Admirers from across the world paid respects to one of the greatest women in history this week. Margaret Thatcher, ‘The Iron Lady,’ died April 8. She was honored at St. Paulís Cathedral in London on April 17.
The highlights of Mrs. Thatcher’s political career and accomplishments are well known. She was the first woman to be elected to leadership of a major political party in Great Britain. She was the only woman ever to become Prime Minister of that nation. She was the longest-serving British Prime Minister in the 20th century.
According to President Obama’s official statement, Margaret Thatcher was, “… one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend.” She stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can’t be shattered. As Prime Minister, she helped restore the confidence and pride that has always been the hallmark of Britain at its best. And as an unapologetic supporter of our transatlantic alliance, she knew that with strength and resolve we could win the Cold War and extend freedom’s promises.
“Here in America, many of us will never forget her standing shoulder to shoulder with President Reagan, reminding the world that we are not simply carried along by the currents of history — we can shape them with moral conviction, unyielding courage and iron will.”
These, of course, are very kind words to say.
It is an inescapable fact of life that the passing of any great historical figure generates a continuum of conflicting emotions. There is typically an element of grief when we say goodbye to those who cast such a long shadow over the affairs of our lifetime. At the same time, we take pride in the example set by one who shows us how to overcome obstacles, achieve success and bear up bravely in the face of setbacks and sorrows. We may find ourselves discouraged by the thought that the vacancy left by the passing of such remarkable leaders is not being filled by capable champions determined to follow in the footsteps of these giants.
Ideally, each time we come face-to-face with the realization that there are limits to the strength, opportunities and time allotted to everyone, we look for and embrace the good things left behind when any life comes to an end.
All of these emotions took their turn in my reflections on the passing of Lady Margaret Thatcher. Unfortunately, there was an element of shame as well. I was ashamed to see so much mean-spirited rejoicing following the news of her death. On April 14, the Atlantic Wire Service reported that a coordinated effort in England drove a song celebrating Mrs. Thatcher’s death to the No. 1 slot in British musical charts.
News outlets reported tasteless protests organized along the funeral route. Protesters turned their backs on her coffin and shouted anti-Thatcher remarks as her remains passed by. In northern England, protesters paraded an effigy of Mrs. Thatcher in an open wooden coffin and then burned it. Another effigy of Mrs. Thatcher hung from the roof of a social club to the delight of drinking onlookers.
No doubt there are many in Britain who believe Mrs. Thatcher’s policies were harsh and unfair. In her efforts to revitalize the downward spiraling British economy, she spearheaded measures that, according to some, disabled the power of British trade unions for a generation. Some accused her of ushering in a period of unbridled greed into the British economy.
No doubt, persuasive arguments can be advanced by critics — of anyone. This, of course, includes Mrs. Thatcher. But we ask ourselves, what good is gained by inspiring a public celebration of her death? What accomplishment is achieved by being openly disrespectful of her remains? What respectable point are you making by participating in a shameful, insulting parody of her funeral?
We remember how Mrs. Thatcher was always dignified and respectful in her response to her critics and political opponents. Unfortunately, the reprehensible conduct of those so shameless in their behavior toward this dead lady seems to pass for acceptable political comment in the current theater of public discourse.
But it was not the crass conduct of some British citizens that cause me the most shame. At the funeral of this ‘great champion of freedom and liberty,’ this ‘true friend’ of America, as President Obama called her, there were notable absences. The government of Argentina, who under Margaret Thatcherís leadership was defeated in the Falklands war, sent no representative. But neither did the government of the United States of America. Well, words are cheap. I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.
MIKE HINKLE is an Edmond resident and retired attorney.