Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Ronald Reagan Museum of the Victims of Communism

I won't catch up on everything I've missed the past couple of months, but I thought this proposal was worth a mention. David Frum, as the voice of a new moderate conservatism (or an old conservatism, divorced from Tea Party radicalism), ecapsulated his postion in his approach to the Reagan Centennial:
To date, the main attempts to honor Reagan in the nation's capital have gone askew. A government office building second in size only to the Pentagon? An airport from which Washingtonians cannot fly to California? These do not seem very appropriate monuments to a president who fought bureaucracy and yearned for home. The other ideas that sometimes circulate in Congress seem equally misplaced: Placing Reagan on the currency or building a giant statue somewhere in Washington. More than most presidents, Reagan would have wanted to be remembered for his ideas, not his image. The right commemoration would honor those.Let me suggest something: A museum in Washington dedicated to the victims of communism.
This idea is just that, unlikely to go beyond an op-ed piece, and I only really raise it because I quite like it. It's also, though, a neat suggestion of how Reagan's memory might be wrested away from bland and blinkered partisan triumphalism in the commemoration this year. The proposal affirms Reagan's conservatism and anti-communism, but aligns him with the national and international history of the Cold War. He would be associated with the bi- and non-partisan American identity of the twentieth century, and with the experiences of a diverse, global multitude. A reflective, educational museum would also avoid the ambiguity and potential drawn-out controversy of a symbolic monument to Reagan on the Mall. Of course, some on the left would raise the question of the victims of anti-communism in Central and South America, South-East Asia and Africa, but such questions might be more constructive than bitter. The idea would also emphasise the legacy of which Reagan was perhaps most proud - his personal achievements in aiding the plights of individual political prisoners in the Soviet Union, and gaining the approbation of anti-communist dissenters worldwide.

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