From James Hershberg in yesterday's Washington Post, an interesting if hurried analysis of how Ronald Reagan didn't singlehandedly bring down the Soviet Union:
Just Who Did Smash Communism? Ronald Reagan's policies surely contributed to the dissolution of the Kremlin's empire, culminating in the 1989 anti-communist revolutions in Eastern Europe and the breakup of the Soviet Union two years later. But for the media and Reagan's hagiographers to give the 40th president all the credit is like saying a late-inning relief pitcher had "won" a baseball game without mentioning the starting pitcher, the closer or the teammates who scored the runs that gave the team its lead. [full story]In fact, as I was just opining yesterday to my friend Ron, the article identifies Gorbachev as the most critical figure, though hardly the only factor.
Related question: How long are the damn flags going to stay at half-mast? Is this usual when former presidents die?
If you haven't yet, read British writer Elena Lappin's distressing Guardian account of being detained at LAX as a foreign reporter without a proper journalist visa:
Welcome to America Before I could approach to observe them [examining the luggage], the officer who had originally referred me to his supervisor was unzipping my suitcase and rummaging inside. For the first time, I raised my voice: "How dare you touch my private things?"Why is it that I find this as easy to believe as I do appalling?
"How dare you treat an American officer with disrespect?" he shouted back, indignantly. "Believe me, we have treated you with much more respect than other people. You should go to places like Iran, you'd see a big difference." The irony is that it is only "countries like Iran" (for example, Cuba, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe) that have a visa requirement for journalists. It is unheard of in open societies, and, in spite of now being enforced in the US, is still so obscure that most journalists are not familiar with it. Thirteen foreign journalists were detained and deported from the US last year, 12 of them from LAX....
During my surreal interlude at LAX, I told the officer taking my fingerprints that I would be writing about it all. "No doubt," he snorted. "And anything you'll write won't be the truth." [full story]
So way back in the mists of time I was engaged to a girl I'll call Katrina, because that's how I refer to her in my memoir. Katrina and I have stayed in touch all these years, and she now lives in Connecticut with her second husband, a Dutch chemist nine years her junior (go, Katrina!) whom I'll call Gerrit.
Laura and I had a holiday party back in December, and Katrina and Gerrit drove down from Connecticut for it. It was the first time I'd met Gerrit.
About an hour into the party, Gerrit came sauntering into the group I was chatting with, drunk off his ass, and said, "You know what I just found out that I didn't know before? I found out in the car on the way down here. This guy here"he indicated me"he used to be engaged to my wife."
I looked around at the group and said, "Well, this is awkward."
I'm rather beside myself to report that, besides reprinting my story "Strong Medicine," Gardner also listed a full five of my other stories in the Honorable Mentions list. I didn't even realize I'd published that many stories last year!
(Actually, I didn't, but he's including my contribution to Beyond the Last Star, which came out late in 2002.)
So here's to 2003, a very good year!