Bush sits just behind Obama as he swears in, clapping politely, an inscrutable look on his face. Does he worry that pulling out of Iraq will damage American superiority? Does he feel sad for the loss of oil company-tax credits? Maybe he’s shaking his head because he knows he was doing God’s work.
What was Bush thinking during eight years of presidency?
Why did he start two wars that could not be won? Why did he cut of all funding for stem cell research, sex education, and environmental research? To me, he always seemed out of touch with reality, blatantly ignoring signals that things were badly wrong: impending environmental catastrophe, declining educational standards at home and the highest rates of incarceration in the world, and over one million casualties in Iraq. But everyone is sane in their own head. What was the utopia he thought to create?
My imagination always starts with myself. What do I want in the world? What are the perfect days made of? I have watched myself for years to see if I could learn what actually makes me happy, and these are some of the answers: Interesting work that feels useful. Using my body and staying healthy. My relationships with my friends and my lovers. And then, expanding outward: beautiful cities that build community instead of isolating us in a Sargasso sprawl. A culture that loves knowledge and curiosity. Celebrations of all sorts, from concerts to the Olympic games to pillow fights in the streets. Technology applied for efficiency, art and amusement. All this, and also the darker things that provide contrast: the undergrounds of culture where variety flourishes and perfects itself before bursting into the mainstream, a home for the nights we all suspected…
What about war, famine, disease, poverty?
Well, what of them? These things need to be addressed. We need to get serious about tracking the sorts of public policies and interventions the measurably reduce conflict, as certain international organizations working for peace at ground level already do. We need to understand what development means and how little we actually know, for we’ve failed in Africa for fifty years now. We should respond to domestic terrorism as a minor public health problem, not like some stupid school-yard affront to American dignity.
And yet: six billion people come home from work, from school, from the fields, or they look up as someone walks through the door. Six billion people are asked by someone, anyone, “how was your day?” These days are made into lives and these lives are the only measure we have. What I want is for those days to be better. That’s the only measure of success I can imagine.
What did Bush dream of? What were the perfect days of the world he sought to create? And for who?