Friday, July 22, 2005

Desperately Rattled

"I'm not afraid," said the sturdy Brit interviewed this morning on television, "but I am desperately rattled." Hmmm. I'm kind of wondering what he meant by this, Bush. Perhaps he just didn't feel comfortable with the word "fear" and was looking (desperately) for an alternative. "Rattled" sounds like what happens to our windows, here in California, when we're on the receiving end of an earthquake--which puts the fear of God into me, Bush, I promise you. I guess, then, that this particular interviewee was "all shook up" by the second London attack in the space of two weeks. Even by London standards, that's pretty shaky. I sympathize with my erstwhile countrymen and women.

It's a scary world, Bush, as you like to point out so often. In fact, it's my judgment that your political success has been based on fear. In that sense, 9/11 played right into your hands, and those of your political operatives, because it created the atmosphere of fear in which you seem to operate so well. A single example--but one of many: the way in which the color-coded alert system worked so conveniently in your favor during the last election cycle. Any slight downtick in your numbers was easily corrected by an adjustment in the terror alert system.

The problem, as I see it, is that the fear factor works two ways. Or maybe, rather, it's a vicious cycle: in claiming to be fighting fear, you simultaneously create more of it. My belief is that we each participate in the creation of our own reality, and that you, Bush, being "the leader of the free world"--well, really, these days, let's admit it, the leader of the world--contribute significantly to the reality of the world we live in. For better or worse, it reflects something of who you are, as a man, as an individual human being. And as I've said before, Bush, I see you as a fearful man. I'm talking at a deeply personal level here. I don't know you, obviously; but I do believe that even at a distance, with someone so much in the public eye, we can read a good deal about the inner man--through body language, turns of phrase, deflections of the eye, and so on. And that's what I read in you: fear. It's a kind of smell. You know what I mean? I have no way of knowing its source, but I suspect that it's related to your earlier alcoholism as much as it is to your evangelical rebirth and your moral inflexibility. Maybe it's all Barbara's fault. No, just kidding...

But whatever the source, I see it there, in your TV appearances: the little boy glimpsed behind the posture of the man who needs to prove his strength and fearlessness, the smirk that hides the insecurity, the shifty eyes... My judgment, Bush, I own it: this is fear. Fear that the little boy behind the Oval Office desk will be unmasked; fear that others will find your weakness; fear that you're way out of your depth, and way beyond your capabilities. Perhaps even a fear of the evil in your own heart, since you talk so much about the evil in others'. And at a deeper level, an existential fear: of chaos, of meaninglessness, of powerlessness.

That's what I see. That's what I read in what I see. I could be wrong. But I know we have a fearful America and a fearful world, and I have a persuasive inner sense that this is, in some part, what you need. It's no coincidence that terror has proliferated so alarmingly during your tenure in office. Understand, Bush, I'm not blaming you for this. I am suggesting, though, that it's a reflection of who you are. And sadly, by the same token, you, as President, are a reflection of who we are, collectively, as a nation, as a world. A terrible thought, Bush: that you are the President that we create.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Peter, I have been following your blog regularly, and just want you to know that I appreciate your effort very much. I tend to agree with most everything you have to say, and especially want to second your comments about Bush's body language. I read fear and insecurity there too.

Hope to see you at Eva's someday soon.