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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Reflections and hope:

Looking on the last eight years, I cannot help feeling that former President George W. Bush was a fundamentally nice guy who, nevertheless, was completely out of his depth. I do not say this to excuse his behavior or his awful, sometimes even criminally bad, choices while in office. We have had presidents who were good men but awful presidents, such as Carter, while we have had presidents who were utter bastards but excellent presidents, such as Eisenhower and FDR. As I watched Bush's face, it seems that he would echo the parting words of yet another of the three worst presidents in U.S. history, James Buchanan, when speaking to Abraham Lincoln at the end of his term: “If you are as happy in entering the White House as I shall feel on returning to Wheatland, you are a happy man indeed.”

Perhaps it is easier to feel a bit magnanimous once a person who is so detested is no longer in a position to do harm. Or, perhaps, I feel in my soul these words from Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address: "We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." The political wars of the last twelve years are over, and good riddance. President Obama's inauguration yesterday should signal a new day, and a new dawn for this country. This is a nation that is forever young, and at no time in my life has this felt more true than it did at 11:00 CST yesterday.

I was watching the Today Show, I believe it was, and they were discussing the Class of 2020, a project where they will keep track of a class of students for thirteen years, culminating in their graduation from high school. One of the reporters remarked that this generation, this high school graduating Class of 2020, will not think it remarkable that a man such as President Barack Hussein Obama had the opportunity to take that most solemn oath to become President of the United States of America. They will see it as normal, as nothing worthy of note, and though I hid it well, I could not help getting a bit misty-eyed as I heard those words.

I was raised by my parents to believe that all were created equal, that the major determinants of one's fate were one's intelligence, character, and drive. I was raised to look at people as people, and judge them by their actions and words, and not their physical appearance. Negative stereotypes of the South notwithstanding, I learned this at the feet of my politically conservative Southern parents back in the late 1970s and 1980s when I was a child, as my parents learned at the feet of their politically conservative parents a generation before. As I awoke this morning, I did so with this affirmation of everything I was taught to believe in, everything generations of my family have believed in, everything my later experiences further reinforced. I did so with a renewed sense of hope and optimism for our future, though that hope is tempered with the knowledge that much work remains to be done.

I hope future generations study President Obama's first inaugural speech, as it was a perfect crystallization of the challenges that face us and a brief outline of the steps needed to resolve those issues. I must admit that having a man such as he as the President of this great land feels even better than I thought it would. I am truly humbled to live in this time.

I don't know if I've posted this video before, but I thought it was fitting.


Snave said...

Great words from Lincoln, spoken at a time when the nation needed to heal. It needs to heal now, too. We have big problems to solve, and I have a feeling that America chose the right person for the times. I believe Obama will do whatever he can, because he truly loves America and I believe he understands America.

We woke up today with an adult living in the White House. I believe he will set aside petty partisan b.s. and get right to work. If the Republicans apply petty party b.s., he is going to call them on it. They may even find that if they go along with what he does, it may actually be more helpful than tirelessly defending their tired dogmas.

Living in this time is indeed a humbling, and beautiful experience. Great post, MC!

Sheryl said...

You're nicer than me, Mandelbrot.

I'm not sure if we should just move on or not. That's what they did about Nixon, and we paid for it by inheriting the worst of his administration with Bush2.

However, I do think the primary focus should be on cleaning up the mess that the Bush administration created.

I could care less whether Bush is a nice guy who had positive intentions. He was also inflexible and refused to listen to anyone, and it's cost the world dearly.

Anyway, don't worry about it. The democrats never want to hold high profile republicans accountable once they have power. They're too squeamish about it.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

I was not in any way trying to defend his presidency by making comments about former President Bush (43)'s personality. Rather, I was trying to damn with faint praise, similar to saying that a man who is a bum and refuses to work is a "good father". I think he and key members of his administration should, in a perfect world, be held accountable for their actions. They wiped their ass with the Constitution they swore to uphold and protect. They, most specifically Dick Cheney, defended torture with the complicity of the Department of Justice, a fact that never ceases to sicken me. They repeatedly shat on the basic civil rights of every citizen of this great nation through warrantless wiretapping and other outrages. It was as though they had never learned the lessons of COINTELPRO, that said tactics actually make the country LESS safe.

Again, in an ideal world, hundreds of people would face the bar of justice. That said, the world is far from ideal, and frankly, the Bush administration has done far more damage to itself and its ranking members than any court could levy. At this point, the cruelest thing may be to do nothing, and on that note, I advocate that in many instances. The uppermost members of that administration will never get another government job, so the focus should be on the upper-middle management, like Dick Cheney was during the Nixon administration. Even back then, he was a fucking nightmare, and it should be on those individuals in the Bush administration that the greatest focus should lie. The head of that particular snake has already been peacefully neutralized by virtue of the mechanisms of our democracy. The best tactic now is to take out those who have committed criminal acts who could be a problem a generation from now.