It is with great tragedy and sorrow that I hear of the death of Mrs Nancy Reagan, the first lady of the former president Ronald Reagan, who led this great nation that we know as America from 1980 to 1988. Nancy’s legacy is of an untouchable, who was a pioneer contributor to make stem cell research a reality and for her undying commitment towards finding solutions to the knotty Alzheimer’s disease. Still she will always be remembered as a woman who stayed by her man, during the tumultuous days of the cold war. After all, under her husband’s watch the first cracks of communism in the eastern bloc appeared and the Warsaw pact looked increasingly vulnerable to the outsider.
I always recall the Reagan days, whenever I hear of the song End of Innocence by the former Eagle man, Don Henley. Innocence, or the selfness nature and community spirit of the average American started to dilute out in the 80s and what was left was every American chasing after materialism, and what mattered was not the Mustang-like freedom but the Bison-like personal wealth. These words below epitomize the American spirit in the 80s as Don Henley had very nicely lyricized (below), although he may not have been a Reagan fan (as the words contain – For this tired old man that we elected king)
“Who knows how long this will last
Now we’ve come so far, so fast
But, somewhere back there in the dust
That same small town in each of us”
Maybe other people might interpret the words differently, but for me “the small town in each us” represents the quaint roots of each American, irrespective of which of 50 states you live in in the contemporary. Where you are born stays with you like your genes and in that same roots is that safe house, that sanctuary, where there is a home you can return to, driving in car or voyaging in mind. So in Don Henley’s words, the 80s were when America metamorphosed to lose her identity when material wealth and your social standing (how large the perimeter of the picket fence and the how big the mansion inside was) were the mainstays of the American dream. American spirit and the American dream are at horns with each other, after all while one venerates selflessness the other glorifies selfishness.
Nancy Reagan is bound to pass on to a great place, to the Elysium where her husband passes his days. Then she will be, in all 206 bones, next to her husband in a pot of land and in 21 grams of soul, she will be kissing him on the golden Elysian fields. What she left behind was not just a tiny slice of America Pie, but a massive quadrant of apple pie in American history. After all, all first ladies will look at her as the yardstick on elegance, progressive ideals and making it count when it mattered and at the same time, how to be a role model away from the shadow of her husband. She was both wife and woman, accomplice and free spirit, beacon and talisman, lighthouse and rock, for the many American women (and even men) who will partake in this sorrowful moment in American History.
Alzheimer’s disease was discovered in 1905 by a scientist called Alois Alzheimer and this pathological condition results from plaques forming in the brain tissue. When her husband was ambushed by these plaques, she fought on to push this disease to the world stage, not wanting any golden plaques of her own, just so that the next generation of the elderly, will have mental acuity even late in life. Ronald was a cult hero on and off the screen but his wife was the unsung hero, who will forever echo as the first wife of the Yankee nation. Plaques didn’t drive her nor did they hold her back and that is what made her special – one quadrant of the great American Pie, served on diners of history for the next millennium and after.