Final Thoughts To a Man Who Never Listened

With nearly morbid delight, for the last three years I have credited my blog to George W. Bush. Started just after Hurricane Katrina, my August 2005 entries were ones that mainly complained about the 1st Cavalry Division (minus the ones otherwise occupied in an occupied country) being deployed to New Orleans to patrol the streets in a clear violation of posse comitatus. I had special interests that were fully disclosed -- my boyfriend at the time was an officer in the Army who spent two weeks in New Orleans driving around in Humvee's with a gun, sleeping in a warehouse on the edge of a bloated Mississippi River -- but it took those special interests to cause George Bush's trouncing of the Constitution to suddenly and directly affect me. I've since pulled down most of my early blog entries. Aside from being poorly written, they were whining and self-serving tirades that no one but me ever read anyway.

As I wait for Bush to leave office, I've found myself thinking about how if it hadn't been for our President -- and my complete anger with him -- not only would I have never started my blog, but I likely never would have kept writing it. As I continued to be frustrated with the war in Iraq, ashamed of the US's treatment of Iraqis and Muslims, and subsequently disenchanted with my ex-boyfriend's resigned acceptance of the very things he claimed to staunchly disagree with, I found myself writing more frequently and not only writing more, but paying attention more. I found, to invoke Molly Ivins on the eve of a new Presidency, "sustained outrage." My blog entries went from complaining about my personal life to making the case for a better world around me. Now I didn't want to merely blockwalk for candidates -- I wanted them to answer my questions. And while I never felt as though Bush listened, others did.

My coworkers, always curious about my political hobbies -- a bizarre sport, I'll agree -- grilled me on my plans for the Inauguration. One of them said "I'm glad to see Bush go, but really, what has Obama done so far?" I found myself in a moment of Watson-like tharn -- not for lack of material but the inability to verbalize exactly what it is that he has done, before he's even been obligated to do anything.

Bloggers are a strange breed. We spend our days Twittering and writing on Facebook walls. Joining the Obama Dog groups and becoming fans of the Iraqi Shoe Thrower. We write blogs and argue in forums. We check our RSS feeds and set up Google Alerts for ourselves. We track ISPs and recurring page views. We want to be read, but more importantly, we want to be heard. We want issues to change, rights to be given or land to stay unspoiled. Blogs are the No Trespassing Signs staked into the otherwise manicured lawns of the wealthy, reminding those who need reminding that Violators Will Be Prosecuted -- or at the very least, be held accountable.

In Bush's goodbye speech last week, he dedicated a few minutes of airtime to remind us of the horrors of 9/11 and his presidency. He failed to mention that he never listened to the repeated warnings regarding the terrorist threats. He merely blinked and dictated, "As the years passed, most Americans were able to return to life much as it had been before 9/11. But I never did."

To a man who never listened, it would be hard to hear that not a single American returned to life as it had been before 9/11. We all lost something. We lost our privacy and our dignity. We lost our pride and our patriotism. Some lost their family members, some lost friends, and some lost their lives. But we never lost our voices -- if anything they just got louder.

What I know Obama has done is that in a country screaming to be heard, he listened. When he speaks, he doesn't regurgitate phrases picked from thin air but from the reverberations of the public. He's like staring into a mirror. We can see ourselves in him, because we hear ourselves in him. That's all we really wanted, at the end of the day, among this clamoring call for change. Hearing is a start, but it's time someone began listening. Eight years overdue, give or take.

5 Response to "Final Thoughts To a Man Who Never Listened"

  • FUBAR Says:

    EXCELLENT post! It brings to mind a couple of related thoughts of my own.

    First, as bad a President as we believe Bush to have been, he may have actually been worse than that. There came a time when many Americans, after already concluding that Bush turned out to be the very worst American President ever, began to wonder if he would be the very last American President ever. That the U.S. has survived as a nation is not testimony to any leadership he provided, but more in spite of his actions and his lack of leadership - and it speaks very well of our country and its people.

    Second, too often, post-Watergate and Vietnam Americans treat the notions of "government" and "people" as if they're two different things, and often in the context of "us" versus "them." Those in governments local and national and in between do the same sometimes.

    But in a participatory democracy, it’s not supposed to work that way. When the system works, government IS us. And if there's something about your government you don't like, the Constitution designates a day to overthrow it - election day.

    We may never know who really won the 2000 election, because they process was too messy. But it is known with more certainty who won the 2004 Presidential election: Bush. And therein, sadly, the American public as a whole got exactly the kind of government slightly more than half asked for. And then, over time, they joined the other half of us in our misery.

    In that context, this new beginning proves that people are right. That this system, while slow, messy, and inexact, is still capable of getting it right. That given the choice between hope and fear, while our temptations are with fear, sometimes our decision stands with hope.

    Here's to new beginnings. Here's to getting it right this time.

  • Logan Says:

    Are you sure you're ready for what tomorrow is the begins?

  • jolie Says:

    I was a kid when JFK made his famous "ask not" speech and internalized the ethic.

    so maybe, among the various legacies obama is sure to leave us, is a new sense of possibility for the on-coming generation - that working in government is something to aspire to, that crafting policies that improve people's lives is a good thing - because we surely do need a fresh flush of energy, creativity, tenacity & optimism.

  • Mean Rachel Says:

    so Jolie we've now deduced that you:
    - know someone I know
    - were a kid when JFK was inaugurated.

    I'm getting closer to cracking your identity! :)

  • jolie Says:

    ha! teh clews abound