W: The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me

“He awakened me from my dogmatic slumbers.”

     Immanual Kant (speaking of David Hume)

It was the lead-up to Iraq that did it.  Iraq,  and that lying smirk.

In  late 2002 through the summer of 2003, I was on a software-development project  far from home. I had to drive 1.5 hours to the site in the morning, and then 1.5 hours back home every evening. The route was through some of the least-inhabited parts of eastern North Carolina.  Not much radio out that way, and what little there is just screams “short-wave loony-tune.” I had time to think, then, time I hadn’t had for decades. And I  started thinking about the world, and I started thinking about that man with the lying smirk.

I didn’t vote in 2000. In fact, I hadn’t voted since 1980, when I voted for Reagan  — not out of any political conviction, but because I detested that grinning imbecile Jimmy Carter.  I used to be different. Once I was young, I was engaged, I wrote philosophy, I wrote plays. I’m sure most of what I wrote was utter dreck, but it was the passion  and the desire to make a difference that was important. Me and my friends  were going to change the world, or at least change a few lives. We lived like we meant it,  and we loved the struggle with ideas and words and causes.

Well, you know the story. Life did what it so often did. Life got in the way, and I went off on another path.  Don’t get me wrong: after a decade-long rough patch (drugs) I was mostly happy in a bovine, unthinking way, happy for decades. And so the years drifted by – the operative word being drifting – and I found myself in late 2002 driving down that long empty road in the dark every morning and every night, thinking about Iraq and thinking about that god damned lying smirk.

And one day, shortly after the invasion began, I understood the scope of what had happened, and I said to myself aloud in  my car, so loud that I actually startled myself: “Jesus Christ, we let the bastards do it to us again!” And so I rediscovered my rage, that blessed rage, that sweet emotion that has so many negative associations these days but that was so honored in simpler times that Homer was able to weave the entire fabric of his greatest epic around the rage of Achilles.

And so I started writing again.

There’s no way for me to avoid the inevitable conclusion: viewed from my own purely selfish perspective, George W. Bush was the best thing that ever happened to me. This idea horrifies me. If I could wave a magic wand and have it all play out another way – if I could have a world without W, at the cost of never awakening from my decades-long dogmatic slumbers – would I? Would I? I have to believe that I would.

My sanity depends on it.  


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  1. the possibility of that magic wand is not a reality. The death and destruction W. has brought is just too high a price to pay.

    But we can certainly take the awakening we’ve experienced and do our best to never slumber again – even when the rage subsides!!!!!

  2. I didn’t care about political matters after that until I moved to Arkansas and discovered Bill Clinton.  As governor of Arkansas, he cared about the state of education; he cared about the people caught up in the prison system; he cared about the prosperity of the people in the state, and he did something about the problems.  He’s a humanist.  And he was a president who could have benefitted from a Democratic congress.  We could have had universal health care by now, and we might have avoided the economic mess we’re in.  Gore made a big mistake when he turned his back on Clinton’s support, and we got Teh Bush.  Talk about taking a different direction!

    • kj on October 28, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    i love stories, especially stories of rage and awakening.  πŸ™‚

    my rage meter went of the charts with the Impeachment Folly. by the time 2003 came around, i was mostly numb. quite active, but numbed. i have no idea where i am now. all i know is i tuned out and Obama ended up the Dem nominee. that works for me.

    W will go down in history as an archetype.  we, the collective American we, created the stage for a character the size only history will judge.  and now he’s our scapegoat.  fascinating.

    • Edger on October 28, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    I have had better things happen to me, I admit. πŸ™‚

    But he is like a disease that makes you pay attention to your health and way of life, makes you learn and feed your head.

  3. I had fancied myself above the mainstream frey as politics were sooo useless and I was such a radical anarchist lol. I voted but never expected much. I occasionally got exited about a candidate, Jerry Brown, both as gov and candidate for pres. set my heart aflutter, but mostly after Nixon I just ignored the whole lot. Bobby Kennedy remained my ideal as I worked for his campaign in high school and his assassination broke my heart.

    Bush had the effect right from his candidacy of making me realize that you can’t sit outside and pipe dream that countercultures don’t cut it and that it could happen here.It was happening here. The reality of what the country I lived in was unavoidable. Life altering changes occur when the balance is so skewed that dark is called light. My main regret is that it took this horror show to realize that history is just the story we make.  


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