There’s a quote about Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi with a reference to his reign.
For some reason, the use of this word (reign) seems appropriate only in certain contexts. One couldn’t really say that an American leader had a reign, the period of time during which they were in charge is just too brief and the amount of power that they’ve had is too…not absolute.
The quote I’m referring to came from a UPI dispatch from Tehran about how he [the Shah] had “…faced the worst crisis in his 37-year reign.”
That’s a long time to be The Man. It seems almost too obvious to need to be stated, but I’ll state it anyway: one shouldn’t be in power for that long, if at all. 37 years undeniably constitutes a reign. But does 4 or 8 years? Would anyone refer to president Carter’s time in office as a reign, or the first Bush? What about Reagan or Clinton or Obama?
The word also definitely comes with negative connotations, some sort of unquestioned, long standing authority. These adjectives being why I think it would be hyperbolic to refer to any particular president’s time in office as their reign, though reign could potentially also be understood as one with a sort of absolute authority. So in that sense, would it make sense to refer to these presidencies as reigns of power, terror, peace (well, this one wouldn’t apply to any American presidents, but for the hypothetical sentiment…), or whatever else?
It wouldn’t be surprising or even understated, in a certain sense, to refer to the presidency of Ronald Wilson Reagan (666) as a reign of terror. There was an undeniable sense of fear and intimidation during his time in office, felt primarily by the minority communities in the United States, the distraught nations in Central America, Africa, and the Middle East, as well as some sectors of the middle and lower-middle classes in general.
Could the same not be said of Clinton’s time–especially if one were an Iraqi or Irani citizen, suffering as a result of the economic sanctions their leadership passed on to the masses.
Possibly these examples are too specific or narrow to really demand the use of the words reign or terror. Meaning that they don’t necessarily express what could reasonably be the view of most people or to be the primary takeaways from these two administrations. Maybe also they’re a little too polarizing, as most people either loved Reagan and hated Clinton, or vice versa.
I’m curious as to how we could characterize the past presidencies, at least the presidencies I’ve alive during, if they were to be called reigns. What was the main theme? Maybe:
Trump: Incompetent Rage
Bush (Jr): Incessant War
Bush (Sr): Constituent Disregard
Reagan: Terror (?)
It is hard for to use the word terror only to describe Reagan, rather than Bush Jr or any other of those listed, since Bush used it in every speech for about nine years, and all of the others are guilty of the following, at least to some extent: marginalizing and terrorizing specific communities in our own country. Whether it’s having decreased funding for social programs, while consistently increasing an unnecessarily excessive military budget; increased penalties for non-violent and/or drug related crimes to disproportionately affect racial minorities; not, or at most ineffectively, supported the LGBTQ population, by consistently disregarding the opportunity to pass irrefutable federal anti-discriminatory and/or equal rights legislation.
Maybe rather than attributing the word reign to one president’s legacy or time in office, the term ought to be used in reference to the role itself.
Looking at them as a collective is kind of like that scene in Dogma, where Bartleby and Loki decide to shoot up the executives of the Mooby corporation. Looking at them this way, it’s hard not to think of the history of the American Presidency as the Reign of American Presidency.