Reagan’s American Dream: the triumph and the danger
Peter C. Newman
Ronald Reagan’s astonishing triumph has won him much more than an election. He has been granted a genuine ideological mandate by America’s voters. A mandate of this magnitude and diversity can be a revolutionary instrument: it confers on the candidate who gains it not merely the awesome constitutional powers of the U.S. presidency but the spiritual authority of the office as well.
Brown babies, bamboo groves, Boat People. It’s the traditional Canadian view of the Asian curve of the Pacific Rim, and it’s a disastrously dated picture. Since the Second World War, with plentiful cheap labor and unrestricted capitalism to its advantage, the Pacific Rim has become something of a fiscal juggernaut, the fastest-growing economic zone in the world.
What’s the difference between patenting a tomato and patenting a light bulb? This question was put to me by a querulous Canadian Seed Trade Association officer who thinks we should permit patents and royalties on new plant varieties. He appears baffled that the idea of levying royalties on living, growing things, the source of human food, is repugnant to me.
Beirut. . . how does it possibly survive? The question is asked constantly by visitors to the war-battered capital of Lebanon, if only because you can’t walk 10 yards without bumping into a gun-toting youth. Guns are everywhere: in the hands of civilians, of hundreds of political militia, of groups vying for control of the streets, of Lebanese security forces, of the Syrian army, and of the shopkeeper who simply wants to protect his property.
They used to call it Locke’s Island, this ragged bit of land about a kilometre wide that juts breezily into the Atlantic Ocean on Nova Scotia’s south shore. Back in the days when the umbilical cord that tied it to the mainland was routinely covered by the tide, Johnathan Locke brought his family here from Chilmark, Mass.
When you’re working like the devil for a pay raise
After one of the longest, roughest and toughest labor battles in history—it spawned folk-songs, books and a movie—textile workers have made a major breakthrough in America’s staunchly anti-union southern states. After 17 years, $30 million, street fights by the dozen and court cases galore, the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union last month signed their first-ever contract with one of the region’s largest employers, J.P. Stevens & Co.
As multimillion-dollar mergers and take-overs become commonplace front-page news in Canada and as an even larger share of the economy falls under the control of fewer and larger interests, the corporate giants of the nation's boardrooms find themselves facing an unlikely adversary.
An Exercise in Failure (Cover, Sept. 22) reveals Trudeau and Davis as strange bedfellows, sharing, as they do, the same old bunk. ALTON R. DAHLSTROM, ROSSLAND, B.C. After listening to the bickering provincial premiers at the constitutional conference, one would get the impression that their aim was to splinter our central government into as many fragments as possible.
Very early, at 6:38 p.m. EST,two blue-collar precincts in Indianapolis re ported their verdict: lopsided tallies in Ronald Reagan’s favor. At seven o’clock, CBS News awarded Reagan Indiana’s 13 electoral votes. At 7:02, NBC gave him Florida; one minute later, it added Mississippi.
The future opponents lost no time staking out their respective positions. Within hours of Ronald Reagan’s victory, China’s leadership issued a statement bearing the unmistakable stamp of Deputy Premier Deng Xiaoping, in effect warning the president-elect against cosying up any closer to Taiwan.
It was a cataclysm. Far more than Ronald Reagan’s stunning sweep of 489 electoral votes, the Republican surge in dozens of Senate, House and state legislative races shocked pollsters and politicians alike. The most optimistic forecasts had projected healthy GOP gains in the Senate, more modest advances in the House and gubernatorial contests.
The 52 American hostages still held in Iran, and their families back in the United States, continued to ride an emotional roller coaster late last week. A dispirited and defeated President Jimmy Carter clearly did not know which way to turn.
As Bishop Rivera Damas left his pulpit after mass—the pulpit once used by his predecessor, Archbishop Oscar Romero, assassinated by a right-wing gunman in March—a small cluster of journalists awaited him. In his homily, one pointed out, Damas had neglected to include the weekly death toll due to political violence.
The fledgling government of Prime Minister Robert Mugabe has been buffeted from all sides since it assumed power seven months ago. Tribal rivalries have flared, the economy has suffered from a poor tobacco market and lack of foreign investment, and the public has grown increasingly disgruntled as the benefits expected from black rule have failed to materialize.
Human misery is nothing new in H-block, at sprawling Maze prison near Belfast. For four years 350 members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) held there have waged a “dirty protest,” refusing to use prison toilets, wear anything but prison-issue blankets, or to bathe.
As External Affairs Minister Mark MacGuigan prepared last weekend for a second visit to Britain in two months on the prickly issue of patriation, the signals from London were of stiffening opposition from British MPs and suppressed desperation from Thatcher government ministers preoccupied with a deepening recession and the threat of yet another damaging strike at British Leyland.
The Senate is a sleepy place usually. Its mood runs only from clubby to grumpy, even if its debates often glimmer with the engaging pottiness of a P.G. Wodehouse dialogue. But sometimes the senators rise in high dudgeon—usually against some government affront.
"The Canadian system shouldn’t stoop so low as to base a conviction on this kind of thing,” declared outraged defence lawyer Jay Prober last week as he summed up his defence of “Dirty Bob” Wilson, the 46-year-old Conservative MLA charged with two counts of conspiracy to traffic in Colombian marijuana and one of conspiracy to import (see Maclean's, Oct. 6, 1980).
The snow-covered mountain plateaus of the Yukon attract big-game hunters from all points of the globe each fall, keen to add a white Dall ram to their collection of the four types of North American sheep that hang on every nimrod’s imaginary den wall— the Dall, the Desert bighorn, the Rocky Mountain bighorn and the Stone sheep, together known as the sport’s grand slam.
The Mounties had been checking up on Nova Scotia Development Minister Roland Thornhill for financial dealings in which four banks wrote off the bulk of his personal loans worth $140,000, and even though he has been absolved by Attorney-General Harry How of any wrongdoing, events in Halifax last week demonstrated that not everyone considers the case closed.
Premier Sterling Lyon stood amidst the stuffed caribou and bison in the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature last week, proudly accepted the first copy of Manitoba Nature, a glossy wildlife magazine extolling the great and furry outdoors, and declared: “I hope it will depict a province where neither man nor animal is looked upon as an intruder.”
When Colin Thatcher strode briskly out of provincial court in Moose Jaw last week, he was a blur of emotions. A common assault charge he faced had just been dismissed because of conflicting evidence and a question of intent but, despite his relief, the irascible son of the late Saskatchewan Liberal premier Ross Thatcher was still enraged as he declared: “This was nothing but a trumped-up charge that never would have seen the light of day if my name would have been anything else.”
Bearers of an Alberta passport, bilingually English and Ukrainian, are advised that if the document is lost or stolen they should “report the particulars to the local state of Alberta consulate (located in any major oil company office) or, if abroad, to the nearest OPEC office.”
America’s First Brother-elect, J. Neil Reagan, might have said last week that he has no plans to be another Billy Carter, but interviewers from Vancouver’s CJAZ radio station got a different story. By dialing U.S. voters surnamed Reagan at random on election day, Word Jazz hosts Walt Rutherford and Mark O’Neill turned up Reagan’s brother, a 72-year-old retired advertising executive, just as he was leaving his Rancho Sante Fe, Cal., home for the polling station.
As the CFL’s semifinalists prepared for their games in Montreal and Winnipeg last week, ominous clouds gathered over what many Canadians consider a vital institution and many others consider a long-crippled vestige of the past not worth preserving.
While the five teams in the Western Conference of the Canadian Football League are community-owned enterprises, only the Saskatchewan Roughriders can claim that they belong to an entire province. Regina, the little city on the prairie, may have its stadium on Tenth Avenue, but fans in the province’s 10 other cities, in the towns and the rural heartland call the Riders theirs, too.
Suppose they gave a party and Eric Charman came dressed as the Pope. It certainly didn’t seem out of character when Charman swooped into the banquet in flowing prelate’s robes to end the annual conference of the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) in Toronto last week.
He could almost have been addressing an Amway rally. There was no corner of America more receptive to the call from Ronald Reagan last week to “put Americans back to work” than Ada, Mich., the small midwestern hamlet where space equivalent to 22 football fields houses the head office, factories and warehouses of Amway Corp., the motherhood and apple pie of America’s business enterprises.
The woman found herself obsessively weighing household objects on her kitchen scale. A cucumber, a rolling pin, a squash: when she found something that weighed the same as her baby had at birth, she wrapped the object in a blanket and rocked and cuddled it for several hours.
The modern North American lives in a remarkably disease-free world. Medicine has almost removed the threat of maladies that decimated generations past, so understandably the layman is perturbed by recent outbreaks of seemingly new and occasionally lethal illnesses such as hemolytic-uremic syndrome, Reye’s syndrome and toxic shock syndrome.
Bathed in pools of soft spotlights, fat cherubs dance on the lid of a fragile 1596 harpsichord by Celestini. In a glass case, the serpent, a bizarre early 19th-century ancestor of the trumpet, sports sinuous black leather curves. Sprinkled throughout the display area of Vancouver’s cone-shaped Centennial Museum are some 330 exquisite and fanciful early musical instruments dating from 1500 through to 1900, the exotic grandparents of the sophisticated progeny found in the modern symphony orchestra.
Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal composes winter light trance music so still it seems an aural analogue of watercolor landscapes. His glacial tempos and droning organ chords which set off spiralling guitar figures recall some of Pink Floyd, but Rypdal’s sources are closer to avant-garde classical than rock.
When Assistant Manager Marilynn Robinett walked into the work kitchen recently at Homosassa Springs Attraction, a private animal sanctuary in west central Florida, the first thing she saw was one of her charges—a Barbados ram—lying slaughtered on the table.
If her landlady knew she was on welfare, Pam Inglis doubts she could have rented the small Toronto apartment she lives in with her four children. For Inglis—who is separated from her husband and taking courses to upgrade her Grade 8 education—the $275-a-month apartment was a find.
The chances that Dirk DePass would ever work seemed remote indeed. At 20, he was eager to earn his own living. And his intelligence had been described as phenomenal. But he was severely handicapped with cerebral palsy in a society where jobs for professionals and skilled laborers were scarce.
Looking up from his desk, the business executive is confronted with a toothy grin from a plump rainbow trout circling the tank just outside his window. Coffee break means donning an overcoat for a stroll through the tulips in the mall garden.
Vinnie Vacarri’s bad luck is to be bulging with talent and have no packaging to go along with it. At 27, he’s still pushing his songs and still heated by the ideas he has for performing them, but he’s convinced he won’t make it; he doesn’t have “the look,” the image that sells.
Describe Frank Sinatra in his first movie role in 10 years. Tough, tender, a man of few words and a tiny bit tired. Who does he play? Frank Sinatra pretending to be a police sergeant on the track of a sickie bopping innocent people on the back of their heads with a mountaineer’s ice pick.
The Stunt Man: Exuberant, high-flying farce buoyant as a cloud, but filled with dark pockets, and probably the best movie ever made about making movies. An escaped criminal (Steve Railsback) falls into a dead stunt man’s job while on the lam.
The First Annual International Authors’ Festival, held in late October at Harbourfront in Toronto, was certainly in the spirit of a long line of debuts: take some grit, a shoestring and a little luck and hope that the thing will fly. The grit was Greg Gatenby’s, the 30-year-old organizer of the affair, who in the past year managed to persuade 23 authors to come from as far away as New Zealand to take part in the festival.
FINAL THINGS by Richard B. Wright (Macmillan of Canada, $9.95)
Charlie Farris, the hero of Richard Wright’s fourth novel, is a troubled man. He’s 43, his marriage has broken, he drinks too much, his career as a journalist and writer has lost its promise. Nothing seems to be working for him. He misses his exfather-in-law’s friendship and despises his ex-wife’s young lover; his 12-year-old son, Jonathan, who spends Saturdays with him, seems remote and unhappy.
These memoirs of Stuart Keate, the veteran West Coast newspaperman, couldn’t have appeared at a more timely moment. Keate, now 67, started his professional life on the Vancouver Province, worked his way up to being publisher of the Victoria Times and then, for 15 years commencing in 1963, was publisher of The Vancouver Sun.
1 The Covenant, Michener (4) 2 Firestarter, King (1) 3 The Key to Rebecca, Follett (5) 4 Joshua Then and Now, Richler (2) 5 Rage of Angels, Sheldon (3) 6 Fanny, Jong (7) 7 Periscope Red, Rohmer 8 The Bourne Identity, Ludium (6) 9 Voices in Time, MacLennan
Ottawa, a sea of paper topped with large amounts of gas, exists on talk. The amount of physicial labor done in the town wouldn’t strain a gnat’s biceps and consists largely of people moving tables in place for a panel discussion. When the anthropologists dig into this midden, they will discover that at any given moment there were 14 panel discussions going on, composed mainly of people shifting their underwear and looking at the clock to see how long it is until the gin at the reception.