Less than 24 hours…
… Until the long, crushing, vicious nightmare of George W. Bush’s failed Presidency is finally …. finally… over. The wounds his despotism will leave our country are going to take a long time to heal, but I’m gratified that most of the US now realizes how terrible a mistake was made in electing that thug in the first place. W leaves office with the lowest approval rating on record – 22% – according to the New York Times. By any objective measure that rating should be 0%, but there are still plenty of goons and bigots out there, and they’re not going anywhere any time soon. We need to get used to that fact, and work hard to rebuild the defenses our Founding Fathers put into the Constitution to ensure we would never have to suffer under tyrants like W. The goons will be back, eventually, and we need to be ready.
The last eight years saw the US sink closer to a dictatorship than ever before in our nation’s history. But we didn’t sink so far we couldn’t climb out, despite the boots stomping on our heads. Enough loyal Americans spoke out against Bush’s treason to at least hold back a full slide into total nightmare. The W administration tried to convince the US that the best way to defeat fundamentalist terrorism was to become an even more powerful agent of fundamentalist terrorism. They tried to make the US into some kind of evil twin of itself, with secret prisons, torture, concentration camps in Cuba, neighbors spying on neighbors, overt cronyism at the highest levels, imposition of religious ideology, suppression of dissent, muzzling of science, an endless campaign of foreign conquest, doublespeak and propaganda, citizens seized and disappeared without charges or warrants, and the rule not of law but of the caprice of a single unaccountable emperor. None of those are attributes of the United States of America I was taught about as a kid. None of those are characteristics outlined in the Constitution.
What the fundamentalists and the zealots and the bigots consistently fail to understand is that this country is not about them. The Constitution doesn’t lay out the foundations for a religious dictatorship, and it doesn’t have a very special clause that says, “all of the above is suspended whenever the President says so”. Time of war or not, the moment the Constitution is suspended because it’s inconvenient to an administration’s dreams of absolute power is the moment we become a fascist state. No, that’s not a little too harsh, it’s precisely descriptive of the power structure that Bush and his minions were trying very hard through the last eight years to impose on the rest of us.
Obama wrote a letter to his daughters that was published in Parade magazine, which I read despite not being 70 yet. In the letter, Obama wrote that the great privilege of being an American comes with great responsibility. Spider Man couldn’t have said it better. The US is currently the most powerful nation on Earth. We also have a Constitution dedicated to some very high ideals of freedom, equality and fairness. When one is bigger and stronger than everyone else it might sometimes be very tempting to use that strength aggressively, wantonly, and with careless indifference to the suffering of one’s victims. During the last eight years our leaders tried strenuously to get us to go along with that model of power, where might makes right and all other considerations be damned. It will be good to finally come out from under that shadow, and to have a President who respects the rule of law in good times and in bad.
It’ll be good to have my country back.