Tear Down This Statue
Let us give thanks for all blessings, for our daily meals, for sunlight and cool breeze, for being alive… and for the little things, the things that connect, the things that make us laugh.
Why, just last week at Bonita Canyon Sports Park in Newport Beach, California I saw a truly wondrous thing. There before me was a bronze statue of Ronald Reagan painstakingly rendered, bent over — pulled down in the same manner and position that Saddam Hussein’s statue was pulled down by Marines in Baghdad after our country’s illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The official version of Reagan’s toppling suggests a robbery attempt that went awry. “Ronald Reagan Theft Attempt Fails,” said the news. Apparently, someone had tied a chain around Reagan’s head and then to the front of a 10-year old tan crew cab truck. The takedown artist then hopped into his pickup, put it in reverse and pulled Reagan down exquisitely so that the resemblance to Saddam’s takedown was unmistakable. Officials said that the tear down might have been a failed attempt to sell Reagan for scrap. But we know what really happened. The toppling was an act of political art.
When Reagan was president he supported the regime of Saddam Hussein. Ronnie even sent Donald Rumsfeld as a special envoy to shake hands and make nice with the Iraqi dictator. Reagan’s support was realized in Iraq’s chemical weapons arsenal. Ultimately, Hussein used those chemical weapons in the genocide against the Kurds.
Reagan’s sports park statue wasn’t pulled down as an act of thievery. It was pulled down as an act of art — to equate Ron and Saddam and to open a window on Reagan's horrific Mid-east policy, Reagan’s terrorist Nicaraguan “Freedom Fighters,” Reagan's violation of the Boland Amendment, Reagan's Iran-Contra scandal, Reagan's arms for hostages deal, Reagan's close ties with Ferdinand Marcos, Reagan’s deregulation policies — the fountainhead of the current global economic downturn.
Reagan’s statue only stood at attention — straight up — for a short while. It was dedicated this October after a year of controversy. The Newport Beach City Council had considered planting it at both their new City Hall, and later at Castaways Park. Both site proposals were withdrawn due to protests.
And so Bonzo’s bronze statue was, with the pull of a truck, refined and remixed to mirror the final pose of Saddam Hussein. While it stood beautifully rendered at half-mast, remixed Reagan was a remarkable gift to our culture— a reminder of the cowboy who called ketchup a vegetable, emptied California’s state mental hospitals into the streets and said “Facts are stupid things.” Unfortunately, because of its posture — its bow to Baghdad — Newport Beach city officials removed this great work before it received a wider audience. Still, at this time of Thanksgiving, we give thanks for the little things.
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