When polled, people are not asked if they are inspired, challenged or uplifted
by Bush – they are asked if they approve. Like a test screening of a movie searching
for an ending, audiences are asked what they want to see and hear. Like a child
who loves a parent who serves fudge as the main course America approves of Bush.
Apologists for Bush say that he is smart and even if he isn’t he doesn’t need
to be - that his rabble rousing is the purpose of a president - that he is there
to reflect not guide or transform the energy of the people. He is meant to preside
over the drama but not really interfere with or elevate it. By doing what the
apologists say he must do, not that he has shown to be capable of anything else,
Bush wins approval.
He in fact percolates popular paranoia. He senses and generates fear and uses
it. He will give America a military that can protect its interests but not its
citizens. He will point to enemies - out there - encouraging the cozy insulation
of xenophobia – creating the eerie warmth of being huddled in our own cave ready
to support the long arm of superpower expansion masquerading as superpower justice.
As he insults and provokes in our name for reasons that are covert, convoluted
and Carlyle, he is met with approval.
The purpose of an inspiring leader is not to catalogue the common and predictable
impulses of people and then canonize them as noble and coherent policy. A leader
should lift the agenda and the people. A leader should usher his people through
the canyons of evolution. To diminish the role of a leader to a kind of chairman
of the board who anticipates and exploits public appetites is to put America and
the world in peril.
The death penalty, which is history in all European countries, is the exaltation
of an understandable and base impulse. Born again Bush pushed and believed in
the death penalty to such an extent that he became known as governor death. The
crowded death row and steady rate of murder in Texas show how effective the death
penalty has been as a deterrent. But even a failed philosophy is held on to if
it meets with approval.
The American military was useless in the face of 9/11. In fact, it can be convincingly
argued that previous, pervasive and perhaps threatened use of the American military
contributed to the criminal assault. In response America used the same military
to strike back convincing us that they had the right target even though it was
only the first target.
Other than making most of America feel good, the widely broadcast military
response, which everyone said was the something we had to do, has done nothing
to resolve the conflicts that feed the pathology that fuels the violence. To be
told that we’ve had a great victory and at the same time we are more vulnerable
to attack bears this out. Victory that doesn’t bring security or peace is not
victory. Our bombs killed a lot of people and generated the need for more bombs
and more homeland defense, and well-groomed people stand in front of cameras and
tell us how well the war is going, and we approve.
Like a smoker with lung cancer adding another pack of cigarettes to his habit,
Bush increases the military budget. And as he paints a bigger bulls eye on all
of us every time he speaks from the platform he usurped from us, we are asked,
do you approve? Although we see high percentages the approval feels like confused
and numbed acceptance.
So we wait – like a city on a fault line - plates beneath the earth shift according
to increased stress, and when no one expects it, an act of terror like an earthquake
will hit. And Bush will have another window to continue the cycle and win approval.
He and his handlers trashed our democracy in 2000; insulted international endeavors
and agreements in 2001; and in 2002 he waves a red flag in front of countries
he is informed about but about which he knows very little. And America approves.
Someone who both personifies and manipulates the collective reflexes can be
approved of. Will he change the world for the better – will he develop a solution
or adjust the landscape on which the world has battled and bled for years? Will
he liberate the human condition from the insane paradigm that has kept us landlocked
and earthbound? Someone who will give the simplistic predictable rush to a population
hungry for easy words and sentimental, chauvinistic assurances will win approval.
But he will never win the peace.
Bill C. Davis is a playwright http://www.billcdavis.com/