Bill Murchison
The point to keep in mind about people such as Maggie Thatcher is that their like don't really die. To live large is to live on: a point easy to grasp in an age when the doing of great deeds, the taking up of mighty tasks, passes as a personal eccentricity.

Consider the prime minister's reaction to caution flags hoisted by her own foreign office as the Royal Navy, in 1982, prepared to take back the Falkland Islands from the Argentines. Mrs. Thatcher allowed in her memoirs that certain of the cautions had force; e.g., "the risk of the Soviets becoming involved, the disadvantage of being looked at as a colonial power."

Yes? Really? "(W)hen you are at war you cannot allow the difficulties to dominate your thinking: you have to set out with an iron will to overcome them. And anyway what was the alternative? That a common or garden dictator should rule over the Queen's Subjects and prevail by fraud and violence? Not while I was Prime Minister."

A queen of the English people had spoken in like vein, 400 years earlier: " ... and (I) think foul scorn that Parma or Spain or any prince of Europe should dare to invade the borders of my realm."

Courage and firmness, against the Armada or the Argentines, have their effects -- generally positive ones. At worst they remind all within earshot that the right thing to do, at grave moments, is to do the right thing.

Margaret Thatcher built a legend, not just a career, on doing what her highly reliable conscience told her was right and necessary. For the world, and even her own country, taking the measure of this remarkable woman required study and time. She wore moral armor in preference to the shifting fashions of political advantage and survival. A "conviction politician," to use the phrase she applied to herself, she rode full tilt at political dragons: of whom there were vast numbers in late 20th century Britain.

The socialists had made a mess of a great nation. Around the world, Great Britain was known as "the sick man of Europe" (a reproach previously directed at Ottoman Turkey). "(T)he British Government (she wrote) ... jammed a finger in every pie." "It levied high rates of tax on work, enterprise, consumption, and wealth transfer." The Labor Party "gloried in planning, regulation, controls, and subsidies."

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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