If you have any wonders about how social memory works, and how it can even be a conscious project, I invite you to listen to a recent Fresh Air interview with author Will Bunch who has just written a book about how Ronald Reagan's legacy is being created by the Washington conservatives in order for the Republicans to have a hero. Wade heard it this week and told me, "This is what you have been talking about on your blog." When I listened to it, I smiled.
Regardless of one's politics, it is a fascinating interview because it shows the process of the construction of a hero-myth in the modern day, which can be documented. Bunch argues that certain aspects of Reagan's career have been marginalized and eliminated, others twisted, in order to construct a hero-myth of a popular republican president whose conservative policies worked. This myth is simply taken to be truth by the generations that weren't around at the time - the second generation and beyond - while those of us who lived through it remember, if nothing else, the Iran-Contra scandal, an arms scandal so big that it almost brought the White House down and nearly impeached Reagan. As for those tax cuts, well, yes we got them the first year. And when it turned out to be too much of a cut, we got taxed again.
Will Bunch's book is called Tear Down this Myth.