When Variety reported this week that actor and comic Will Ferrell was considering a part starring as President Reagan in a comedy, my first thought was, “what’s the big deal?” After all, Ferrell and others have long portrayed Reagan and other former presidents in skits on “Saturday Night Live.” But, when I heard this comedy would mock President Reagan’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, I changed my mind.
And now, it appears, so has Ferrell.
The actor announced Friday afternoon that he is “not pursuing” the part of Ronald Reagan. And to this I say wise move, Will, wise move.
Now I know you might find it odd that a liberal Democrat like me, someone who sincerely hopes Hillary Clinton will be our next president, would be supporting the Messiah of the Republican Party. So let me be clear. Politics is one thing, kindness and compassion are others.
I have had the honor of meeting three of President Reagan’s children: Patty, Ron and Michael. I know that Patty and Ron just buried their mother, and I know it is taboo to speak ill of the dead. But for me, this went even deeper.
I lost my own father at the young age of 57. And although he did not suffer from Alzheimer’s, and he certainly wasn’t a former president, I cannot fathom how painful it would be to watch a film mocking and laughing at a parent who is now deceased. Worse yet, a parent one who suffered with a disease as horrific as Alzheimer’s.
My grandfather lived until the week before his 96th birthday. He held down a job until he was 90. But something happened to him between 90 and 92. He began to fade away. Literally. He had forgotten my grandmother, the woman he was married to for over 60 years. He had forgotten his children, and, as one of his grandchildren, I, too, was eventually forgotten.
I remember my mother visiting him during those days and my grandfather was watching me appear on Fox News Channel. My mom said “Dad, do you know who that is on the TV?” “Of course, I do,” he said. “It’s the lady on TV.” He didn’t know me. He just liked my smile. But, sadly, there was nothing familiar to him about it.
Oddly enough, I ran into Michael Reagan in the Green Room at Fox News’ L.A. bureau a couple of weeks ago. And although we couldn’t be farther apart politically he is always cordial when he sees me and even admitted (sorry, Michael!) that he enjoys it when I appear on the network.
This is just one example of how we are all people first, and can put our politics aside on more important issues.
Patty and Ron both exemplified this when the two, who were on opposite sides politically from their father, spoke of Alzheimer’s Disease – and not as a laughing matter.
On Patty’s website this week she wrote an open letter about the Reagan comedy say, “Perhaps if you knew more, you would not find the subject humorous. Alzheimer’s … steals what is most precious to a human being — memories, connections, the familiar landmarks of a lifetime … I watched as fear invaded my father’s eyes — this man who was never afraid of anything. I heard his voice tremble as he stood in the living room and said, ‘I don’t know where I am.’
And I think this is where the politics of the right and left have no place. Alzheimer’s is not a laughing matter; neither is suffering. On this we can all agree.
As Michael tweeted Friday about Ferrell’s decision, “Thank you for taking the right path.”
Wise move Will, wise move.