“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.