It’s the last day. He’s going. It’s almost hard to believe but soon the Wicked Witch will be dead (who thought eight years ago that The Wizard of OZ would be a reliable provider of political metaphor?).
On the last day of George Bush tenure as the world’s most powerful political figure, I want to sound a small, sad warning.
I think we are all going to miss him. I think we are all going to miss him terribly. We have to be careful what we do with this strange sentiment.
I vividly remember the fall of Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain. I remember watching television with the slavish inexhaustibility normally reserved for World Cup football or Salma Hayek in her underwear. The innocent delight in her despair and humiliation, the atavistic glee at seeing her face crumple into tears. It was lovely. I am not sure I have ever been happier in my adult life.
It was 1990. Then followed seven years of continuing Conservative government under John Major. And almost no one noticed. Thatcher was gone. It was almost Tolkienesque. The land had been cleansed of the evil menace of the Dark Lady. Who cared about the grey geek that followed? If John Major had publically kicked the Dalai Lama in the balls on the steps of 10 Downing Street while screaming that he hated Nelson Mandela, still no one would have hated him as much as they hated Margaret Thatcher. They would have laughed it off and thanked their lucky stars that he was so much better than what had gone before.
I know British people who still have schedule exemptions in their diaries for the enormous parties they are going to have when she dies. How many songs did Elvis Costello sing about what he is going to do to her grave? I was even guilty myself of pointing out that one should not wish for her death when she was so clearly unhappy and declining and bitterly disappointed after her loss of power. That one should instead wish her long and miserable continuation.
In other words, people really hated her.
And when she was ousted from power, people continued hating her. It was a hatred so intimate and passionate that it could not be dropped after her departure from public life. Many of those people did not give the full vigour of their attention to the political realities of the time. So then there was Major and then the great crushing disappointment of Blair. And all the time, we were still really busy hating Thatcher. Did that hatred diminish the quality of radical vigilance right up until the beginning of the Blair-assisted war in Iraq? Did it blind us to the new horrors?
It created a generation of political hobbits. They had seen their Sauron slayed, They went back to the Shire and fucked about for a decade while New Labour went to work in Middle Earth. It was, in its way, disastrous.
This, of course, means that it is essentially a problem for Americans (though Bush-hatred is truly a global phenomenon). They must not be exhausted by all the rage and hatred they feel for the departing disgrace of Bush. There is, certainly, much less possibility of a costly post-Bush negligence since the Obama administration represents a massive ethical and political shift by absolutely any standards. Obama is no Major or Blair. If the man were to do only twenty percent of what he seems set to do, it would still be a seismic improvement from the dreadful corruption and incompetence of the Bush era. But nonetheless, it would be good to remain vigilant. Or to stay awake at the very least.
But everyone is going to find that, notwithstanding the honeymoon of Obama-adoration, they are going to feel a certain lack of something in emotional terms. They are going to miss that faster heartbeat, that breathless shock and rage that George W provoked. I would suggest not worrying about this. It is natural and human and will gently pass away in twenty or thirty years.
And don’t forget, they’re may be plenty more to come. Thatcher destroyed great swathes of British society in ways that have still not been repaired. Bush has done his best to do the same and left his mark upon Iraq as well. Some of his ludicrous errors still have not come to full light. And he still has twenty four hours. This is less a joke than you think since a law permitting American health workers to morally object to certain treatments and to thus withhold them from patients (even secretly) has just become law. Obviously in practical terms this can only mean abortion and contraception advice and referrals being refused by Christian conservative nurses or doctors (even without informing patients or colleagues of said withholding). How wonderfully stupid this is! Just as he is passing out the door he manages to pass a law that is going to completely fuck up American healthcare provision. You gotta like his style. You just gotta.
I’m gonna miss him. I really am. I am considering writing a Country & Western song. I already have a title. George, I’m still gonna hate you when you’re gone.