Will's Coffee House

John Dryden, Dramatist, Critic, Poet Laureate, and my ancestor, frequented a coffee house called Will's almost daily, where he would hold forth on sundry subjects with great wit and aplomb. Same deal here, only without the wit or aplomb.

Location: Large Midwestern City, Midwestern State, United States

I am a stranger in a sane land...

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Inaugural Thoughts

Just Two of these, really--if you read the transcript of Bush's inaugural address, and by now you probably can't go anywhere on the Net without tripping over it, two things must strike you:

One: It's really not a good speech. I tried reading it casually, then slowly, then I had to stop and go back and reread just about every paragraph, because it's so fully of mushy, empty abstractions that I can't really tell what the hell he's talking about most of time. Not a good speech at all--I can't imagine what it must have been like to listen to--the audience must not have known what to make of it.

Two: What one could understand--and this was mostly at the beginning of the speech--left me stunned. Because Bush is a conservative, right? An arch-conservative? A Reaganite? A throwback? A reactionary? The reason I'm belaboring this point is that the early part of the speech was pure--I mean, pure, 100%, 24-karat, no additives or preservatives, absolute and complete and total Woodrow F***ing Wilson!!! Nothing in there as memorable as "We must make the world safe for democracy," but dammit, he flat out copied the central tenet of one of the most Republican-hated Democratic presidents of the past century--that we must exercise international interventionism in order to secure liberty abroad in order to secure our own liberty at home. That is Wilsonian to the core. And keep in mind, the Republicans of his era crucified Wilson for this ideology--they favored, as always, isolationism, and scorned the idea that the affairs of other nations were any of our damned business. And yet here we have the most Republican of Republicans embracing wholeheartedly this most historically Democratic of agendas. What the f***????

Well, of course, times have changed a bit. The Cold War ushered in an era where the rivalry between East and West ensured that we would go abroad to interfere with governments in order to guarantee that they would not go Communist--thus leading to wonderful folks like Pinochet and Marcos and Noriega. Of course, we didn't exactly support democracy therein--quite the contrary--but still, interventionism abounded and a precedent was set, and I'm sure that this form of thuggish foreign policy--one that Reagan was particularly fond of--was what Bush and his cronies are really hawking here (pun intended.) And I'm sure that the growth of multinationals and the interdependence of nations on stable governments to secure commerce had quite a bit to do with this shift. I mean, anyone who thinks that Bush & Co. really give a rat's ass about whether Iraqis can vote for their leaders is just being idealistically naive to the point of silliness. It's all to do with making sure that the Middle East is a place where the oilmen of the U.S. can do business. And of course, given that our prior justification for invading Iraq ("Saddam Hussein is going to kill us all!!!") turned out to be a crock, best to beat the drum of "It was never about us--it was about the Iraqis and how we want them to enjoy the blessings of liberty, for themselves and their posterity, and all the rest of that Schoolhouse Rock jingle!" I just find it perversely amusing that in order to make this claim, Bush had to wrap himself in the ideology of--of all people--Woodrow Wilson. Who, from whatever section of the afterlife they stuck him in (hard to say if Heaven or Hell: Great Man, Idealist, Incorruptible--but also quite the Racist as a result of his upbringing in a Virginia ravaged by Reconstruction, by parents who'd actually lived through the War itself--a fact that still gives me a pang because otherwise the guy'd be my hero) must be looking down (or up) and rolling his eyes at the ignoramus spouting his principles while ignoring the idealism that prompted them.


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