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Monday, July 11, 2005

Man-child in power

From Tom Engelhardt:
More than anything else, as I watched him that morning in Gleneagles, Scotland, I was filled with a sense of sadness that we had reached such a perilous moment with such a man, or really -- for here is my deepest suspicion -- such a man-child in power. Yes, he genuinely believes in his war on terror, even as he and his advisors use it to his own advantage. And yes, he's good at being, or rather enacting with all his being, the role of the War on Terror President. And yet there's something so painfully childlike in the spectacle of him. Here, after all, is a 59 year-old who loves to appear in front of massed troops, saying gloriously encouraging and pugnacious things while being hoo-ah-ed -- and almost invariably he makes such appearances dressed in some custom-made military jacket with "commander in chief" specially stitched across his heart, just as he landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln back in May 2003 in a Navy pilot's outfit. Who could imagine Abe himself, that most civilian of wartime presidents, or Franklin D. Roosevelt, or Dwight D. Eisenhower, a real general, wearing such G.I. Joe-style play outfits?

Let's face it. George Bush likes dress-up. What a video game is to a teenager, the Presidency seems to be to this man. It's a free pass to the movies with him playing that brave warrior part. All in all, I'm afraid to say, it must be fun. When he so cavalierly said, "Bring ‘em on," he was surely simply carried away by the spirit of the game. What it wasn't, of course, was the statement of a mature human being, an adult.

I don't usually say such things, but there's something unbelievably stunted about all this. He and his top officials seem almost completely divorced from any sense of the actual consequences of their various acts and decisions. They live in some kind of dream world offshore of reality, which would perhaps not be so disturbing if they didn't also control the levers of power in what, not so long ago, was regularly referred to as the "lone" or "last superpower" or the globe's only "hyperpower."
It is perhaps an insult to children to compare the Bush administration to them, but I'm at a loss for images. I'm a deeply civil person. If I had my choice, like so many people in this world of ours, I would simply wash my hands of their apocalypts and ours. Unfortunately, that's not possible. Theirs, at least, are someone else's responsibility, but George and his malign fictional worlds are, it seems, mine.

The sad thing is that the truth is relatively simple. What people using terror in the fashion of London are quite capable of doing is killing and maiming randomly and in large numbers – and perhaps in the process revealing to us both how fragile and how strong our world actually is. What they are completely incapable of doing, no matter what George Bush says, is taking our liberties and freedoms away. They can't take anything away. Only we can do that.