“The Violent Assault that Changed a Presidency”
The O’Reilly-Dugard team has provided yet another thrilling read in their Killing series, though this one differs from Lincoln and Kennedy in that Reagan didn’t actually die from an assassin’s bullet. Nevertheless, this book covers in detail Hinckley’s assassination attempt as well as the possible accelerant effects the trauma might have had on Reagan’s later sufferings from Alzheimer’s.
The authors begin this book in a non-chronological fashion, introducing a scene or event in Reagan’s life, then stopping abruptly to rewind to the background circumstances that had brought him to this point. I enjoyed reading more about Reagan’s Hollywood history and learning more about the roots of his deep, personal hatred for Communism (32). I sort of wish that I had been older than a mere infant during Reagan’s presidency, for I’m sure those years would have captivated me as have the last two decades of politics.
Looking back, I yearn for those days when communication wasn’t so immediate, when hand-written letters and phone calls mattered, when newspapers and the nightly news were something to anticipate, back when it seemed that character mattered a bit more than “just be yourself.” Reagan had his dark spots, and it’s clear from this book and from the evidence of history that he was a poor father with a controlling wife. Yet at the same time, he maintained the air of dignity that the office of the President once demanded. He stood for the right and lived by his principles, and he is going down in history as one of the nation’s greatest Presidents because of it.
Certainly, and despite his paternal demeanor while in office, the effects of Reagan’s aloofness and absenteeism regarding his children are made clear by the decisions those children have made throughout the years (249). This is something I would never want, to simply “appear” paternal without actually having any control within my home. God help me to be truly so! to love and be an example for my children. I can get into such selfish ruts where my children become nuisances and I spend less and less time with them. Oh, how guilty I feel! I pray to be a Zacharias for my children, instilling in them a love for God and a passion for dedicated service, just as that faithful priest did for young John the Baptist.
While there’s likely plenty more to pull from Killing Reagan than what I’ve briefly mentioned, specifically about the mental health issues of both John Hinckley Jr. and President Reagan himself, such issues are so far from my own personal experiences that they didn’t hit me the way they might other readers. I’m not going to disparage the authors for “making more of the assassination attempt than was really there,” because as an historical document, this book taught me a lot. Also, this was one of the first books that has ever ignited in me a desire to spend any amount of time on YouTube, as I sought out Reagan speeches and footage of the assassination attempt. If you read through this book yourself, I encourage you to supplement your reading in the same way.
I really enjoy the narrative style used throughout this series, and I look forward to the future installments. Incidentally, with all the racial violence that has overtaken our nation once again, I would be very interested to see if this authorial team ever seeks to tackle the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination, something of which I know very little. Such a work might help inform a great many of O’Reilly’s viewers about the real wounds of yesterday that are the starting point for many of the perceived wounds of today.