George W. Bush is not a man of God…at least not my God. There is a possibility that he is devoted to some other God. I may even speculate about that as we move along.
I was away this week. I wasn’t near a radio or a television when George W. Bush admitted the “secret prisons” and the torture that took place there. I didn’t hear the press conferences and the speeches wherein he explained the tactical advantage that had been gained by by “waterboarding” detainees. I missed the assurances that this would end now that they were being transferred to the relative safety of Guantanamo, not that anything illegal or regrettable had been done, of course. This is good, because I likely would have broken the radio or TV.
When did America become a place wherein its chief executive could blithely acknowledge torture and there be no public outcry? Why did I hear two NPR correspondents chatting this morning about how President Bush used the admission to make a “bad news day” into a “good one”? How is this possible?
When I’ve talked with fellow Mormons about their support of George Bush, they have often cited his public religious stances. Recently, he came to Salt Lake City and cited God and religion in a speech to the American Legion in which he justified the record of his administration thus far. He is publically very religious, respectfully of differing paths to God, but proud of his own Christian tradition. He has spoken at Bob Jones University, a center of Christian bigotry, and he has met several times with the First Presidency of our church, whom I don’t believe that he believes are actually Christian. Nonetheless, I have a feeling that President Hinckley likes and respects him (although I may be wrong).
Thus, Bush cites Christ as a model. He publically tries to emulate him. He fails. He fails spectacularly. He fails to the degree that I am now wondering if he is conscious of Hitler’s advice regarding big lies.
I am utterly, utterly serious and I wish I wasn’t. I see absolutely nothing of Christ in Bush and very little of Christ’s influence in his rhetoric. I see an awful lot of Molech, the god of the Ammonites, who demanded the sacrifice of children for the maintenance of universal peace.
I believe that my God believes that human worth is inherent, that the loss of any human life is regrettable. Bush seems to believe that some people are worth less and therefore may be treated as inhuman, treated in ways that he would not treat his dog.
I believe that my God demands compassion, even for enemies, who are, after all, God’s children. Bush seems to believe that we should revel in the deaths of miscreants, miscreants created, in some cases, by our own government, but when they worked for us, of course, they were heroes.
My God demands that we act in humility, acknowledging his hand in all things. Bush seems to believe that he will single-handedly change the world for the better on his watch. I remember a scene a few years ago, when Bush was asked what his greatest mistake as a president was. He paused, chuckled, and then answered that he couldn’t think of anything. Most people so inclined thought that this was an act that revealed his hubris, an inability to acknowledge his errors. I disagree, I think that he is realistic enough to know his mistakes. I think that he just couldn’t figure out a way to plausibly admit a mistake, to maintain deniability so that his political ambitions would not be hurt. His need to save face is greater than his need to be Christian.
I know that NPR has a “liberal” reputation (as does this blog). I know that the correspondents I listened to could be misrepresenting the reasons behind Bush’s revelation. But is there any Christian justification for torture? Any appropriate response to the public revelation of torture on Bush’s watch, condoned by him, than apology and resignation? Any less appropriate response than to tout how well it worked?
Bush, from the beginning of the war of terror, has demanded death, both from his allies and his enemies. He condones torture; he condones the dehumanization of human beings. He asks us to sacrifice freedoms, but I don’t believe he has or ever will make a sacrifice that he hasn’t already calculated will be painless. He asks of us our children; He offers his control.
If the election of Bill Clinton represents the ultimate victory of the Communists, as I believe it does, Bush’s election represents a trend slightly more disturbing to me. Clinton represents those who value things only for their monetary worth. Compassionate programs are to be jettisoned if they fail to produce results in a scheduled timetable. We can only give if we expect a great return in the future. Giving just to give is now foolish, wasteful. We must calculate the gain and loss of every act of charity in order to determine the net result for our pocketbook and theirs. When compassion was commodified, Marx turned out to be right.
Furthering the process, we have the commodification of women and sex. The sex trade thrives in America; kidnapping and prostituting young women thrives throughout the world. I won’t blame an American president for this (although Clinton might be an appropriate stand-in), but it shows that when we only value items and people financially, we fail them. We no longer worship our God.
Bush seems to see the soldiers in these wars as just numbers and as such represents the commodification of life itself. When the decision to enter a war is based entirely on the likelihood (real or imagined) that the war will “pay for itself”, haven’t we simply turned people into numbers? Hasn’t their death become another ledger that simply requires balancing? Bush is the greatest of Marxists, as the people will be happy with an opiate of sure jobs at home and deaths overseas.
Certainly, despots should be ousted. I have no love for Saddam Hussein. But does anyone really believe that Bush’s sole concern was the suffering of the people in Iraq or the potential of weapons of mass destruction falling into terrorist hands? Don’t most people think oil might have been somewhat influential? Elections in Iraq were a wonderful step forward; were no-bid contracts for Halliburton necessary to attain them? The great good you do (or rather send others to do) that coincidentally fills your pockets (or the pockets of friends who will take care of you when you lose this gig) doesn’t seem like that great a good. Do we fight and kill now because the human losses involved mean financial gains?
I don’t wonder whether Bush sleeps well at night. Don’t we all assume he does? Does there seem to be even a trace of concern for the loss of the lives involved, US and Arab? The whole point of the war in Iraq is to have the killing take place there, not here. But he doesn’t seem that put out by the killing. Is this a man who can appeal to the “better angels of our nature”? A man who counts his accomplishments in the published photos of the men he has killed or captured?
If Bush worships a God, it isn’t mine. I will not vote for him in the upcoming election. I will not vote for anyone whom he endorses. I recognize that this may leave me without options regarding candidates, but I will manage.
That said, I am willing (deseparate, really) to be wrong. If you can convince me that Bush is Christian or that Bush is working for a God I believe in, I will let him off the hook. I just don’t see it right now. When I see him, I don’t see the light of Christ in his eyes, just the reflected flames of the fiery sacrifice he commands.