Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What would George Santayana say?

What would George Santayana say?: Should those who do not remember the past accurately be condemned for reenacting it? . . . . See: Marking Davis’s Confederate Inauguration, By Campbell Robertson, February 20, 2011.

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Also on the subject of history and the ability to remember it, see: The Doctor’s World: When Alzheimer’s Waited Outside the Oval Office (Reagan Memoir Raises the Difficulty of Confirming Alzheimer's Disease) By Lawrence K. Altman, M.D., February 21, 2011.

Ronald Reagan died of Alzheimer's Disease on June 5, 2004. His last day in office as President was January 20, 1989. According to this Times article, Reagan was diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s (a exceedingly difficult diagnosis to pin down) in 1993, four years after he left office and that Reagan began taking annual mental-status tests starting in1990. These mental-status tests reportedly were started "a year after" a 1989 horseback riding accident after which a subdural hematoma blood clot removed from Reagan’s brain was examined and (this is confusingly not-quite-explained) may or may not have shown signs of the disease. Reagan’s disease was very much apparent by 1994 when he, with evident difficulty, wrote a letter to the American public announcing his retirement from public life because of his decline. Even if Reagan had been showing symptoms of the onset of the disease during his presidency it does not mean that he would have been rendered legally incompetent. What Reagan was or was not able to remember became a central topic of discussion during the Iran/Contra affair (and ensuing legal persecutions) that came to the public’s attention in 1996.

The recent HBO documentary "Reagan" by Eugene Jarecki spends a fair amount of time pointing out how the political Right has been consciously constructing a mythology about of Reagan that is largely contrary to facts (in order to be consistent with their own agenda). The documentary cleverly uses Reagan’s own voice-over to inveigh against mythologies that ignore factual reality. The Jarecki documentary treats Reagan’s eventual dementia as being squarely outside of his span of years in office implying that there was no overlap.

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