Is anyone else growing weary of today’s political circus? Not to say that politics today are any flakier than they have been in the past but we are certainly positioned as helpless victims by a media that is relentless in their delivery of the headlines, appropriately skewed to an angle that is in line with networks values. It is enough to make me want to go back in time; back to a time when we didn’t have an entire world of information at our fingertips. Can’t we just go back to the days when Chuck Norris was responsible for keeping the bad guys in-check? It wasn’t that long ago that our nation’s highest-ranking elected leader drove a Jeep CJ with a manual transmission and shared the ride with a trusted golden retriever named ‘Victory’. Those were the days…
We live in a truly incredible world today, one that seems to have advanced so rapidly by developing technology that I often wonder what we may have lost in the transition. We can go online and purchase an automobile, arrange financing without having to shake a banker’s hand and have it delivered without ever leaving the house. We even flock to purchase cars that are called “hybrids”, a term which used to have a less-than-desirable meaning not that long ago. We are literally raising a society of children that drive around carelessly in their cars in an attempt to capture imaginary cartoon characters that appear only on the high-definition displays of their expensive smartphones but have never had the experience of having to locate a desolate payphone late at night, scrape together coins from the gooey ashtray of a meager-excuse-for-a-first-car just so they can call their parents to tell them they are going to miss curfew. Heck, they probably can’t comprehend the need for this thing you call a… “Payphone”? So, what has changed??
When Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, he had already established himself as a political figure to be reckoned with. He had previously made two runs for the office of President, in ’68 and again in ’76. He was not familiar, in any way, with the word QUIT. I kind of like to think that the word ‘quit’ wasn’t even established in his vocabulary. Despite having failed to as much as make the Republican ticket in 1976, losing out to a soon-to-be ousted incumbent Gerald Ford, he went on to become, what was at that time, the oldest man to ever be elected to the office of President in 1980. At the spry 69 years of age, Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter to become the 40th President of the United States, an achievement not easily attained by those who spend their time frivolously.
Then in 1981, just 69 days into his first term as president, Reagan fell victim to an assassination attempt outside of a Washington, D.C. hotel at the hands of one, John Hinckley Jr. – a guy whose infatuation with a movie star proved to be more than he could deal with. Nonetheless, a ricochet shot to the old noggin from a small caliber handgun was not enough to deter a man such as Reagan. You see, Ronald Wilson Reagan had a humble upbringing and it showed in the manner in which he approached life. While Presidents are often captured on film being chauffeured around in bullet-proof limos, Reagan looked most himself behind the wheel of one of his Jeeps navigating through a pasture on his farm in beautiful Rancho del Cielo, CA.
His favorite Jeep was an old, rickety ’62 CJ6 that his loving wife Nancy had given to him as a Christmas present back in 1963. Reagan was known to put the Jeep through its paces regularly in any number of projects around the farm. This was in no way a show truck but rather a bona fide workhorse that shared in its owner’s belief that there is invaluable greatness in simplicity. There’s no automatic transmission or power windows here, only a PTO-driven winch and rigid place to sit, but only long enough to catch your breath before you get back to work. To know that the former president often referred to his ranch home as “heaven” (or at least in the same zip code, he would joke), it’s clear that Jeeps were considered an essential component to his own perception of happiness; uncomplicated, imperfect, somewhat unsightly but absolutely essential.
Ronald Reagan’s ‘other’ Jeep was much more of a head-turner- a 1983 Jeep CJ8 Scrambler that he called “The Gipper”. Another gift from his wife Nancy, this sky blue Scrambler seemed much more suited for hauling the leader of the free world around than clearing trails on the back forty acres. Ironically, when Reagan hosted Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at the ranch in 1992, Reagan wasted no time in dressing Gorbachev in an obligatory cowboy hat and wheeled him around the ranch. At the close of the Cold War when Reagan made his renowned declaration “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”, something tells me that Gorbachev knew deep down that if he didn’t tear it down, Reagan and his trusty CJ probably would have hooked up a winch line and done it themselves. That’s just how a Jeep owner thinks.
While I would like to proclaim that Jeep had a gigantic part in ending the Cold War, I can’t. The truth is more likely found in the simple premise that a genuine Jeep-loving American patriot, who held steadfastly to his ideals and convictions, played a much larger role. Heck, we didn’t even need to break out Chuck Norris to get it done after all!