Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Thank You George Bush, Without your dark and spectacular failures, we wouldn't be so ready to leap forward. Kudos!
by Mark Morford And then it came to pass that I happened to catch the tail end of a recent episode of "Miami Ink," that odd little reality show on TLC about the trials and tribulations of an unabashedly macho but still adorably funky Florida tattoo shop offering all sorts of engaging quirks, especially if you harbor a mild appreciation for decent Koi fish tattoos and giant ridiculous motorcycles and lots of sweaty siliconed sun baked Miami cheese. This episode featured the story of a young, fresh-faced Iraqi War vet, a big, shy sweetheart of a kid who, it turns out, had both of his legs blown off at the knee by an improvised explosive device. As a commemoration, he came to the shop to get a giant flaming skull tattooed on his shoulder — a skull with, um, a couple of femur bones stuck in there, somehow, in honor of his former appendages. Well, OK. I hereby shall not question the kid's garish taste in body art. But in the process of describing his injury to the artist/camera, the guy said something rather startling, something I didn't quite expect, considering his young age and his lack of legs and the violence with which they were taken from him, even though it's a refrain we've all heard a million times before. In sum, he said, You know what? Despite the horror of it, despite the brutal war, it turns out getting my legs blown off was probably the best thing to ever happen to me. It made me appreciate life in a new way, discover new abilities, experience a new vitality. In fact, only through getting my legs blown off do I finally feel truly alive, and what's more, I actually feel sorry for people who don't get to experience life this way. That's what he said. More or less. Now, I don't always agree with this line of thinking. In fact, I outwardly reject the idea that it's only through trauma, through pain or suffering that you truly grow or learn, find your creative thrust or the "true" meaning of life. It's certainly one way, it's certainly often wildly effective, it's certainly the way it has to happen for some people before they finally wake up, but it's far from the only way. But then, as I'm watching footage of this kid waterskiing and climbing mountains and grinning like crazy on his skinny metal prosthetics, I realized, well now, what an absolutely perfect analogy for our mauled, tattered, shell-shocked nation at this very moment in time. Ain't it so? Because America has, figuratively speaking, had its legs blown off at the knee. We have been hobbled and traumatized and numbed, our once indestructible ego ripped away, had our entire moral and ethical infrastructure blasted out from under us in the most bloody and irresponsible and ignoble way possible. And the primary explosive that did it? A deadly and useless war. Wait, that's not quite right. It was the inept leaders and disastrous reasoning behind the war, the pathetic cadre of hawks and neocons and insular kill-'em-all demagogues in the Bush Administration who veered the nation so far off course we ended up in a bloody ditch just outside Purgatory, a place teeming with recession and torture and homophobia, Patriot Acts and surveillance and fear. And so, like this kid who actually thanked the fates for blowing his legs off, I'm here to suggest that maybe it's time we offered up some sort of warped, tentative thanks to George W. Bush, for all the appalling trauma he hath wreaked upon us. Maybe he is, in a slightly nauseating way, the best thing that ever happened to us. You think? Maybe he's exactly what we needed. Maybe Bush's brand of frighteningly inept politicking has been just the right kind of sociocultural emetic to induce a true purge of our congested system, just the thing to finally snap us out of our lethargy. Hell, sometimes you gotta go deep into the darkness to realize just how much you need the light. So thank you, George, for exemplifying and embodying everything that's wrong with the neocon agenda, for serving as the final death knell of the failed conservative movement, of a once-noble Republican Party that's run out of ideas and has turned bitter and nasty and paranoid. Thank you, Dubya, for setting the stage for Obama and Hillary. Because the truth is, even as recently as eight years ago, if you'd have asked if we as a nation would be anywhere near ready for a female or black president, it would have felt incredibly premature, a good 20 years off before we could entertain such an idea. But so potent has been the recoil against everything you stood for — the misogyny, homophobia, classism, fear of "the other," of foreigners and minorities and alternative beliefs — that we are ready to be inspired and reinvigorated sooner than anyone thought possible. Thank you for your embarrassing rejection of science, your refusal to support any climate change initiative, for furthering the war-for-oil agenda, for blocking stem-cell research, for serving all your masters in Big Energy, Big Agribusiness, Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Auto. Thanks for gutting the Constitution and front-loading the courts and trying to hack away at women's rights, gay marriage, privacy rights and on and on. Because it turns out, inviting all that darkness and corruption and holding back all the energy of progress and change is less about hastening the Second Coming (sorry, better luck next time), and more like pulling back on a slingshot. It just gets tighter and tighter and the pressure builds until eventually you just gotta let go, and then boom — or I should say, Obama. Now, this is not to say it can't all happen again. History is, unfortunately, a very bitchy and unreliable teacher. I'm guessing there were plenty of people who, post-Nixon, were saying, well thank God we'll never go through that again, we've sure learned our lesson. I mean, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice and, um, fool me ... won't get fooled again. We'll just have to see. For now, the bleeding is slowing, we are finally getting up off the sickbed, testing our shiny new prosthetics, hobbling toward the new. Soon, maybe we'll learn to run, ski, climb mountains, even dance on the international stage again with something resembling grace and renewed self-respect. We might even say, you know what? It turns out getting our political, moral and spiritual legs blown off was the best thing that ever happened to us. Dubya actually did us a huge favor. Can you imagine?
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