Tuesday, April 09, 2013

What Do I Think Of Margaret Thatcher?

The usual questions one asks of the death of someone who once hogged the headlines are: where were you, and what were you doing when she died?

Not with Maggie. More so even than with her great friend and political ally, Ronald Reagan, the interrogatory which will resonate throughout history will be: what did you think of her?

Which is about as good a general epitaph as you will find anywhere. There are very few who are sentient about matters politic who do not have an opinion, and almost the same number would hesitate to suggest that she was irrelevant.

A divisive leader, who forever changed Great Britain? A leader of unyielding will, who transformed Britain's economy? An inspiration? A mindless thug? A champion of freedom? The ultimate authoritarian?

We none of us seem to be in any doubt as to her character traits, only as to whether or not they were positive or negative.

I am biased. I joined the British Conservative Party in 1977 because of her. More specifically, because of the Introduction she wrote for the Tories' pre-Election Manifesto Election Manifesto, "The Right Approach."

She didn't scream for communists and socialists to die. She didn't rail against colored immigrants or welfare queens. She calmly explained (or at least, this was my tender 21 year old reading) that pretty much all politicians think they are right.

But that there are times the political pendulum swings too far in one direction. And in Great Britain, at that time, the pendulum had swing too far away from individual freedom. The ability for ordinary folks to have a meaningful say in determining their own destiny.

I didn't know this at the time, but this was to become my own rallying cry over the decades. Whether as UK Tory, US Democrat, social libertarian, co-operator or Occupier (I've ... um ... evolved politically since the Eighties).

I am always working to help create space to allow individuals the opportunity to make decisions about their lives in freedom, with dignity, and without interference from arbitrary authority.

How did the Tories work out for me? Ah well. Your first political party is like your first love: you never really let go. You close your eyes to the bad. And return for what you remember of the good. Time and time again.

And so it is that I have entirely avoided the question, what do I think of Margaret Thatcher?

I really can't answer. So, I'll answer by revealing what I think of my active time with the Tories in the Eighties. And let you deduce the rest.

I am proud that we gave many who were trapped in social housing the opportunity to enjoy the dignity of owning their own homes. I am proud that we began the process (which continues to this day, under leaders of different political hue) the process by which means many more than used to be the case can achieve success in their lives, regardless of where they were born, the color of their skin, their regional dialect, or the income of their parents.

And I will forever live with the enduring, stomach-churning shame that I looked the other way as we - not just Thatcher, not her Ministers alone, but we - as we desecrated working-class community after working-class community to achieve ends we thought more important than the human soul.

And now I sit here and cry. For a brilliant, focused, flawed, favorite Aunt. Who has passed. And for the memory of those we hurt, which memory will never pass.

"Where there is hatred, let me sow love." - Francis of Assisi