My heart actually skipped a beat when Barack Obama was introduced at the inauguration on Tuesday. His dignity is so palpable. His demeanor was so suited to the occasion. His words offer such hope for a renewal of international respect for the United States. I am simply worn down by the way we are despised, in spite of the fact that it has frequently been for very good reason, the way our government has demonstrated whole sale arrogance and brute force over the past eight years.
I found it interesting that the day before the inauguration Obama remarked he thought George Bush was a ‘good guy’. I don’t know that on the surface I would disagree with him. Do I think George Bush would kick a puppy or drown a kitten? No, I don’t. Is he nice to his wife? I suspect he is. Is he good to his mother? Take one look at Barbara Bush and tell me what you think.
But I believe under his jocular, yuk-it-up, cowboy persona, there is a core of ignorance and smugness that is, in essence, evil. I came to this conclusion in March of 2004. And I will tell you why.
Every year, there is a dinner held by the White House press corps. The President traditionally takes good natured jabs and offers some of his own. In the past few years, they have used technology to create videos and slide shows with frequently hilarious results.
I saw the slide show that George Bush played at the dinner on March 4, 2004. I did not find it hilarious. Or even mildly amusing. As a matter of fact, it made me choke up and sick to my stomach. Because, at a time when 600 Americans had already died in Iraq, George W. Bush made JOKES about not having been able to find weapons of mass destruction. Jokes. He joked that the reason he destroyed the Iraqi country, caused the death of countless Iraqi innocents and sent American soldiers into harm’s way never existed. He joked about it.
Here is a clip from the dinner so you can see for yourself. It has been brilliantly augmented by Jason Woliner, someone who obviously was stricken by the same heartache as I was.
WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES.
This is what Hannah Arendt identified as the banality of evil. It looks so ordinary. There are no horns, forked tails or smells of sulpher.
But it is evil none the less.
As of this writing, 4, 229 U.S. Military have been killed in Iraq. That means more than eight thousand parents have lost their child. Thousands of spouses are now widowed. Children will never know their parent. Four thousand two hundred and twenty nine human beings are gone and we will never know what difference they would have made in this world.
Almost 100,000 Iraqis have died (although www.antiwar.com puts the figure at more than one million). Hundreds of troops from other countries have been lost. Because of advances in medical care on the battle field, more soldiers are saved than ever before. Which means more are coming home alive, but horribly maimed, missing limbs and blinded.
And while this is going on, George Bush was making jokes. No wonder we are hated.
Barack Obama has a monumental task in restoring our credibility and humanity to the world. God help him and God help us.
And I pray God has more mercy on George Bush’s soul than Bush has shown to our soldiers and the Iraqi people.