Thursday, May 20, 2010
Grand Old Party Delusions
Legends are material to be molded, and not facts to be recorded.
During the recent weekend trip down to Charleston, South Carolina while my wife, daughter, and I were enjoying the culture and history of the Holy City I just happened to catch a glimpse of a strange sight. In the window of some store along Meeting Street was a Twilight Zone-like painting of several Republican presidents sitting around a table playing poker. I found myself amused at the sight of it because while I mean no insult my first thought at seeing the picture was its likeness to the series of schlock paintings collectively entitled "Dogs Playing Poker" by the early 20th century artist C.M. Coolidge. The second thought, which I found even funnier, was that with this being South Carolina this painting is high art if not an actual religious icon.
The eight men in the picture are all in good health and in obvious good humor enjoying each other's company, in the background appears to be some sort of a mural of a city with a podium above it. While the appearance of First and Second Bush complicates matters given that everyone else has long since passed away they appear to be in some form of Republican afterlife and are having a party later with a high-powered speaker attending. To the question of their actual supernatural location and the possible high-powered speaker I will leave that to the reader, especially with Dick Cheney not hovering somewhere nearby snacking on the bones of some tortured soul.
As for these men even with my liberal leanings, I consider Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt great presidents. Only the deluded and bizarre would consider anything other but such small and narrow minds do exist. Ike ranks right up there with them, he truly was a great warrior and leader of men and his years as president held their own unique and difficult challenges. They were not perfect men even in their own ages and today all three would be castigated in some manner for things accepted as normal in their times. However, they were without a doubt honorable men and the country was damn lucky to have them.
I will have to include President Ford in the ranks of a good president for his efforts in restoring the confidence of the nation and building bridges of trust after the nightmare of Watergate. Although his pardon of Richard Nixon, while saving the country from having to go through another nightmare none the less allowed his immediate predecessor to escape the full measure of justice. I agree with those that say allowing Nixon to essentially get away without fully being exposed set the stage for other presidential misadventures. As far as I am concerned, even having Nixon in the painting insinuates that the person who created it is separated from reality to a great degree.
As for Reagan and First Bush everyone has their own opinion of them and even mine is complicated. In an attempt to avoid digressing into the predictable political degradations I will only say that they were just normal men, full of faults and weaknesses that we all share but many of their actions hurt the country with only its innate strengths allowing it to move on. However, the damages they inflicted have festered and edged the country ever closer to disaster.
I save special condemnation for Second Bush whose incurious leadership and illegal behavior has killed untold thousands overseas and who by himself took the country from a budget surplus to doubling the national debt by the time he left office. He left such a mess that President Obama may end up saddled with the greatest part of the blame for the chaos he created.
My biggest issue with that bizarre painting is how the arrangement of presidents suggests a certain pecking order with a nod to current Republican ideology. Instead of it centered on Lincoln and Teddy who are undeniably the greatest men in the bunch, Reagan and Second Bush appear dominant, huddled close together while Ike is set apart and behind them. In fact, all we see of Lincoln is his back with him appearing to be telling a joke. Teddy, relegated to second tier status, is position uncomfortably close to Nixon for me. First Bush is so close to the edge that it seems he could almost fall off, of course he was only a one-term president who raised taxes. Its a wonder he even made the cut at all when you think about the cardinal sin he committed. For me President Ford is in the best position, Lincoln is still a great hero in my eyes and if such a place as heaven actually exists and I am lucky enough to get there, finding Abe and talking with him would be high on my list of things to do.
I have no doubt that this painting is a piece of pure propaganda, meant to reinforce a view of self-centered righteousness and superiority. That American greatness can only come from one narrow political viewpoint instead of a mix of views and ideas. If this painter wanted this picture to represent a true American spirit presidents from other parties would be sitting at the table enjoying the humor of Lincoln. I am sure that somewhere some Democratic painter has his own sanctimonious version with Jefferson, Jackson, Truman, Kennedy, and Clinton gathered around Franklin having their own good time. However, for me the problems that the country faces right now are too damn great to wallow in petty self-justication that only polarizes the nation further.
It is a disturbing tendency in this country to view any one that opposes you as the enemy and to paint them as evil. Which is very sad since I am certain that there is at least one man in that painting who would be the first to stand up and proclaim how such behavior is totally un-American.