I'm no longer in a position where I can write about history for an actual history class, but that doesn't mean I don't still have a lot to say on the topic. I wrote this in response to my friend Rob from Philadelphia, who mentioned "Imagine" on Facebook and started an interesting chain of thoughts in my head.
1980: The Year Glory Stirred From Its Slumber
Dennis L. “Fox” Doucette
October 8, 2010
Dennis L. “Fox” Doucette
October 8, 2010
Sometimes the mere mention of a year can stir in the mind a whole slew of thoughts about history. 1492. 1776. 1945. I'm going to add 1980 to that list. After Jimmy Carter spent the first three years of his presidency trying his level best to make America a global laughingstock, we got our first indications that even though Brezhnev had clearly won the latest round, we might have a chance in this whole Cold War thing.
It started in February. The Miracle on Ice was symbolic. We had the Soviets on our home turf. They got to see what capitalism could do, and what it could do besides touch off the greatest act of consumer-goods smuggling in history courtesy of blue jeans was inspire a scrappy bunch of college kids to punch way above their weight on a rink against the mighty Red Army team. If indeed the first blow landed, a stunning jab to the face of the monster, the rest of the year would show the world that “you ain't seen nothin' yet.”
Fast forward through the 1980 presidential election campaign. Carter, whose reputation for diplomacy I've never been able to understand since it seemed to primarily consist of ineffectual whining about the Moscow Olympics and rolling over like a subservient puppy in the face of Islamist extremism in Iran, committed a comedy of errors that prompted Ronald Reagan, my childhood hero, to famously quip that “A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his.” Landslide is hardly a strong enough word, and the second great blow against Communism in 1980 was struck.
Since good things come in threes, 1980 wasn't done yet. And here is where the most unsung blow against the Soviets was struck not in Moscow or in the global military arena but in an apartment complex in New York City. The end result would deprive the Soviets of a critical part of Communism's propaganda power in the West and lead in some small way to something that nobody in 1980 could “Imagine”, namely the fall of the entire Soviet Evil Empire. This was, of course, the murder of John Lennon and the ascent to heroism in the process of Mark David Chapman.
Chapman's impact on history should not be underestimated. A tireless advocate for Communist ideas in the United States, Lennon's anthem still to this day can be heard in the rooms of idealistic nitwits who sincerely believe that the kind of central planning that led to secret police and bread lines everywhere it was tried (not to mention three million dead Ukrainians and at least thirty million dead Chinese in the Holodomor famine and Great Leap Forward, respectively) will somehow bring about a warm and fuzzy utopia in America.
Well, I say to hell with them. Mark David Chapman was a hero. He cut the head off the propaganda beast in the West, allowing the Reagan revolution and the American resurgence to continue full-bore. America seems to have found its testicular fortitude on December 8. The Eighties were a time of unprecedented economic activity, a boom that couldn't even be interrupted by a stock market meltdown, a boom that had the economic wherewithal to use to power of deficit spending to do to the Soviet military machine what John D. Rockefeller did to Pennsylvania's independent oil refining industry in the nineteenth century. Indeed, had Reagan exhorted Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”, Lennon would have been at the forefront of those telling Ol' Stainhead to keep the thing up.
There are indeed only two moments in the so-called American Century where our nation indeed stood as the world's undisputed champion. The first was on August 6, 1945, when a bunch of Japanese discovered what happens when a bunch of atoms develop a split personality. The second was on November 9, 1989, otherwise known as the most memorable day of my childhood, when even the kids who had no interest in current events spoke animatedly in seventh-grade social studies class. Everything else was just a whole lot of cultural chest-thumping and a bit of fast food.
Indeed, that latter moment, the fall of the Wall, was made possible by the events of 1980. Liberalism was in disarray in the Eighties, much as it was disorganized and weak during the George W. Bush regime recently. This has to at least in part fall on the shoulders of that accidental hero who fired the shot heard 'round the world on that cold December day in New York. It's been thirty years, Mark David Chapman, and I say you're a hero.