Farewell to George Bush: American Marcus Aurelius
I sit here this evening greatly saddened at the passing of George H.W. Bush. Yet the passing of a 94 year old man who lived and accomplished so much should not be in and of itself be saddening. No, I believe that which saddens me has more to do with the passing of what Mr. Bush represented than the end of a life packed to the gills with the representation of the American spirit.
A Nation Ascendant
Part of our greatest generation, he came of age as America took its awkward first steps in it’s ‘superpower’ shoes. Though a child of privilege, he served in the very hottest of combat zones in the Pacific during World War II, being shot down and later rescued at sea by the submarine USS Finback. His entrepreneurial spirit would later lead him to great success in the oil industry, and he remained devoted to his wife Barbara through 73 years of marriage.
This was America the Ascendant. Powerful warriors. Astute businessmen. Devoted and honorable spouses.
His life and career mirrored the nation of America itself, even to his posting in the Central Intelligence Agency where America exerted the more subtle forms of power which have largely defined geopolitics in the post-Cold War era.
His presidency was a near mastery of the control of foreign affairs. Yet while an unabashed free market capitalist, he exhibited the compassionate side of America through the American with Disabilities Act and revisions to the Clean Air Act.
As I reflect upon the history (to date) of America, the end of the Bush presidency marked an end of an American epoch.
Prior to his defeat, America stood triumphant and unapologetic for what it represented. For in its soul and being it knew it shone as a beacon of freedom and opportunity alone amongst the nations of the world. Its power was unquestioned, yet its benevolence underpinned a message of optimism, democratic ideals and sheer determination to accomplish anything we put our minds to.
Despite his pledges to the contrary and knowing it would cost him greatly, his political agreements to increase some taxes cost him dearly in the 1992 election. President Bush made the unpopular yet necessary decision that sustaining the country required increasing the burden on taxpayers and would lose his presidency as a result.
Ever gracious in defeat he remained an available source of wisdom and tutelage (if needed) for Bill Clinton.
2 short years later, the Gingrich House would take hold and begin investigating every nook and cranny of the Clinton administration. An impeachment resulted, followed by the most divisive and drawn out political election in 2000. The finger pointing and rhetoric escalated. Hatred now exists where once there was just congenial disagreement.
The complete abdication of any sense of compromise, normalcy, or honor evaporated somewhere around 1992, and I don’t expect I’ll see it return again in my lifetime.
American Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor who died in the year 180. His passing is largely acknowledged by historians to coincide with the end of rational, sound governance of the Roman Empire. Where once the exercise of benevolent power by Hadrian or Trajan led to untold prosperity, soon there was only infighting, decadence, and decay. Where once the trajectory of that nation in the Mediterranean knew no limit, insurgencies along the border and infighting at home would ultimately lead to collapse. The next 3 emperors would fall victim to palace intrigue and assassinations.
I cannot help but feel some sense of parallel to the modern age. We once believed we could count on government to do the rational thing, yet I fear we now live in an era where every presidency from this point forward will live under the specter of constant impeachment proceedings, special prosecutors, and clouds of illegitimacy.
I believe Mr Bush’s presidency likely marked the high water mark for America, at least in terms in our unshakable convictions in the righteousness of our cause and in the faith in our own abilities to transcend any challenge placed in front of us.
In it’s wake, I see a nation indebting its children, abandoning its decency, and abdicating its role in the world. A nation so driven in its own internal hatreds that the middle ground may as well have fallen into lava.
And the loss of what we once were and were capable of saddens me greatly.
Rest in peace, Mr. President.