... no one could be a better president for an era which was marked by an incredible dumbing-down, a coarsening, of the socius. Celebrity culture, the culture of Greed, of the Sopranos, of Girls Gone Wild, of Entourage, of Paris Simpson and Lindsay Lohan, of Hummers and rehab, all seemed to fit perfectly with a population which was only too happy to make their MySpace page their homepage, plug their iPod earbuds into their heads, and get high in sweatpants while Bush made faces on CNN for their amusement. Sub-Prime Hedgefund Madoff schemes abounded, and the shoddy glitz of cheap everything bought with bad credit showered like trans-fatty manna, but it was all love of homeland when the microphones were on and the cameras were rolling. Contrasted with the sacrifice of brave soldiers or the suffering of our enemies, the America of Bush was Babylonian. And Bush's bull-headed bluster, his ability to laugh off tragedy or criminally oversimplify crucial issues was a perfect fit for a people who didn't want to face reality unless it was Reality TV. He was our president, and we deserved him, especially those who mocked him.Bush may have been the perfect metonym for an intellectually uncurious nation, but it gives me great hope that the President-elect seems to have generated and then ridden a wave of political interest into office. Granted, some of that is manufactured or "MySpaced" interest, but it still strikes me as no small accomplishment that the country is following Cabinet appointments as though they were NFL draft picks. (Has NPR ever had live coverage of the Secretary of Agriculture's Senate confirmation hearings?)
If Bush was the President of the ignorant, the ignoble and the insolent--his critics too happy to pounce on pronunciation rather than policy, too quick to believe that stupidity could be the only reason anyone would disagree with them--let Obama be the President of the intellectually rigorous, the magnanimous and the humble. Let's refrain from disagreeing with people by calling them either insane or stupid. Let's talk to people who disagree with us--especially the ones whose disagreement is so strong that it borders on hate--and attempt to understand their worldview. Dismissing someone as irrelevant is the surest way to radicalize them.
And though it hurts me to hear President Bush say that America's image has only suffered in the eyes of "the Elite," perhaps he can say that because there is a large swath of the country that truly believes that there is an Elite and that it has abandoned or even betrayed them. Does it strike anyone as strange that people boo when they hear the words "New York Times"?
Let's do something about it.