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One of Us

It's a strange thing, ruminating over the death of someone who - although I did not know her personally - dominated and defined my childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. Over the past 24 hours, following the death of Margaret Thatcher, I have been doing just that, attempting to come to terms with the life and legacy of a polarizing politician who, in many ways, made me what I am.

Let there be no mistake: Many of the political stances and philosophical attitudes I have adopted throughout my life sprung from a mindset I developed in my youth, much of which was formed in deliberate and direct opposition to Mrs. Thatcher's policies. There is no denying that the Britain of the 1980s was a land of strife and suffering: My father, who had never been without work in his life, was laid off twice, to provide a parochial example. There were riots in Toxteth, Brixton, Liverpool and elsewhere; mass unemployment; a country torn asunder by the miners' strike; massive IRA bombings; the Falklands war; the demolition of the welfare state; the unleashing of a crass, monetaristic society ...

And yet ...

There is equally no denying that Britain in the pre-Thatcher years was, as Andrew Sullivan eloquently puts it, "insane." Unions held absurd sway, the government owned essentially everything, and the country was drab, defeated and downtrodden. The miners' strike was at least as much the fault of Arthur Scargill as the Prime Minister; she wasn't the one who invaded the Falklands; and one can hardly blame Thatcher for the Harrod's bombing, however hard one might try.

She was horribly wrong about Nelson Mandela and about the poll tax. She was, in hindsight, probably right about Europe. She was wrong about German reunification, but astonishingly far ahead of her time on climate change.

The celebrations that marked her death have, to my mind, been venal and distasteful as well as simple-minded. Many of those who are holding those celebrations chided others who showed satisfaction over the deaths of Osama bin Laden and Hugo Chavez - just as, to be fair, those who upbraid the anti-Thatcherites are themselves quick to cheer the passing of such perceived foes.

Sullivan expresses it all much better than me in this blog , although his perspective is somewhat different than mine, in that he was a youthful conservative who has arguably become more liberal whereas I am somewhat the opposite. Perhaps it is more fair to say that both of us recognize nuance, and the value in opposing views, including those that challenge positions we have long previously espoused.
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