The Great Satan

The Great Satan

A smiling septuagenarian called Ronald Reagan was tasked with making the USA great again after the shambles of Vietnam and the Iranian hostage crisis had taken the gloss from the American dream. I remembered him from a horrific scene in a 1940s film called Kings Row where he loses his legs in a railway accident and wakes up screaming ‘Where’s the rest of me?’ He was no genial buffoon though and his tough-guy stance sent a wave of Anti-Americanism around leftish circles at this time. Ronnie may have been grinning and waving at Diana’s wedding and strolling around hand-in-hand with his bosom buddy Maggie Thatcher but his aggressive foreign policy made him Public Enemy Number Two in student eyes. It really took something to knock Chief Constable James Anderton off that perch. In 1985 there was a horribly violent action pic called First Blood in which Sylvester Stallone played a soldier called Rambo. The musclebound snarling bullet-festooned image became an icon for militarism and aggression. Even the Old Trafford t-shirt floggers got in on the act. There was one of a gun-toting Norman Whiteside in combat gear and bandana which I bought on Warwick Road – ‘Normbo, No Scouser can Stop him now’. In 1984 the US invaded Grenada and then bombed Libya. In 1986 they were illegally selling weapons to Iran to fund anti-communist contras in Nicaragua. They were up to no good in El Salvador. I saw Oliver Stone’s film about that in The Cornerhouse and its still one of my favourites. With his Star Wars and Evil Empire posturing it seems almost unbelievable now but it really did feel that we were on a collision course for all-out nuclear oblivion. John Lydon wailed about world destruction and even Sting had a mournful hit with ‘I hope the Russians love their children too’. Blimey. When Yuri Andropov shot down a Korean airliner in 1983 everyone stood still. There were no Russians or Easten Blocers at the Los Angeles Olympics – though there was one on Oldham Street selling vinyl. Everyone was boycotting or blockading, fingers were on triggers. There were pinkos and subversives under every bed. Kenny Everett captured the mood with his charicature of a broad-shouldered medal-festooned US General ‘Round em all up, put em in a field, and bomb the bastards’. But maybe it was the ever-astute Johnny Rotten who summarised it all most succinctly ‘The human race is becoming a disgrace’.

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