Mustering out ceremony

March 27, 2007 by barbara

by barbara

It might surprise you to know that I have a large, color photo of George W. Bush on my desk. It's propped up on a typing stand right next to my computer monitor. It's a temporary thing. I pulled it out of last week's Newsweek. Well, the one dated this week, actually, but it was delivered last week and was already out of date then. The photo wasn't a centerfold. FYI, it's page 24. I decided I ought to take a closer look at this man. Let me paint you a word picture. Read the rest.

Bush is wearing a navy blue suit. White shirt. Red tie with tiny geometric shapes in orderly, horizontal rows. His left suit lapel sports the omnipresent American flag pin. His silvering hair looks wiry and wanting desperately to curl. But it has been combed into submission.

It's a flattering photo in that the Bush ears that political cartoonists love to embellish la Alfred E. Neuman appear unexceptional. His face is tan and with or without the artist's art, there is little sign of five o'clock shadow. His face is generally lean, though there is sign of some softening and sagging. He's getting a tad jowly. I thought only aging women get the floppy wattle thing from chin to sternum. Not so.

Bush's forehead is striped with creases'"at least four of them, temple to temple. I don't remember how many he had when he took office. His long, aquiline nose points downward toward his mouth like a directional marker. His thin lips are pressed tightly closed.

His just-barely-tamed eyebrows are in neutral position, more or less, hovering over his eyes like well-groomed caterpillars. The eyes. Ah, the Putin Principle. Windows to Bush's soul. However long I look, I can't get there. Dark eyes they are. I suppose there's a metaphor there. It's not clear what he's looking at, but the camera has captured him in a peevish, possibly pre-peevish, moment. He is not happy with whatever is going on out of camera range. And there is something almost poignant (and disturbing) about the separateness of George Bush from the rest of the action, whatever it may be. It seems a poster photo for his isolation.

Thus do I take measure of the man whose demolition of my country dominates my day-thinking and sometimes disrupts my sleep. Not for the first time, I find myself wondering who George W. Bush really is. Who does Laura have to deal with in the privacy of the presidential boudoir?

You know the back story as well as I do. But here is what I want to know. Who does Bush see in the mirror when he shaves his neo-patrician face, combs the designer-cut hair, ties the tie and otherwise prepares himself to go out into the world? (Well, out into the Oval Office.) When your personal popularity has tanked, your presidency is in total disarray and the country you claim to love has morphed into an arrogant bully other nations love to hate, how do you gird your loins to go deal with that, or even to expend the energy required to not deal with it, day after day?

The easy answer is denial. And as we've seen, that seems to be hard-wired into The Bush Men and the Women Who Pose with Them. But surely there must come a time when, in the privacy of the privy at least, a man has to acknowledge that things are not going well and that maybe, just maybe, he has some responsibility for that. You reject my hypothesis? Me, too. Actually, before it ever hit the page.

We are dealing with a personal and systemic pathology hitherto unknown in this country. George Bush and his people have been outed. Whereas they have until recently scurried about in darkness and secrecy, now their misdeeds are being scrutinized in the full light of day. So far, they haven't been able to right themselves to reverse direction and spin a new story. They will, of course. It's what they do. Why not lie and lie again, even when a simple truth would do?

Here is my little daydream concerning George W. Bush.

For reasons that are unclear, given his aversion to Democrats and anyone else who sees things differently from him, I find myself face to face with him in the Oval Office. He looks puzzled about my presence, and really, so am I. Scrunching up his little eyes, he asks me what it is I want.

I reach for his suit lapel and remove his omnipresent American flag pin. I hold it in my hand, surprised by how small and cold it is. Then, without a word, I turn to leave.

"Wait a minute!" he shouts. "Come back here. That's mine!"

"Not any more," I say on my way out the door. "You don't deserve to have it. You never did."

Posted in


perhansa (not verified) | March 27, 2007 - 8:37pm

Even though the pathology you described may be new to us, a recent re-reading of Ronald Wright's A Short HIstory of Progress helped me see it's not new. The same blindness, denial, hubris (and other characteristics) lay behind the collapse of several cultures.

Loved the fantasy ending...I was afraid you were going to do something far more violent with the lapel pin but the ending was perfect!


Barbara replies (not verified) | March 28, 2007 - 10:21am

So, do you think there's a Decline and Fall for Dummies that we could FedEx to U.S. legislators? We're good enough, we're smart enough, and doggone it, people used to like us. As a kid, I was really scared of activities that meant speeding lickety-split downhill (e.g., tobogganing, skiing) to an uncertain finish. Hmmm. I guess I still am.


perhansa (not verified) | March 28, 2007 - 3:41pm

I think half of them already think they know it but don't believe it can happen to us (since I see no sign of progress on the global warming freight train coming straight for us or serious moves to rectify the fiscal bomb waiting to be denonated by China and other investors holding our debt). Of course we do have hands full right now trying to catch up on the lack of oversight that has occurred over the last six year. The other half would see it as just more left wing, liberal, reconstructionist, anti-christian, white flag, defeatist, latte drinking, culture-war bulldoggy. And W would want Michael Crighton to write it and even then he probably wouldn't read it, he'd just invite him back to the White House for another policy chat. Oops, sorry for the sarcasm. I'm trying to be less damning and sarcastic these days and to build bridges not moats. But there is this sense of hopeless futility that still wants to creep in...kind of like trying not to piss yourself on a really windy day when you're out in the woods and really need to go and your pants keep getting soaked no matter which way you turn.