Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Long-Term Bush Backlash

I just got back home from Thanksgiving travel to see family down south. On the drive, we stopped at a gas station in rural southwestern Virginia. A pickup truck with a South Carolina tag had a bumper sticker that caught my attention. It said:
"George W. Bush made me a Democrat."
Right on! You and millions of others, I thought.

When I consider the long-term damage that the Bush administration did to America and the world, I take some comfort in knowing that it also led to social and political awakenings for a great many people who were repulsed by it. I count myself as one of these people. Though I was a Democrat before Bush, his presidency and all that enabled it definitely lit a fire under my ass. In fact, I would say that the Bush years turned me from a casual, election-minded Democrat into a lifelong progressive activist.

What about you? How did the Bush years affect your political consciousness?


Chris said...

That president made me realize that anyone with the right connections, education, family, and money, can become the president. He didn't display the qualities of a leader. He seemed to be an easy puppet for those who payed and paved his way into office.

All of that really dampened any chance that I would become active in politics. Because ultimately we can vote and elect someone, and then they don't take office because of some rigging and payola. It's like the last Iran election.

Yeah, I could protest that and make my voice heard and work to make things better. But why should I do that in the vacuum of politics? Why can't I create progress in my self and those around me? Plant in fields in which I know I can see results?Progressing my abilities to tolerate our differences and recoginize that we're all one seems like a much more fertile and fruitful way to expend my energy.

Politics is money and the harsh clashing of ideals and thought. And everyone has their opinions. And religion is tied up in those ideals. It's just not the well I want to drink from.

While the Bush terms didn't drive me to become as politically active, they helped me realize my priorities in life and to not put too much stock in politics.

Jenni said...

I often feel like GWB stole my 20s, though he did inspire much of my best activism. I was much more of a grassroots activist until he became president, though. I logged many long hours in at the ALF HQ calling for Kerry. Hell, I supported Kerry, far too moderate for my taste, because he was so much better than the alternative.

I worked for an international development organization for a while in the early 2000s that received boatloads of cash from USAID. Our mission said something like, "Empowering women and girls," and under Bush's tenure, we had to change it because USAID said it was "too liberal." Empowering women and girls is liberal? Really? I just though that was, you know, human.

delaine said...

Did I tell you about the bumper sticker I saw in Sylva ? It said:
The End of an Error
I felt that way so often during the Bush years. We'll see how durable the Bush Backlash proves to be.

Elizabeth said...

I want to second the comments Chris made...I think Bush's presidency showed me exactly the same thing. Unfortunately money and connections speak a lot on both sides. I also learned that people are often held hostage by sweeping ideologies that have nothing to do with reality. Again, both sides can fall prey to this, but I like to think maybe Dems a little less so.

Chris, I'm also very intrigued by what you say about creating progress in yourself and those around you, outside of the vacuum of politics. Wouldn't it be great if that WAS the case and politics followed progress that is "grassroots"? Man, that would be awesome! Unfortunately, it takes a game like politics for most people to even think about progress. And politics isn't a has implications worldwide that can make a significant difference in the lives of lots of people, including you and those around you. Some problems are big enough (in my mind) to require communal action which I just can't do on my own: build interstates, provide healthcare, etc. I believe that government is part of that answer, in addition to everything I can do on my own.

Chris said...

By concentrating on tempering and progressing my own principles/virtues/spirituality, I will in term affect my neighbor in a more positive aspect and that ripple may turn into a wave. It is a simple concept yet if I focus on this, I believe the potential for human progress is higher than if I hold a sign in protest of an ideal I disagree with. Instead of spending my energy trying to progress government which changes very slowly, why not make a positive difference in the people you encounter every day? A few words can turn someone's day or life around for the better or worse.

Thank you George for helping me reach enlightenment.

Camp Papa said...

My bumper sticker would have to say something like:

"GWB made me an angry Democrat who is now less willing to accommodate himself to the words of Republicans, because whatever they say with their mouths, they are really talking about protecting the privilege of the already over-privileged."

As for involvement in politics, I believe human beings always tend abuse power. The goal of democratic governments is to create institutions that make it difficult for us to hurt each other. If people of good will abandon the arena of politics to only those who hunger for the power, we will all suffer because of it. Show business, cockfighting, and the determination of college football championships I am willing to leave to those who are interested, but politics needs us all to be involved.

Chris said...

I'm soley speaking for myself by saying I don't want to drink from the well of politics. I am healthier for it by not spreading myself thin by attending screaming matches and townhall meetings and writing my congressman. I am convinced it makes no difference. The word politics just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

To those who can stomach it and have ideals similar to mine, do it, make an effort. I'll vote for you.

Dave said...

Part of this discussion hinges on our definition of politics and where we draw the line between what we consider politics and what we consider to be just relationships with those around us. Really, why should we draw that line at all?

We should both love and care for other people in our personal interactions and build a societies that do the same. If George W. Bush made a generation of Americans retreat from the latter, then that would be the greatest blow he struck against humanity.

Jenni, it sounds like you were on the front lines during the dark years. Bless you! And wow, the fact that "Empowering women and girls" was called "too liberal" by the U.S. government demonstrates how extremist and inhuman the administration really was.

Chris said...

This is what happened to me. This is what 2000-2008 did to me. The president alienated me. What he stood for and the actions he took were so outlandish yet all around me I saw people supporting him. That alienated me big time.

There is no need to draw lines. I'm just saying, I choose to build better societies by bettering myself with the idea that this in turn betters those around me which in turn betters those around them. How do I better myself? That's my question. It's a struggle. And a bit off topic. Quit backlashing me George!

Mason said...

George W Bush is probably the reason I am in policy school right now. I wasn't interested in politics until we invaded Iraq in 2003. The more I learned and paid attention to what was happening, the more pissed off and liberal I got. One thing led to another and now I'm planning on working on public interest policy for my career.
It's an interesting idea that a REALLY bad president can cause some good in the long term by waking some people up, while a sorta-bad president is no good at all.
I heard that you can kill a frog by boiling him only by turning up the heat very slowly. If it gets really hot too fast, he'll jump out of the pot.

Chris said...

...and we all know about Mason and frogs, right?