One of the major attractions of the Ronald Reagan candidacy was the man's solid belief in the virtues of the past. In essence, he came to the country and said: "I have seen the past, and it works," Millions of Americans then gave him the presidency. Their expectations are now enormous, rooted in the hope that Reagan will now roll back history and let us live in some barely remembered Doris Day movie, before Watergate, feminism, Vietnam, gay rights, inflation and television changed everything. I didn't vote for Reagan, but I do share some of those sentiments. Here are some of my suggestions for the Reagan Rollback:
1. Sports . I want eight teams in each of the baseball leagues again. I want half the professional hockey and basketball teams to be closed down so that I can remember the names of the players and managers, and once again be able to root for or against a team. I want Little League abolished, so kids can play games again in a free, spontaneous way. More than anything else, I'd like it to be the summer of 1957 again, when the Dodgers were in Brooklyn and the Giants in Ebbetts Field and the only people we ever despised were the hated Yankees. I want sportscasters who speak English, not jargon. I want prizefighters who get carried out on their shields, instead of retiring with stomach cramps.
2. Restaurants . I want the butter pat, with its little strip of waxed paper, to be made a felony. I want waitresses to call me "sweetheart" again, and shout my order in their private code ("Sure thing, sweetheart. Charlie! A BT down, hold the mayo, and a cow!"). I want Reagan to send the Army engineers into the men's rooms of all the restaurants in the United States and use crowbars to remove those hot-air hand-drying machines (ever try to dry your face with one of them?). I want all menus to be written in English, not French. I want people who hate being waiters to quit and give the jobs to people who want them, and think they are performing honorable work.
3. Movies . I want the end of the $5 admission price. I want no more interviews with spoiled young movie directors who tell us what wonderful artists they are, while spending $40 million on turkeys. I want the return of double features, and coming attractions, and cartoons, and matrons who patrol the balcony to stop kids from smoking. I want to see movies that thrill, dazzle and delight, but I don't want any more movies in which nice middle-class directors make their actors cut the throats of other human beings in the name of entertainment. I want the level of movie bloodshed and violence reduced, and more stories that deal with the follies and triumphs of the human heart.
4. Doctors . I want doctors who make house calls. I want to see the medical schools begin to turn out more general practitioners than specialists, so that people who need a doctor can get help in one stop, and not a series of visits to high-priced medical technicians. I want doctors who believe in the oath of Hippocrates, and who don't see human pain and its relief as a means of becoming rich through Medicaid billing schemes.
5. Religion . I'd like to hear Latin again in the Roman Catholic mass, because the use of literal English has robbed the old ceremonies of their mystery and universality. I'd like all the leaders of organized religion to spend their time caring for the sick, the damaged and the poor, and stay off television. I believe in the constitutional separation of church and state, and that means churches should pay taxes like any other American corporation and clergymen should have no special privileges. I'd like clergymen to stay out of politics; if they can't restrain themselves politically, then they should leave the church and run for office as laymen.
6. Repairmen . I'd like the return of men who know how to fix things. These were men to whom you would bring a damaged toaster, radio or vacuum cleaner and know each could be repaired. Somehow, prosperity has removed these men from the United States. To get anything repaired these days requires major logistical planning, because the dealers are never where you live. Try mailng a Betamax to a dealer.
7. Crime . I subscribe to the motto of the late Frankie DePaula, a hoodlum who later became a prizefighter: "If you can't do the time, don't do the crime." I'd like a return to that concept of certainty of punishment. I don't mean cruel or unusual punishment, and I oppose the death penalty because it doesn't work. I mean that people who break the law, are caught, tried and found guilty must know they are going to be punished. That concept should apply to white-collar criminals and to poor kids off the streets. In many American cities, the jails are overcrowded, the judicial system bogged down, and kids often get off with suspended sentences for minor crimes. But unpunished minor crimes, in my experience, almost always encourage major crimes. Every American kid, of every class and color, must know that if he breaks the law he could end up in the slammer.
The Reagan Rollback might have other ideas, of course; some dreamy romantic notions about a world in which American power stands forever unassailable, from the Panama Canal to Southeast Asia. That era is gone forever. But we should be able to do something about those butter pats.