whole "greed is a good thing," that was an inspired piece of work -- I salute you for it.... You not only allowed the powerful to exploit the needy -- but you made the greedy feel good about themselves for having done so.

Even the words you used were exquisite: "Supply Side Economics..." I adore the serpentine alliteration of the S's in the phrase. I can't resist it: S-s-s upply S-s-side Economics-s-s-s: The phrase just insidiously slithers right inside my serpent's soul. And Trickle Down theory... That one is so rich with irony -- because here you are: Your soul certainly did trickle -- right down to Hell.

Didn't it, Ronnie, my boy?

Reagan: But... didn't you see my funeral? They all loved me so.

Satan: Lies are a very precious thing. And you were very generous with yours. You bestowed the glittering gift of denial. You see: People are terrified of change. I count on that human trait; it plays into my strengths as a master of persuasion. I've learned that people will follow, even deeply love, those who tell them that they need never look within themselves to find the root of their suffering.

Reagan: But they all say that I made Americans feel good about themselves again after Vietnam and Watergate.

Satan: America left millions of corpses in South-East Asia and re-elected Richard Nixon in a landslide -- then only turned on Nixon when evidence of his own corruption was revealing too much about their own.

Reagan: The country was sick with malaise -- stricken with self-doubt. I restored their sense of pride.

Satan: Answer me this: Is it really such a good idea to bestow self-esteem upon an asshole? It would be a banner day for the world -- if the assholes of the world were to be stricken with self-doubt. A bad day for sorts like you and I, Ron -- but a banner day for the world.

Reagan: You have a foul mouth there, feller. There's no call for you to use that kind of insulting language.

Satan: Do you think I'm calling you an asshole to insult you? Au contraire. From me, it is high praise. I am the Lord of Assholes. And believe me: You were an asshole.

You were an asshole to tell the American people that the Vietnam War was lost because of Peace protesters. To listen to you tell it: The American military all but had the North Vietnamese and Vietcong on their knees -- but then Jane Fonda and her traitorous ilk flew to Hanoi and steeled the resolve of the godless commie hordes by reminding them of the righteousness of their cause and thus rallied them on to victory.

You were an asshole to tell the nation that their economic woes were the result of being fleeced by welfare queens.

And you know what? The American people were assholes to believe you.

Ron, look there -- above us. Are those the Seven Rings of Heaven -- or a hierarchy of concentric assholes, otherwise known as the American public and the government that reflects them?

Reagan: You talk like some sorta subversive snob. People like straight talkers like myself.

Satan: Could it be that you actually started to believe your own bullshit? It can happen when people are richly rewarded for lying. I love it when it does: Those are the sorts of self-deceptions that keep me in business.

You could have chosen to tell the truth. You had the chance to give it to them straight. In the 1970s, Americans sat in long, gas lines, sweating, clad in clothes made of bad polyester, roiling in resentment over their feelings of powerlessness, damaged pride, and thwarted entitlement. But you told them that they had no need to reflect on why: They were in no way responsible for it all. So they learned nothing. Nothing. Not that I'm criticizing your actions. "Nothing" is my favorite word.

Since the 1970s, advances have been made in the sartorial science of poly-blended fabrics -- but little else has changed. Most Americans learned nothing from the country's defeat in Vietnam and the revelations of Watergate... Those lessons should have brought about a collective reckoning regarding the dangers of attempting to wield arrogant power -- but, thanks to me, Satan, and you, Ronnie Reagan, that did not happen.

Reagan: They will never forget me. Did you hear all the praise they heaped upon me?

Satan: Think so? I've seen it all before: They'll go through this whole sequence of panegyric gyrations -- this over-the-top, funereal hype-a-thon for you -- but it will soon be forgotten -- like the opening of a big, expensive, over-hyped, Hollywood movie...

Reagan: They say they want to put my face on a ten dollar bill or even on Mount Rushmore.

Satan: It would be more fitting to put your likeness on a plastic, big-gulp, convenience store cup -- or memorialize you as a Happy Meal toy.

But, mark my words, soon enough -- the country will suffer a massive memory loss... just like you did in the end.

Ron, do you remember your most famous movie line, "where's the rest of me?"

Reagan: Do I. It was also the title of my autobiography.

Satan: Fitting.

Reagan: There you go again.

Satan: No. There you go again. You're in Hell: you have no need to hit your sound bites here.

Anyway, you can do better than to bandy canned quips from 1984.... Actually -- you can't.

And you know why? Because there isn't any rest of you -- because there was never anything there to begin with.

You were merely a Hollywood product. There was never anything behind your grease paint but an aggregation of those canned quips, amiable homilies, and facile antidotes -- all of which masked an empty, garden-variety show business opportunist... Remember that joke from your era about you: "I'm not really the president: I only play one on TV?" You were always the stuff of standard Hollywood PR puff. That's bad enough -- but when those techniques are applied to the concerns and consequences of daily living, it creates such exquisite tragedy! Oh, I do so love it when that sort of deadly fantasy takes hold. I do so love the suffering it reaps...

Really, Ronnie, I find hollow men like yourself so very useful. Ron, my dear man, you'll always be my movie star pin-up boy. I masturbate... playing back images in my head of the suffering you caused during your time on earth.

Oh, yes, yes -- Oh -- the lives you stunted with your economic policies that served to transfer greater wealth to the already obscenely wealthy.... Oh, yes, yes, that was so good! -- Oh and -- the deaths of all those innocent people in Central America that you caused... Oh, that was so good too ... so, so good!

You see: Nature may abhor a vacuum -- but I adore one... and you are my special nothing, Ronnie Baby -- you're the Cipher from Dream City. Hollywood created you; the ruling class used you; and now I have you all to myself.

Author's note: Of course, Satan and his purported abilities to charm and manipulate people into doing themselves and the world great harm is only a collective fantasy; unfortunately, Reagan and the policies of his corrupt presidency were all too real.

Ronald Reagan should thank the cosmic dust he is soon to become that: Hell is as make believe as the inane hagiography being created about him by the political right and the corporate media.

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Published June 21, 2004
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