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Discovering George W. Bush: In His Own Words
A Personal Journey
I think it's time that my generation does some soul searching in terms of what went on during our childhood. As a child of the 80's, we've lived through some interesting times: the oil crisis, the Iron Curtain falling, the Gulf War, the Clinton scandal, the budget crisis, China opening up to the West, the Twin Towers falling, and the First African America President—all while swooning over the Backstreet Boys and watching Boy Meets World. Boy, it's been a ride.
Growing up, at the tender age of 5, I couldn't tell the difference between George H.W. Bush and George Washington—in my young unformed mind, they were the same; time wasn't something that was yet fathomable. In terms of Germany splitting and the Gulf War, I had no idea what was going on until much later in life. My earliest memory of politics was sitting in 7th-grade art class, debating with my art table comrades whether Bush or Gore would make a better President. I have no doubt that we were each parroting our parent's views and knew very little about the matters at hand.
September 11, 2001
I was 15, and woke up the morning of September 11th, having dreamed that a plane hit a building, killing thousands. I kid you not. I then walked into the kitchen and sat down to breakfast, that is when my mother broke the news, that a plane had hit one of the Trade Towers. We watched the television, waiting to hear if it was an accident—but a few minutes later the second hit confirmed our worst fears.
I was scared but knew that the news could often blow stories out of proportion. I had no idea what the Trade Towers were or that they stood as the anchor of American Capitalism. My first thought was to brush it off as another tragedy—no different from watching earthquakes and tornadoes decimate towns. I had no idea what a terrorist attack was or what it meant in terms of our freedom in America.
I Will Never Be the Same
An hour after the attacks, I sat in my Freshman English class—an awesome way to start high school, right?—eyes glued to the television screen. On it, I saw that the Pentagon had been hit and the White House was a heroically diverted target. That is when fear began to escalate. This wasn't an attack on a couple of financial buildings—this was war. I don't care how you define war, attempting to take out the center of the American government is an act of war.
There was a profound climate change that day: I believe that the western world learned that the feeling of being safe was only an illusion. MI6 could be taken out, the stock market could be purposely crashed—even Disneyland was on the terrorist hit list. I am literally in tears as I write this because I am sad for that loss of innocence—my loss of innocence.
I grew up in an America that always won, and when we made mistakes, we also always picked ourselves up by our bootstraps. It was the land of the free and home of the brave. I knew we had the world's strongest economy and the mightiest military, we were a shelter to the oppressed, and a beacon of freedom. I was proud of our military and knew that if ever attacked, they would lay down their lives to protect America's freedom. I felt safe.
I also grew up in an America that the western world generally liked. However, in post-9/11 America, I discovered while studying and traveling abroad, that many do not approve of our politician's decisions. I felt judged and criticized for political policies I was too young to vote for. While staying in European hostels there was a joke going around that if you wore a Canadian flag on your backpack, most people wouldn't know the difference between accents and wouldn't hassle you for being an American.
A few weeks after Septemeber 11th, I spent time down in Mexico helping to build an orphanage. To keep the peace, I was told not to wear any known American brands, patriotic wear, or anything that would show any sort of citizenship. Kind of funny isn't it, but it was the paranoid world we lived in.
Coming out of WWII, America was the western world's sweetheart and our allies were aligned with us in economic, political, and moral conviction. Now it seems like we are looked at as imperialistic, power-hungry war mongers who feel we have an international obligation to dictate how the world functions. I kind of see where that reputation stems from.
I remember asking my English teacher if the terrorist attacks meant war was on the horizon, and he persuaded the class that war was not on the agenda. Boy, was he wrong.
In the days that followed, I remember the unearthly silence in the skies as all planes were grounded. Once the ban was lifted, every plane streaking across the sky was looked at with suspicion. Was it headed into my school, into my parent's office building, or into a national monument? I lived near San Francisco and stayed clear of it for the entire winter because the Golden Gate Bridge and the Transamerica building were both on the CIA warning lists. We became prisoners of fear in our own backyard.
Still to this day, when I get on a plane I wonder, Is it safe?
Politics Now Mattered
As a child, I took very little interest in politics and mostly lived a carefree life of innocent ignorance. I biked to the swim club with friends, slept out under the stars, and played with Beanie Babies, like any other kid. September 11th changed everything.
I grew up in a middle-class home in the east Bay Area. My father was a white collar executive and my mother was mostly a stay at home mom and career late-bloomer. I also grew up with wild tales of my father avoiding the Vietnam War and attending UC Berkeley in the 70's; I now watch the civil rights and anti-war demonstration documentaries and look for my white-guy-with-a-fro-father getting tear gassed. He now credits missing out on medical school because of his extracurricular involvements. He believed in something and was willing to fight for it.
Flash forward to high school and the Iraq war beginning and there was a definite movement towards protesting. My classmates decided to join in on the action and organized a staged walk-out to protest the war. I remember hearing passionate speeches and propaganda in favor of impeaching Bush and halting military involvement in the Middle East, and being drawn into the civil disobedient love fest. When the clock stuck protesting time, I walked out with the rest of them. I now look back and realize that I had no clue what was going on—it seemed cool, passionate, and dangerous—it felt like being world changers. I also realize that as school kids we were just parroting what we'd heard on the news, from our federal babysitter teachers, and from our parental figures. What could we know? We were hardly out of diapers when Sr. Bush tried the same thing more than a decade before.
Hey, at Least He Can Make Fun of Himself.
Bush Was Our First President
Few of us, who grew up in the late 80's and early 90's remember very much about Clinton. The only thing we knew was his Monica scandal. He was made out to be a moral monster, but in hindsight, was actually a decent President. To this day, all I know about him is Monica, him helping the Irish end their troubles, opening China to western trade, and preserving a huge underwater sanctuary off of Hawaii. That is it.
For most of us, Bush was the first President who we knew well and of whom we were mature enough to form an option of. He watched him read to school children that fateful morning and we laughed when Will Ferrell weekly quoted him on Saturday Night Live. We watched the recount in Florida and we cried when Katrina swept over New Orleans. We demanded action in some areas and criticized passivity in others. For us, this was the first President we began forming an opinion of.
Keeping Politics Out of It
Entering my teenage and adult years, it seemed like the adults in my life wanted me to be cohersed in their political direction. The media was pulling one way, Michael Moore another, and professors another. Everyone had an opinion, but no one seemed to have the facts straight, at least in my opinion.
For college, I went to one of the most liberal colleges in California and most of my professors seemed to push their own agenda on their students. 2009 was the year I graduated, and the same school year as the Obama vs. McCain election. It was also my first election as a legal adult, which meant that I could no longer be a parrot and would need to figure out the political spectrum for myself.
I won't tell you who I voted for nor which political parties I have been a part of—in my early years I seemed to try them all. I have personal convictions, but I don't feel the need to blast them off on everyone, and I certainly don't think they are relevant to this article, surprisingly.
What I Do Know
What I do know is two things: that no matter who is President, the office of Presidency should be honored; secondly, that there is so much happening behind the scenes that the average citizen is not given privileged information to.
Honor the King
Personally, no matter who is President, I feel the moral obligation to show them honor and pray for them that they may make wise decisions. Republican or Democrat, they are just humans and they mess up, they fail, and the go number 2 on the toilette like the rest of us. I cannot imagine the burden a President must feel when making unfathomable decisions. To live with the guilt of the loss of military life and to always wonder if your choices were the right ones—that is a very heavy burden to bare.
There Are Things Going on Behind the Scenes
In a post-9/11 world, the government, in order to protect its citizens, must keep some intelligence gathering under the radar. No matter where you stand on Snowden and domestic spying, there are things gathered that, if widely dispersed, would have grave consequences on America's future as a nation. We may never know exactly what went on the morning of September 11th, and we may never uncover the full truth of WMD's.
The hard part is that the truth is easily manipulated by politically and financially backed media sources. When you realize that 5 guys practically own the entire media market, you begin to realize that everyone is lying out of their teeth in order to keep their jobs.
I honestly have heard two different stories of Iraq, one from soldier friends who fought on the front lines, and another from reporters in cushy office seats. Honestly, I have no idea who is telling the truth. As someone who believes in absolute truth, it is easy to see that both sides are equally convinced that their reality is true—but there is absolutely no way that they are.
We'll Never Know the "What If's?"
The hard part is that we will never be given an alternate reality of "what if?"
What if Iraq wasn't invaded? What if WMDs did exist? What if the CIA was correct about the anthrax scare? What if Bin Laden wasn't taken out? What if the CIA didn't play dirty with Cheney era tactics? What if some of the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay were left unchecked? What if some of the emails and phone calls weren't bugged? What if those brave citizens didn't take over a plane and crash it into a field instead of letting it hit the White House?
Depending on where you fall politically, some of those questions are heated ones—as they should be. The one thing I do know, among all of the lies and cover-ups, is that America has not yet experienced anything else like 9/11. For that I am thankful.
I'm Reading His Autobiography of the Major Decisions He Made While in Office
Why I'm Reading His Book
Since so much of my life has been affected by this man, I want to know, straight from his mouth what he has to say. I have deep burning questions about some of Bush's decisions and in some instances, I believe that the media didn't give him a fair chance to speak for himself.
I want to hear straight from the horse's mouth, then form an opinion of him—or solidify an existing one. For someone who dedicated 8 years of his life and his eternal moral conscience to this country, I think I owe him that much.
A Turning Point In History
America is at a crossroads and is implementing policies that redefine our country. We have the conservative and more traditional version of America in right-wing politics, and a progressive socialist version of America on the left. In my short life, never have I seen America more divided.
Bush-era politics is an important thing to consider and study because the next election will determine whether America wants the traditional or the progressive. With Jeb Bush in the running, does America look fondly on George W. Bush's reign,or is it dreading round three of team Bush? Is she happy with Socialist perks and unending debt, or was progressivism merely a sick social experiment?
Putting George W. Bush on Trial
By reading his book, I'm attempting to put him on my own intellectual trial: Either he was a pathological liar or he was a misrepresented President. I don't think we'll ever know, but I do believe I owe it to myself and to my children, who will inherit the America I vote for, to hear him out.
Wish me luck!