While Richard Milhous Nixon spent his final days in a coma, America prepared itself for his death. And when death finally came, a warm wash of goodwill seemed to flood the media airwaves, presumably reflecting the nation's readiness to forgive and forget.
And yes, there is something to be said for forgiveness. But in allowing Nixon to shuffle off his mortal coil with his long-sought-for reputation as an elder statesman, America has lapsed into amnesia.
The media Ä which brought down Nixon's presidency Ä has responded to his death in its best "even-handed" manner: While Nixon lied to the nation and helped to cover up crimes surrounding the Watergate scandal, he also accomplished blah blah blah blah. It seems that because Nixon was, after all, the president of the United States, he must have been a good guy after all.
And so the most villainized man in American politics has become another hero, flawed but not overly so. Thousands lined up to march past his closed coffin Wednesday and "pay him homage," and television news and papers across the country have buried the hatchet with long, "in-depth" analyses of the politician, crediting him for his work toward peace in the Soviet Union and China.
A question arises: if Richard Nixon was not the villain we all thought he was, why did everyone wait until his death to say so?
There have been a few voices of dissent. Some have pointed out that Nixon came to power on his promise of trustworthiness Ä and then gave us Watergate. Others have questioned his "success" in foreign policy, remembering that he was responsible for escalating the war in Vietnam and for propping up repressive regimes in Latin America. In short, there are some in this country who aren't willing to forgive Nixon just because he used to be president and now he is dead.
No, Nixon is not the worst president in U.S. history. In fact, a few hours of reading about the long-forgotten Iran-Contra scandal would convince many that Ronald Reagan was guilty of far more wrongdoing than Nixon ever was Ä and Reagan left office at the height of his popularity.
But this does not mean Nixon should be left off the hook. Rather, America's wash of goodwill toward Tricky Dick is just another example of nationwide apathy.
We should not be so ready to forgive our prodigal presidents. They make decisions that affect people the world over, and they should be held to a higher standard than this Ä both during and after their time on this earth. Read Next Article