Margaret Thatcher and Ugly Politics

thatcherOkay, I’ve had enough.  I really thought that I could let it go and maintain the moral high ground by not acknowledging — forget responding to — the hate.  I can’t.  I’m not that fine a human being.  So…

We live in cowardly times, mean-spirited and smug.  We celebrate cheap shots and slink away from honest debate.  We attack those who can’t defend themselves while insisting it is our moral principles which give us the open warrant for this revenge.  We applaud bullies in our streets and on our social media and then wonder why they’ve crept onto our playgrounds.  In our society, many of us are not very nice, and because of that, history will probably judge all of us as vulgar.

The infernal optimist in me thought that we couldn’t sink much lower than making fun of 86-year-old Pope Benedict XVI for wanting to retire.  Old Christians are easy targets, but the same folks, so quick with the jokes, had already loudly refused to publish satirical Moslem cartoons under the guise of sensitivity.  I thought integrity was not a flexible commodity.  I was wrong.  As of last week, the vitriol circus three-ringing itself around the death of Margaret Thatcher proves the “progressives” among us have hit intellectual rock bottom and are now starting to dig.

As a public figure, even in death, Margaret Thatcher’s policies should be (and are) open to vigorous debate.  For those who disagreed with her methods and results there are any number of well thought out arguments they could use to support their opposition.  However, I doubt if “bitch” is one of them.  Perhaps I’m missing something, but I don’t see abandoning my political position on the strength of that thesis.  At least, “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” — although about as original as most leftwing ideas — has a sophomoric air of carnival about it.  However, neither of these responses to one of the most divisive politicians in recent history is exactly a tsunami of intellectual prowess.  If this is all the left is bringing to the table, it’s no wonder they couldn’t convince the voting public that Margaret Thatcher was the personification of evil – on three separate occasions.  And this bringsthatcher1 us to the interesting question: What does one do with one’s political self-righteousness when the ballot box disagrees with them?  (After all, Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government was democratically elected three times.)  Does one snarl and cry and demonize one’s opponent, or pout and call her names?  Or perhaps one tantrums through the streets in sanctimonious anger, smashing things, burning cars and injuring police officers?   Or maybe one merely gathers enough explosives to attempt to blow one’s opponent’s head off and thus alleviate the need for any further discussion?  In Margaret Thatcher’s case, the answer is all of the above — plus one more.  Many on the left just quietly waited until the object (she was an object by then) of their hate died and now attack her viciously and personally with no fear of repercussions.  Plus it should be noted that those who profess an absolute abhorrence of hate are among the first to cast a stone.

To those who disagree with Margaret Thatcher’s policies — with measured argument and open debate — I wish you well.  To those who rant their hate from the rooftops and “celebrate” her death: you are the embodiment of all that is dull-witted and crude in our times.  I want nothing to do with you or your politics; you’ve shown the world the ugly face of both of them.

Margaret Thatcher 1925-2013

thatcherWe cannot look at historical figures without the telescope of history, so it’s hard to judge what our contemporaries will look like to the ages.  As hostages of living memory, we get caught in the fever of the times and think with our hearts and not our heads.  Margaret Thatcher is such a figure.  To some, she was the embodiment of all that is wrong with representative government — the conservative terror that nightmares all “progressive” dreams.  To others, she was a Joan Bull of Britain, standing with Elizabeth I, Nelson and Churchill in the stubborn defence of British attitudes and values.  Regardless, she was Britain’s first female Prime Minister and held that office for eleven years, longer than anyone else in the 20th century (including Winston Churchill.)  And, like it or not, she revolutionized politics in Britain and around the world.

For me, Margaret Thatcher still represents hope.  In her, I see the enlightened idea that we are citizens of our country not clients of it.  We, each of us, are personally responsible for how all of us make our way in the world.  We should not download that responsibility onto distant bureaucrats; nor put our faith in the chimera of government programs which history has proven unworkable and unsustainable.  In 1987, Margaret Thatcher summed it all up in an interview, when she said, “It is our duty to look after ourselves.” and I believe she was right.

History, Bitter & Twisted October 13


1925 – Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1979 to 1990.  Much maligned by the popular press at the time and ever since, she has been called, conversely, ‘The Iron Lady’ and ‘Attila the Hen,’ among many other, less printable things.  During her time in office Thatcher generated strong feelings for and against her and is still both loved and hated by large sections of the population.  Either way, no one can dispute the fact that she reinvigorated the British economy and reestablished British prestige and power around the world.  She was absolutely convinced that her policies were the best for Britain.  That was both her strength and her downfall.  In the end, it was she who almost single-handedly jump-started Britain into the 21st Century.

1941 – Paul Simon, one of the pure poets of the modern era.  Simon started writing songs in the 50s but didn’t achieve any great success until he teamed up with Art Garfunkel, in the mid 60s.  They produced some great songs together, like “Sounds of Silence” and “Bridge over Troubled Waters.”  But it was after Simon and Garfunkel broke up, in 1970 that Paul Simon did his best work, with songs like, “Still Crazy After All These Years” and “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” along with albums like Hearts and Bones and Graceland.  What makes Simon more than just a songwriter are his stand-alone lyrics with lines like this, from “Graceland”:

The Mississippi delta was shining like a national guitar,

I am following the river

Down the highway

Through the cradle of the Civil War

1307 – Yet another conspiracy theory/legend was born on Friday the 13th, 1307, when Philip IV of France (ironically “Philip the Fair”) ordered the simultaneous arrest of all Knights Templar on charges of heresy, idolatry, homosexuality and anything else he could think of.  After 150 years as a charitable order, the Knights were filthy rich, and Philip wanted to get his mitts on some of the money.  He ordered confessions, and after a couple of days of relentless torture, got them.  He then seized all the Templar property, paid off his debts and probably forgot about the whole thing.  History, however, never forgets, and quickly built up a whole pile of stories associated with the Templars.  The two most enduring legends are 1) the Templars’ incredible wealth was never found and still exists today in one enormous cache, and 2) during the Crusades, the Templars found The Holy Grail (see The Da Vinci Code)and have protected it — in secret — ever since.  Tons has been written on both subjects, but not one scrap of evidence has been produced to substantiate either claim.

1884 – On October 13th, 1884 the International Meridian Conference, by a vote of 22 to 1, established the Prime Meridian at Greenwich, England.  Before that, time had been a matter of personal preference.  However, international trade and travel were literally sweeping the globe and the world needed a standard to set its watch by.  Greenwich was chosen mainly because most sailors had already been using it for years to find their longitude on a limitless ocean.  So, who cares?  Mostly bureaucrats and nerds, but the point is without a starting point there wouldn’t be any standard time in the world, and nothing to orient your GPS to.  In other words, without Greenwich Mean Time, you wouldn’t know where you were or when you got there.  By the way, the one country who voted against the proposition was San Domingo, the modern Dominican Republic.


54 – Roman Emperor Claudius, who is thought to be a bit of a dolt.  However, sandwiched between his infamous nephew Caligula and his more flamboyant great nephew Nero, as he is, it’s no wonder history has not treated Claudius very kindly.  History does record that he married his niece Agrippina (the mother of Nero) and she generally took charge of the palace and, therefore, the Empire.  It also records that Agrippina most likely murdered Claudius, with poison mushrooms, to ensure that her son Nero got to the throne.  Claudius was Mark Antony’s grandson.

2002 – Stephen Ambrose, who was discovered as a popular author when his book Band of Brothers was turned into an incredibly good miniseries by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.

What is less generally known is that Ambrose, a noted historian, is one of the first scholars to put forward the theory that World War I and II were actually one war with a 22 year truce.  In fact, Ambrose went so far as to suggest that it was actually a European Civil War — which might have gone on indefinitely if Europe hadn’t been invaded by the external military forces of Asia and America.  It’s too bad that Ambrose never took the time to expand this theory.