[Mb-civic] Doctorow on Bush

TSawyer456 at aol.com TSawyer456 at aol.com
Tue Sep 21 10:04:24 PDT 2004

I hope you find this sad, eloquent piece by Ed Doctorow as touching as  I 
_www.ThomasBSawyer.com_ (http://www.ThomasBSawyer.com) 
Published on Thursday, September 9, 2004 by the _Easthampton Star_ 
(http://www.easthamptonstar.com/)  /  Long Island, New York 
The Unfeeling President 
by E.L. Doctorow
I fault this president for not knowing what death is. He does not  suffer the 
death of our 21-year-olds who wanted to be what they could be.  On the eve of 
D-Day in 1944 General Eisenhower prayed to God for the lives  of the young 
soldiers he knew were going to die. He knew what death was.  Even in a 
justifiable war, a war not of choice but of necessity, a war of  survival, the cost was 
almost more than Eisenhower could bear.  
But this president does not know what death is. He hasn't the mind for  it. 
You see him joking with the press, peering under the table for the  weapons of 
mass destruction he can't seem to find, you see him at rallies  strutting up 
to the stage in shirt sleeves to the roar of the carefully  screened crowd, 
smiling and waving, triumphal, a he-man.  
He does not mourn. He doesn't understand why he should mourn. He is  
satisfied during the course of a speech written for him to look solemn for  a moment 
and speak of the brave young Americans who made the ultimate  sacrifice for 
their country.  
But you study him, you look into his eyes and know he dissembles an  emotion 
which he does not feel in the depths of his being because he has  no capacity 
for it. He does not feel a personal responsibility for the  1,000 dead young 
men and women who wanted to be what they could be.  
They come to his desk not as youngsters with mothers and fathers or  wives 
and children who will suffer to the end of their days a terribly  torn fabric of 
familial relationships and the inconsolable remembrance of  aborted life . . 
. they come to his desk as a political liability, which  is why the press is 
not permitted to photograph the arrival of their  coffins from Iraq.  
How then can he mourn? To mourn is to express regret and he regrets  nothing. 
He does not regret that his reason for going to war was, as he  knew, 
unsubstantiated by the facts. He does not regret that his bungled  plan for the war's 
aftermath has made of his mission-accomplished a  disaster. He does not 
regret that, rather than controlling terrorism, his  war in Iraq has licensed it. 
So he never mourns for the dead and crippled  youngsters who have fought this 
war of his choice.  
He wanted to go to war and he did. He had not the mind to perceive the  costs 
of war, or to listen to those who knew those costs. He did not  understand 
that you do not go to war when it is one of the options but  when it is the only 
option; you go not because you want to but because you  have to.  
Yet this president knew it would be difficult for Americans not to  cheer the 
overthrow of a foreign dictator. He knew that much. This  president and his 
supporters would seem to have a mind for only one thing  -- to take power, to 
remain in power, and to use that power for the sake  of themselves and their 
A war will do that as well as anything. You become a wartime leader.  The 
country gets behind you. Dissent becomes inappropriate. And so he does  not drop 
to his knees, he is not contrite, he does not sit in the church  with the 
grieving parents and wives and children. He is the president who  does not feel. 
He does not feel for the families of the dead, he does not  feel for the 35 
million of us who live in poverty, he does not feel for  the 40 percent who 
cannot afford health insurance, he does not feel for  the miners whose lungs are 
turning black or for the working people he has  deprived of the chance to work 
overtime at time-and-a-half to pay their  bills - it is amazing for how many 
people in this country this president  does not feel.  
But he will dissemble feeling. He will say in all sincerity he is  relieving 
the wealthiest 1 percent of the population of their tax burden  for the sake 
of the rest of us, and that he is polluting the air we  breathe for the sake of 
our economy, and that he is decreasing the quality  of air in coal mines to 
save the coal miners' jobs, and that he is  depriving workers of their 
time-and-a-half benefits for overtime because  this is actually a way to honor them by 
raising them into the professional  class.  
And this litany of lies he will versify with reverences for God and the  flag 
and democracy, when just what he and his party are doing to our  democracy is 
choking the life out of it.  
But there is one more terribly sad thing about all of this. I remember  the 
millions of people here and around the world who marched against the  war. It 
was extraordinary, that spontaneous aroused oversoul of alarm and  protest that 
transcended national borders. Why did it happen? After all,  this was not the 
only war anyone had ever seen coming. There are little  wars all over he 
world most of the time.  
But the cry of protest was the appalled understanding of millions of  people 
that America was ceding its role as the last best hope of mankind.  It was 
their perception that the classic archetype of democracy was  morphing into a 
rogue nation. The greatest democratic republic in history  was turning its back 
on the future, using its extraordinary power and  standing not to advance the 
ideal of a concordance of civilizations but to  endorse the kind of tribal 
combat that originated with the Neanderthals, a  people, now extinct, who could 
imagine ensuring their survival by no other  means than pre-emptive war.  
The president we get is the country we get. With each president the  nation 
is conformed spiritually. He is the artificer of our malleable  national soul. 
He proposes not only the laws but the kinds of lawlessness  that govern our 
lives and invoke our responses. The people he appoints are  cast in his image. 
The trouble they get into and get us into, is his  characteristic trouble.  
Finally, the media amplify his character into our moral weather report.  He 
becomes the face of our sky, the conditions that prevail. How can we  sustain 
ourselves as the United States of America given the stupid and  ineffective 
warmaking, the constitutionally insensitive lawgiving, and the  monarchal 
economics of this president? He cannot mourn but is a figure of  such moral vacancy 
as to make us mourn for ourselves.  
E. L. Doctorow is an American novelist. His works are noted for  their 
mingling of American history and literary imagination through the  interaction of 
fictional and real-life characters.  
Copyright © 2004 East Hampton  Star
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