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The Day That Margaret Thatcher Dies


Since moving upstate in 2005 I have tried desperately hard to become a better person. In the nature of the Woodstock environment, I have taken up zazen at the local Buddhist monastery, and along the way, I have tried to always see the good in others, tried not to be consumed by negative energy, tried to avoid using the word hate, and so on. Evidently I have failed. Because I have never been able to get over the idea of how happy I would feel on the day that Margaret Thatcher dies. I always vowed I would throw a party. At least I’m not the only one:

Of course, selfish to the very end, Thatcher had to go and pop her clogs on a Monday morning Eastern Standard Time, right after an enormously enjoyable (for me) and  very exhausting (for her and me) weekend , just as my wife and I getting the kids off to school and as I prepare to put my head down and get some work done. If there was champagne in the house, I might have made myself a Monday morning mimosa. (It works for some writers!) But there isn’t, and I didn’t. I went off on my Monday morning head-clearing run through the Catskill mountains, instead.

I’m not going to list all the reasons that Thatcher’s demise is worthy of celebration. There are much better (song) writers, far more qualified than me. But it did occur to me, as I got ready to run in my beautiful home surroundings, that were it not for Thatcher’s second re-election in 1987, my life would have been very very different. In the couple of years leading up to her third electoral victory, I had been active in Red Wedge, doing what I could to ensure that Neil Kinnock, as the new Labour leader, would become the next Prime Minister. But I had also visited America for the first time, fallen in love with New York City in particular, and a very big part of me wanted to move there.

Had Labour won in 1987, it’s almost certain I would have stayed in my home country. But when the election nonetheless went Thatcher’s way (her Conservative party won but 42% of the vote and yet 58% – i.e. a complete majority – of the Parliamentary seats), I decided to follow the words of the UB40 song:

If it happens again I’m leaving, I’ll pack all my things and go/If it happens again there’ll be no looking back and I won’t say I told you so, I won’t say I told you so.”

By that fall – sorry, that autumn – I was living out of a suitcase in New Jersey and Boston. The following July 4, 1988, I moved into Manhattan. And the next year, I found myself perfectly placed geographically to write my second book, a biography of my favor(u)rite American band, R.E.M. It was published in November of that year. Updated in 1992. And again in 1995. And again in 2002. And finally, one last time, in 2013. You can read an excerpt from it newly posted at Salon.com.

I’ll be giving a talk about R.E.M. and the Smiths – who nearly named their 1987 album Margaret on the Guillotine – next Saturday, at the Olive Free Library. Here in the Catskills, where I have an American wife, two American kids, and dual citizenship. The part of me that is forever British can not mourn Thatcher’s passing. The part of me that made a life for himself elsewhere begrudgingly has her to thank.

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