Reflections on Bush and the American Character

on Oct 31 in Essays & Reviews by

Last summer, at dinner, my dad, who’s 72, said that this administration will soon be viewed as the worst in a hundred years of American history. He described watching in a kind of mystified horror as Bush led our country and the world backwards in foreign, economic, and social policies, civil liberties, environmentalism, falling into the most obvious traps of fundamentalism and fascism.

I used to be much angrier at George Bush and his accomplices – in the “hate the president, love the country” category that so many foreigners claimed to be after the 2000 elections — but it’s not that way anymore.

Today, anyway, it seems obvious that Americans, not everyone one of us, but most, no longer resemble the people profiled in history and literature up to the early part of the 20th century. Politicians have always been slimeballs. U.S. history is full of duplicitous acts. But no population has stood idly by like ours has over the past six years as so much wrong was done by so many.

We’ve always been a conservative bunch, with a larger share of faith-based citizens than anywhere else. I contend we’re no longer a country of fair-minded, bootstrapping, can-d0, hard-working (albeit puritanical) innovators. No, we’re a nation of sheep, lulled into apathy or false choices: fat, drug-addled, grown-up children addicted to entertainment, unable, unwilling and perhaps uninterested anymore in telling the difference between plain-speaking and propaganda.

The Bush cabal has perhaps almost collapsed from the consequences of their mistaken notions and stupid moves. Even President Bush is doing what he must fear most: flip-flopping (see Cutting and Running from Staying the Course). A quagmire in Iraq, dramatic increases in terrorism around the world, truly horrifying global climate change, scandal, seem finally to have come to the attention of the sleeping populace.

Still, thirty-percent of our countrymen still support him and can say things like “we have to stand behind our boys and girls” even when we, ourselves, individually and as a country, have devised a strategy that actually puts them in harms way. That we’re gearing up for the holidays and debating slogans and symbolic statements and watching the venal, insipid politicians take aim at each other instead of changing the course that our countyr is on, unfortunately, very unfortuately, is solid evidence of the argument: the soul of the American character is weak, perhaps even, fatally.

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