Ah, so this is how it's gonna be.
Like recurring cancer. No, more like a rogue rash, an STD, flaring up at unexpected times and in unexpected places and when it fades, you gently let yourself forget all about it until it suddenly erupts and hits hard and ruins your day, and then you can only sit back and moan softly, slather on ointment, shudder.
Wait, one more: Maybe it's most like a nasty intestinal worm, a wicked parasite like those you suck down in India or deep Mexico or the jungles of Indonesia, the kind that burrow deep and attach to all manner of essential organs and induce a wicked bout of dysentery or all-over body convulsion, until you finally crawl out of the hospital and drown in antibiotics and slowly work your way back to semi-health - but only semi, because of course you are never quite the same.
This is where we are. This is the state of the nation after having swallowed the malicious worm of Bush. We have, by all accounts, suffered - and somehow survived - the very worst of the illness, the cancer, the oozing spirit. But now, as America's worst president prepares to amble off the stage he never deserved to be on in the first place, it is time to prepare for any number of convulsions, aftershock, excruciating reminders.
Here is your Bush-loaded Supreme Court, for one regrettable example, addressing the much-misinterpreted Second Amendment for the first time in eons. Here is the majority of the court basically arguing that, in case you forgot, much of America still blindly loves its guns, and of course handguns are a nice addition to any God-fearing family's arsenal of ridiculous self-defense weaponry and therefore banning a device designed to do nothing but kill other humans is just plain wrong.
It is, by all accounts, a severe, dark cloud of a decision, loaded with sadness and a feeling of despair, the cruel notion that America is still defined by its love of violence, or even the utterly phony idea, put forth by Justice Antonin Scalia himself, that only violence prevents violence, or that the answer to the gun problem is, quite simply, more guns, because surely that's what the founding fathers intended, more paranoid NASCAR dads stocking Glocks in the rec room to protect the rug rats from those icky drug-dealing rapists who never come.
Is it worth mentioning how handguns kept in the home are much more likely to be used for suicides and homicides, not to mention fondled by those same curious rug rats who find daddy's little Elvis in the sock drawer and decide to aim it at their sisters? Worth pointing out that the self-defense argument is not only pathetically illogical, part of a silly pseudo-cowboy mythology, it's also statistically untrue, a perpetual, insidious lie that's undermined the American identity for generations?
Nah. Let us not stare down that particular barrel of gloom just now. Instead, let us prepare. Let us steel ourselves. As we head into the Obama era and as the GOP juggernaut mercifully sputters and lurches back to the cave of 1950, let us be reminded that escaping the Bush aftermath isn't going to be all wine and roses and new energy policies.
See, we've been enjoying a small reprieve. These past six months or so, it's been sort of delightful to finally turn our attention toward the imminent Democratic sea change and away from the ravages of the Bush disease, to finally look toward the new, as we get to focus on all those things we might be able to do once we get out of this damn hospital and get the weak-kneed Democratic Party out of second gear.
But oh, not so fast.
Let us be reminded, the Bush virus will be with us for years, generations. Aside from the shambles of Iraq and the Middle East, aside from handguns and the decided mixed blessing of the Supreme Court's recent spate of decisions, there are maneuvers and decisions we don't even know about, nefarious arrangements, a corruption so deep that normally staid historians are behaving more like alarmed climate-change scientists: We know it's going to be bad, but we just don't know how bad.
There are destroyed nations, mauled infrastructures, horribly compromised federal agencies from FEMA to the EPA, the CIA to the FCC. There is a rogue outsourced military, citizens who can no longer sue gun manufacturers, six straight years of increased poverty, untold numbers of homophobic, misogynistic judicial appointees, devastating environmental policies the consequences of which could take generations to comprehend, much less repair.
Where do you dare to look? Women's rights? Science? Foreign policy? Currency devaluation? Big Oil? Halliburton's billions in war profit? Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and the Dick Cheney agenda of torture and pre-emptive aggression? What about unchecked corporate cronyism, the shunning of the United Nations and of international law, Homeland Security, the Patriot Act, wiretapping and surveillance and "evildoers" galore?
And finally, what of all those families, the thousands of dead U.S. soldiers, the tens of thousands of brain-damaged, disabled, permanently wounded? Bush's legacy isn't just one of staggering social ineptitude combined with shocking success at serving his corporate masters. It's foremost a legacy soaked to the bone in blood.
Truly, I firmly believe the record will reveal that no president in modern history has done more to unravel the American identity, to dumb down the populace and cater to the basest instincts of man than the one about to mispronounce his way into the history books. Even Nixon didn't leave office with Bush's incredible range of ignominy.
Ironically, this is why many in the GOP are chuckling in secret, rubbing their hands together, plotting their revenge. They know the colossal pile of issues and problems Barack Obama will inherit is so overwhelming, so unsolvable, it doesn't matter how smart and aggressive he might be. It doesn't matter that he'll have a Democratic Congress. He's just plain doomed. Combine this with America's infamous short attention span, and within a few years, just watch as the GOP emerges from the murky depths, the champion of a "new" solution.
I know, it can seem bleak. Insurmountable, even. But here's the lesson of any major injury, of surviving a serious illness and getting on with your life. Often, it's not merely about letting time heal all wounds. It's not always about ignoring the scar, or looking away from our permanent deformity and pretend we don't now walk with a savage limp.
It's far more about learning to live with the violence that's been wreaked upon the national body, letting the scale of the wound fuel us, shock us back to life. Question is, do we have enough optimistic ointment to cover it all?
Thoughts for the author? E-mail him. Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SFGate and in the Datebook section of the San Francisco Chronicle.
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