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Thread: Is there life after George W. Bush?

  1. #1
    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Question Is there life after George W. Bush?

    Feb. 20, 2007 |

    Hating George W. Bush sometimes feels like a full-time job. I get up in the morning, open the paper, and it's Bush World. His ruinous handiwork is all over the place, whether it's Putin threatening to start a new Cold War, another Neanderthal anti-Enlightenment skirmish in the U.S. or some fresh hell in Baghdad. I turn on the TV and there he is, uttering reality-averse platitudes while mangling the English language in his best frat-boy twang. And then there's the Internet, where my bookmarked band of rhetorical assassins stir facts and commentary about his wretched tenure into a damning cocktail that I happily imbibe.

    It isn't surprising that Bush is deeply implanted in my brain -- when you're the worst president in modern history, you tend to work your way into people's psyches. But it's still a little strange. I've been forced to deal with this wretched president for so long that hating him has virtually become part of my identity.

    This is, as the hippies used to say, a lot of bad karma. To tell the truth, I don't know if I actually hate Bush. I'm not sure if you can hate someone you don't actually know, and I'm not even sure if I really hate anyone. But I definitely feel every other negative emotion you can imagine toward him -- anger, contempt, fear, disgust, outrage -- so let's go ahead and call it hate. And millions of other Americans are in the same boat.

    But this is all going to change. Pretty soon, we won't have Bush to kick around anymore. And I've started wondering: What are we going to do then?

    The first thing, of course, is celebrate. That giant sucking sound you hear coming from San Francisco on Jan. 20, 2009, will be the contents of a very expensive bottle of wine going down my gullet. And trust me, I won't be alone. There will be be more partying on that night than during a Roman Saturnalia.

    If form holds, a host of pious pundits will step forward to bleat that this celebration is "mean-spirited." These are the same smarmy aunties who decry Bush hatred as "extreme" and "obsessive" and fatuously intone that Bush "appears to have driven some people on the left crazy." Rubbish. Those of us who will be celebrating will be giving thanks for the end of a president who launched a totally unnecessary and disastrous war, declared a radical new doctrine of limitless presidential power, threw gasoline on what was once a small jihadi fire, severely weakened the economy, approved of torture and domestic spying, let bin Laden get away, accelerated the destruction of the environment, bashed science, engaged in vicious illegal vendattas against his opponents, winked at gay-bashing, handed out tax breaks to billionaires, lied constantly, made the U.S. hated around the world, and did it all while talking loudly in public on his personal hotline to Jesus. And that's just the short list.

    What's not to celebrate?

    Maybe we Bush-haters are extreme and obsessive. But Bush made us this way. We didn't want to hate the guy -- he left us no choice. And the respectable people calling for us to calm down and go to our rooms are the same good Germans who somehow didn't notice he was taking us down the garden path to hell.

    But after the high-fives, the partying, the Red Auerbach victory stogies and the cries of "Thank God almighty, we are free at last" have faded from the land, we'll be faced with a whole new landscape -- not just political but psychological. And I suspect we're going to have a serious Bush hangover.

    First, of course, there's going to be one hell of a mess to clean up. Whoever replaces Bush is going to face a daunting array of national and international problems. God only knows what will be happening in Iraq by then; whether or not U.S. troops are out, we could be watching a genocide. The rest of the Middle East could easily have degenerated further. Radical Islamists are still going to be planning terror attacks. The global environment will not magically heal itself. Our economy, propped up with Chinese money and crippled with an enormous deficit, could have turned south. The unhealthy schism between red-state and blue-state views of the world could have gotten wider. And there are all those festering problems that Bush's world-scale idiocies have allowed us to ignore -- little things like the healthcare crisis, race relations, the dismal state of public education, and the soaring prison population.

    Bush is responsible for some of these problems, but not all of them. And it doesn't ultimately matter what he's responsible for anyway. Once he's gone, we're going to simply have to deal with what's in front of us.

    One of the consequences of living under a dreadful president like Bush is that you start magically thinking that getting rid of him will solve everything. You start believing if it weren't for Bush, the glaciers would not be melting, the Democrats would grow a spine and Bible-thumping reactionaries would be reading Bertrand Russell. Alas, the day after the Bush-countdown keychain becomes a collector's item, these things will still all be true.

    So we will have to recalibrate our brains, learn how to make finer distinctions, be less Manichaean in our judgments. Bush has been so egregious, such a cardboard villain, that he has made us intellectually lazy -- just about anything he is for, you know you're probably going to be against. This is not exactly training to run an intellectual triathlon. Whoever succeeds him is going to be good in some ways, not so good in other ways. The knee-jerk response was appropriate to Bush -- his entire presidency consisted of whacking the national patella with a huge hammer. But it won't make sense anymore. We're going to have to learn to work with gray, not black and white.

    This will mean learning again how to discuss, argue and debate issues in a more nuanced way, and being able to move beyond the raw, polemical mind-set that has flourished in the Bush years. I don't mean to bash the liberal blogosphere here. I have been critical of some aspects of the online reader revolution, of which the blogosphere is a big part, in particular its tendency to amplify the loudest, shrillest, most intemperate and crudest comments. But the fact is that the Bush administration richly deserves the online drubbing it has taken. It is a happy historical coincidence that the Internet empowered millions of citizens at exactly the same moment that a power-mad, secrecy-obsessed administration launched a disastrous war, and at the same moment that the mainstream media disgracefully abandoned its post. By holding the media's feet to the fire, and giving millions of people a chance to vent their outrage at their government, the political blogosphere served a vital civic function.

    But having said that, it should also be said that the hate-Bush mind-set can spin out of control, leading to propagandistic thinking and a cynical ends-justify-the-means ethos. Faced with a triumphant administration and an army of right-wing media hacks, it's understandable that the left fought back with everything it had. But the obsession with victory can come at a dangerous price. Right now, the left -- or at least some elements in the liberal blogosphere -- have at times shown a disturbing tendency to close ranks and deny inconvenient truths. It should not still be necessary to point out that in battling a foe, you don't want to turn into him.

    I'm not saying there's no place for sharp exchanges, or Swiftian invective, except when really bad presidents are in power. But I am saying that our public discourse has resembled a tank battle for long enough. And tank battles are not as constructive as debates.

    Anything you do long enough starts to run on its own momentum. Hating Bush's policies, a perfectly legitimate emotion, has worn deep grooves in our minds. There is an element of play and fun in it, but it's too repetitive -- it's anal and smug, like a once-challenging pastime that has become a comfortable habit. Life should be bigger and less predictable than this.

    In fact, the real danger with remaining fixated on Bush is that you may turn into a thoroughly political person. And this is a pretty lifeless place to be.

    I don't mean we should stop analyzing politics, taking it seriously or being politically active. Politics is inescapable. It's how power operates, and when power is being used by corrupt or foolish men for corrupt or foolish purposes, as a responsible citizen -- or just a sentient human -- you'd better pay attention and respond. But power itself is ultimately sterile, because it's purely instrumental. You use power so you can make life better; it isn't life itself. Obsessing about power or politics takes your mind away from the things that really matter. Art, literature, music, science, religion, sports, friendship, love -- these things are outside the realm of politics. The famous '60s motto, "The personal is the political," summons us into a nightmarish world. Politics, like power, coarsens; total surrender to it leaves you unable to appreciate the fragility of things that exist for their own sake. In the end, political obsession is self-devouring; like the onion peeled by Ibsen's Peer Gynt, there is nothing inside.

    Paradoxically, the more you hate Bush, the greater the danger you will become as hollow as he is. (This may help explain the Carville-Matalin phenomenon: Perhaps people who are utterly political, even when they hold diametrically opposed views, in some hidden way are exactly the same.)

    The challenge, as we prepare for life after Bush, is to hold onto the political passions his dreadful presidency inspired, without becoming a completely political person. To take the negative energy he created and turn it into something positive. To learn to see a full spectrum of ideas and opinions, throwing away the monochromatic goggles we have been forced to wear during the last six years. And to carefully water and tend to our own gardens, which have grown thin and unappealing during these dry and wasted years.

    Bush nearly succeeded in killing the American spirit. Our best revenge will be to forget him -- and come back to life.
    I know MY blog rants will be a lot less... vitriolic
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

  2. #2
    Elite Member cynic's Avatar
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    Jan 2006


    That guy better beware of what he's asking for......they'll be putting up ole Jeb to run next.........

  3. #3
    Gold Member piperdiva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cynic View Post
    That guy better beware of what he's asking for......they'll be putting up ole Jeb to run next.........
    Shhh!!!! Don't say such evil things!!!!!

    I have no idea who I am going to vote for next election.
    Coffee is my happy drug

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