Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Oddly enough, I didn't feel like blogging for a while after the Pope died.

I say "oddly enough" because I've not been to confession or communion in about three decades, and the last time I was at mass was about ten years ago.

Yes, my name is Patrick, I'm from Ireland, and I'm a lapsed Catholic.

I thought about it, and the real reason I stopped blogging was that I was actually grieving his death. There wasn't anything religious about it. I was mourning the man.

When I was growing up, Soviet Communism appeared to be ascendent. They had Eastern Europe, eleven timezones of Russia, much of Africa, and were starting to make moves into Central and South America. Viet Nam had ended badly, and Jimmy Carter was gutting the military before sending Spec Ops guys to die in Iran. Chrysler was not selling crappy cars and begging for a government bailout.

I started seeing hope with the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979. She went immediately to work on the unions, putting the worst of Britain's left to flight, and making possible the party led by Tony Blair. Red Ken's the most extreme of Britain's current crop of elected leftists, and he looks like a teddy bear when compared to Arthur Scargill.

Later on that year the Pope visited Poland. This gave Solidarity the shot in the arm it needed to really take off. By 1982 Jaruzelski was imposing martial law, just to keep some level of control on the country. In the meantime, the KGB had had a go at the Pope, arranging for a proxy to shoot him in St Peter's square.

In 1980 I went to work in the US for the summer. When I returned, people asked who I thought would win the US Presidential election that November. "Reagan", I replied. It was obvious. It was like a feeling in the air: Carter had screwed up massively, again and again, and it was time for him to go.

Reagan's election, the return of the hostages from Iran, the US military buildup that began soon after his election were heartening to me.

So, by 1980 you had in place the three leaders who would end the cold war: Thatcher to keep Reagan from going wobbly, the Pope to give Reagan moral purpose, and Reagan to spend the money and deploy the troops. You could see just see "Tear Down this Wall" on the horizon.

In 1983, we had Grenada, and for the first time in decades the Societs were thrown back. Next it was Daniel Ortega's turn. A muscular application of the Monroe doctrine, if I ever saw one.

I joined the US military in late 1984, and served through 1991.

Not to recount the history, but those three leaders, with the help of God and a few Marines, brought down an ideology that had been a scourge on the world.

By last month Reagan was dead, Thatcher is fragile. And the Pope had died.

I don't know how else to put it but to say that a giant of history was gone and, remembering what he'd done, all I could do was shut up for a while and remember the remarkable achievements of a life well-lived.

What a man.

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