Monday, April 8, 2013

The Appalling Legacy of Margaret Thatcher

Today there is something strange being lauded. It is not so much Margaret Thatcher but "Thatcherism" that is being held up as something wonderful. When you separate the two, you get a better idea of why opinions are so divided.

Margaret Thatcher was an extraordinary person. She rose to the top of British politics and stayed there for over a decade. In and of itself, her rise to power is evidence that she was not a person to be taken lightly and accomplished something remarkable. Even though the most recent depiction of her, by Meryl Streep, focused on the pathos of her dotage and the loneliness of her life after losing her husband, she is not a figure who should be pitied.

Thatcherism was a horrendous policy for Britain. It destroyed and vanquished and ruined lives and left a legacy of economic austerity that should be condemned for what it is--the wholesale sentencing of millions to despair and poverty. Her economics were the thing that was so appalling about her time in office. She came by her opinions by way of her father, if you believe how it was depicted in the movie about her life. This was just about the worst thing that the British people could have experienced.

It was Robyn Hitchcock who named his compilation of songs from that time "While Thatcher Mauled Britain," and that sums up just about how I feel about the whole thing. Being an American who lived under Reagan, I can't gin up the nostalgia for anything from that time.

Human rights under Thatcherism? Please. She celebrated Augusto Pinochet and condemned Nelson Mandela. For that alone, we should not be saying nice things about her.

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