Monday, January 19, 2009

Purge! Purge! Purge!

Our long national nightmare ends and so does an old nightmare of my own mind's creation.

From a fairly young age, I was fascinated by politics and concerned with government. As a kindergarten student, I had my mom write an antiwar letter to George H.W. Bush on my behalf. Though I abhorred war in general, I proposed what I thought was a fairly pragmatic compromise between total nonintervention and the loss of scores of American lives. The deal was that I was going to ask Santa for an army of robot soldiers which I would then lend out to the US government for the purpose of liberating Kuwait. This way, Bush wouldn't have to sacrifice either military objectives or the lives of our soldiers. The President wrote me back but I thought he really dodged the topic. Anyway, Santa got me toys instead and I was no worse for wear.

Another thing that really outraged me as a pretty young kid was the death penalty. I became really fascinated with the issue sometime during middle school/Clinton administration and read whatever showed up in the paper on the subject. I couldn't believe that our nation could execute so many human beings while the rest of our industrialized allies had outlawed the practice years ago. I was also quite disturbed by the racial disparities in the application of the death penalty. It sickened me and it was one of the first issues that really forced me to consider political philosophy, government, race, morality, etc. in more complex ways.

I believed the act of taking the life of another human being to be totally unconscionable and I didn't waver.

Slowly but surely, then the rest all at once, I wasn't quite so certain anymore. I became disillusioned by George Bush's theft of the election in 2000 and I grew increasingly cynical as the response to the 9/11 attacks developed into a bizarre 21st century religious crusade. And it only got worse from there. We all know the gory details. He was reelected in 2004 and then the summer of 2005 came.

I left the U.S. to spend some time studying at the University of Ghana around ten days before Katrina hit. I grew so upset and angry trying to follow the drowning of New Orleans from afar. Immeasurably furious. Angrier than I'd ever been about anything in my whole life.

I started having the most vivid and violent dreams, dreams of a variety that would have been unthinkable to a slightly younger me.

In one, I strangled George W. Bush to death with my bear hands. I remember crushing his windpipe with my thumbs. In another, I and a small mob of people hunted Karl Rove like a dog through unknown city streets. When we caught up to him we stomped him mercilessly, erected gallows, and hanged him on the spot to the cheers of a massive crowd.

What happened to my America and what happened to me? Such violent hate! How?

I used to pride myself on the opposite. I used to wonder if I would have even been able to flip the switch on Hitler if asked. But suddenly, I was dreaming about ripping George Bush limb from limb and was feeling no conflict about it at all. In fact, I enjoyed those violent dreams very much and blabbed about them excitedly to other Bush-bashing friends of mine. I thought they were hilarious because I was full of hate for these men.

(This is not to say that I had morphed completely from idealist to cynic, as I was very hopeful about the prospect for progressive change not so long after I shook the immediate depression that overcame me when George Bush won in 2004. I was an enthusiastic Obama kool-aid drinker on day 1 and was constantly talking up the change that I believed was going to come in 2008 when peers were being more skeptical. Obama's inauguration tomorrow means something else to me entirely. I might not ever be able to put it into words.)

But this post is about what it means to finally begin to exorcise the demons of the last 8 years. It feels so good. I'm still one that wants to hold individuals within the Bush administration accountable for their crimes - but it is immeasurably comforting to reflect back on my dreams from 2005-2006 again today.

Those vivid images of my own creation and born out of my own lust for vengeance feel as repugnant to me now as they should have felt all along.

And that feels great. Like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I hate the death penalty way more than I hate anybody in the Bush administration and I'm sure of it.

Now all that's left to decide is what we should do to punish all those administration criminals?

I'm not totally certain but all I want to do is sock them in the face.

Once each and that's it. Sometimes yes to nose-bleeds but they can all keep their front teeth.

5 comments:

Pistolette said...

I was pretty idealistic in my early twenties, until i started my masters degree in political science/foreign policy.

By the time I graduated I was exhausted by foreign/domestic politics. A year later, Katrina made me think more about local politics, but then I realized the futility there too. But what really finished me off was the 2008 election. I have never heard such vicious, irrational behavior from supposed "intellectuals" and I will never get over it. I now despise politics.

These days I think it's more important to work on the specific issues you care about rather than the party/regime/gov't in power.

jeffrey said...

Regarding the nightmares, you say this began shortly after you went to Ghana? Are you sure it wasn't just the malaria pill?

I started kindergarten at the beginning of the Reagan Administration. Growing up in a politically obsessed and staunch union household, my childhood was basically a study in the world going to hell in a handbasket.

We were relieved when Clinton was elected but didn't expect much. We got even less than that.

By the time Bush II rolled around, I kind of felt like the country had earned whatever horrible punishment the little bastard was certain to mete out. And boy did he deliver on that.

It's strange for me to read and listen to people talk about the incoming bunch of recycled Clintonites with such optimism. I can only assume it derives from lack of experience with people who were only slightly not as bad as Bush. I sort of pity them their inevitable disappointment.

E said...

oh it was almost definitely influenced by malaria pills. i got a sweet run out of those things.

Anonymous said...

If you're well into your adult years and still looking for steady employment, the nightmare is definitely not even close to over. The want ads are getting slimmer by the day, in the papers and online. Obama's taking over from Bush was bittersweet, I thought, given the state this country is in. There will be more pain to come. It's good at long last to have Bush out, to get a fresh start on working problems out, but the nation's economic situation is grave, bordering on dire and seems to get worse with each passing day.
Ray

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