Saturday 20 January 2018

Guns, heroes and villains - a snapshot of Reagan's US

A 1987 road trip across America revealed a country riven by fault lines - the same ones that today mark out Trumpland

Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the USA
Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the USA

Eugene O'Brien

Thirty years ago, in the summer of 1987, a friend and I journeyed across Reagan's America. In many ways, the country then was as divided as Trumpland is today.

At the time, Colonel Oliver North was on the stand over the Iran/Contra affair. To the right-wingers, he was a true American hero - "the nearest thing to John Wayne on this earth". To the left, he was a liar, diverting arms sales to a fascist army in Nicaragua. We shot magnum 44s with middle-aged right-wingers in the hills of California, who swore that Russia was the empire of evil. America was a very restrained country, helping other smaller countries develop.

Ronald Reagan was not a clever man - he was rather stupid - but he had set a great mood throughout the country. He was a people's president. Everyone knew he was dumb, but accepted it. They liked the fact that he looked after the rich, as why should they give poor people money?

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