Father and Son Presidents--Bookending America
Father and Son Presidents--Bookending America
The picture of octogenarian George the First jumping out of a plane strapped to some schmuck’s back was the shot of the past week. His plummet to earth came the day after Daddy Bush excoriated the critics of poor Georgie, rhetorically asking this senile non-sequitur: “Do they want to bring back Saddam Hussein, these critics [of George Junior and the war]?”
Such inanity is hardly worthy of a response. What is remarkable is the poetic justice that fate has dealt George Senior. The criticism that “Bush 41” (as his father is called by “Bush 43”) dodged with Gulf War I has been rightly heaped on the son for Gulf War II. It’s also a supreme historical irony that the end of the American experiment should come largely as a result of the Bush family presidential bookends.
As most people know, George Senior and George Junior are the only father-son presidents in American history other than John Adams and John Quincy Adams, who served at the beginning of the American republic.
John Adams was a driving force for independence from Britain in 1776, and the second US president. He was the first vice-president, as well as the first president to reside in the newly built White House in 1800. His son, John Quincy Adams, was the sixth president, and the author of the Monroe Doctrine.
The Monroe Doctrine represents the philosophical and political starting point of the American empire. In it, the upstart nation declared that European nations would no longer be allowed to colonize or interfere in the affairs of the newly independent nations of North and South America. Though John Quincy Adams saw the Monroe Doctrine as a declaration by the United States of moral opposition to colonialism, it soon became the quasi-legal basis for expansionism, and for American interference in the affairs of Latin American countries!
America began over 200 years ago as a noble experiment in democracy, but it has degenerated into a complete disconnect between the people and their government. Indeed, the attitude of the majority of latter-day Americans is to focus on the personal to the point of believing, existentially and emotionally, that nothing matters but the personal.
On my morning bike ride today, I passed a new motor home on the next block. The size of the gas-guzzling monstrosity was staggering—about 15 meters long. And while having a beer last night at the local brewery, the fellow next to me, who installs custom pools, bragged about having just signed two contracts worth $300,000!
We’ve exported our ‘culture’ to the world, and a billion people are following our self-centered lead in planetary destructiveness. Time magazine, in its customarily obtuse way, did a feature recently on China’s swelling ‘Me Generation’--the hordes of pampered, only-child 20-somethings in the PRC that are pursuing the American dream of being as consumeristic as they possibly can.
John Bolton, the disgraced American ambassador to the UN, reiterated again today the core Bush Administration premise: “The threat we face from terrorism is a war.” It’s a war all right, on the hearts and minds of people who still give a damn.
Saddam Hussein was America’s boy in the ‘80’s. We supplied him with materiel and intelligence as a counterweight against Iran, which had humiliated the US during the hostage crisis that ended Jimmy Carter’s bid for a second term. George Senior, the CIA mastermind, knew Hussein was going to invade Kuwait, but he wanted a war, both to expand American influence after the Cold War, and test new technologies on the battlefield.
Despite, or because 1000 Iraqis were killed for every American, the first Gulf war was the straw that broke the back of the American spirit. The people perished in 1991. That opened the door, oiled by the greasy Clinton Administration, to the manifest malevolence of two terms of George Junior. Given Bush 43’s metaphysical links to Al Qaeda, the black waters of Gulf War II were all but predestined.
The American experiment is over. What we contributed to the advancement of human civilization has been completely overshadowed by the harm we’ve done to the human prospect, capped by the Bush father and son presidencies.
The Adams’ presidencies form one bookend of the American experiment; the Bushes’ form the other. The world needs another revolution, without guns this time. It will not begin here.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.