How will you complete the ellipsis in the title? Ten days from today will be President George W Bush’s last day in office. A lot of people are excited, some because of their hope in the successor who will fill the vacancy, but most, I feel it safe to say, are excited just to see Bush leave. There is even a facebook event (not group) titled “Bush’s Last Day In Office” set up to celebrate, in the event creator’s words, the end of the “worst political eras America has faced.”
In the air of such anticipated transition, there’s a lot of talk of how Bush will go down in history. What will be his legacy? How will he rate among the other commander-in-chiefs? A BBC News article by Paul Reynolds titled, “How does the Bush Presidency rate?“, seems quick to give its own opinion in its first sentence: “I suppose the underlying question here is whether George W Bush has been one of the worst US presidents.” It has yet to be seen if Bush will make an image resurrection like Truman, and though it seems unlikely, only time will tell. But as the future is unknowable, I sympathize for Bush of the present. Or maybe it’s pity, but whatever it is, I feel sad for the 43rd president. I discovered this pity, this sympathy on December 14, 2008, when the Iraqi Journalist, Muntader al-Zaidi, threw both his shoes at President Bush during a press conference. At first, my mind automatically thought, “What the heck were the secret service doing?” Then after a few seconds of reflection, my mind found a less Hollywood-oriented question, “Did Bush deserve this?” My sister, watching the news right next to me, shouted, “That’s just wrong!” I know with great power comes great responsibility, and many of us think Bush was quite irresponsible with his power (me including), but did he deserve to have shoes thrown at him? Did he deserve to be called a “dog”?
Philosophically, the answer is “no.” Though we cannot separate the person from the office or job that he/she possesses, nevertheless, Bush was acting out the duties of his office and any insult received, such as “dog”, is found to color that office. The insult wants to call Bush the person a dog but it is also calling the presidency of the United States a dog. Is this what we want? Even on a more personal level, I do not think any human should be called a “dog” or have shoes thrown at them. I did not use the word “deserve”, a person may deserve such treatment, but such action does not exemplify the thrower any more “human” than the insulted. And if we look over our own lives, are we that much better people? Are we really?? It is usually the fact that we do not realize the other person as multi-dimensional, and reduce their entire complex being to fit into our small opinion and knowledge of them. You can see this reduction power of media/television in the film Frost/Nixon (a great film), and it seems not far from how we view President Bush.
Though the shoe throwing event was the trigger, there is a deeper reason that finds itself as the source for my sympathies. I pity and sympathize with Bush because I, too, at times, am haunted by the issue of legacy and history. I think we all do whether we acknowledge it or not. It is not far from how I found myself strangely resonating with the character Achilles in the movie Troy. Of course, not in the athletic sense or in terms of fighting skills, mine are close to none, but in terms of what drove Achilles’ life. In the beginning of the movie when a small boy says he wouldn’t want to fight the big opponent, Achilles replies, “That is why no one will remember your name.” In contemplating on whether to join the Greek troops headed for Troy, Thetis, Achilles mother, comments to him, ” If you go to Troy, no one will earn more glory than you. Men will tell stories of your victories for thousands of years, the world will remember your name.” And at the beach of Troy, Achilles shares his life purpose to his Myrmidons, “Do you know what’s waiting beyond that beach?? Immortality! Take it! It’s yours!” It was legacy and a desire to have his name remembered by history that drove Achilles’ life. This is what is under debate for Bush, and this is what all of us, consciously or unconsciously, feel. Whether we fill our lives with preoccupation, money, laughter, and other things, we all know at the end of the journey, death is unavoidable. We all know we will return to dust. And yet, we all want our lives to mean something. Some of us try to escape by avoiding the question, some of us face the question head-on, and yet death meets both groups. How do we, then, face this question and win? Is leaving our name in history the ultimate answer? But will history always be remembered? What is our beach of Troy? Where is our immortality?
Swimming in such questions, satire is a good temporary escape. These questions must be answered or at least, addressed, but for now I end with satire. Not to say that escapism is the answer to these questions, but in hopes that maybe the meager laughter and joy of this world is a sign that there is a victorious answer to these questions.