This is the famous Kaddish scene from Angels in America, when the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg appears to say Kaddish for Roy Cohen, the lawyer who considered having her executed to be his greatest professional accomplishment.
I’m not certain there’s much to say about the death of Margaret Thatcher–certainly, there’s a lot that’s been said, and a lot that’s been said about what’s been said, and so on and so forth, ad infinitum. But, much fun as there is to be had on Twitter, it’s all terribly, terribly predictable, and rather pointless, this contest over the symbolic meaning of an old woman’s death. Nobody with a conscience can remember Thatcher’s Britain and mourn its passing, just as nobody with a conscience can sincerely celebrate an old lady, bereft of husband, growing increasingly frail, suffering from dementia, and finally succumbing to a fatal stroke.
And nobody with a jot of sense can seriously confuse the latter with the former–an old lady has died, yes, but we are still trapped in the Britain that she was instrumental in creating, and we are trapped there because she was merely instrumental in its creation, rather than its sole architect. She aided and abetted the portion of the British public who consistently voted her party into power; she did not remake the country in her image so much as she reflected back at the country an image it was already prepared to recognise as its own: this is, after all, how democracy functions.
She was one of the two great female leaders of the 20th century, the other being Golda Meir; their approaches to the exercise of power were quite similar, and I’m fairly certain that between them they shaped the stereotype of women’s leadership that we’ve been struggling against ever since. Together with John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Berlin Wall, she was one of the seemingly stable points in the world in which I grew up.
That world started ending over twenty years ago.
We are still trapped in its wreckage.