Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Fate of the Union

I caught the last half of George Bush's State of the Union address more or less by accident last night, and ironically, on the BBC. I think it's the first time in my life I've watched a State of the Union address. It was revealing.

I have to ask the question: is there an opposition in the United States? I mean, really? The way I'm used to thinking of an opposition? Because I saw a whole lot of people sitting in a big semi-circle focused on this guy. There was no telling one party from another. Not by where they sat. Not by how they behaved. Not by their reactions to what he was saying. They applauded as one. They rose as one. Honest to God, I was reminded of watching the Politburo under Brezhnev.

I tried to imagine people sitting on opposite sides of the House of Commons behaving as one, reacting as one, during the Speech from the Throne. The idea is chilling. A statement from the executive ought to be a challenge to the opposition... not to oppose just for its own sake, but to criticize, suggest, improve, defend. I saw nothing like that last night. I saw a man call on his countrymen for more money they didn't have to draw more blood that wasn't theirs, and a nation on its feet in the form of Congress in accord. It was evil. I feel that's a fitting word for it. To me, it looked wholly evil.

A man who talks of "tearists" getting "nuculer" weapons purports to lead the Free World, or at least its most powerful member. He does not allow discordant facts to dissuade him from action or threats. It's as though all the world were wed to a man who will not believe in the fidelity of his spouse. "Come on, I know you slept with my brother last summer at the cottage; admit it! Come clean, it'll be alright. What, you just compliment his shirt, and that's supposed to mean nothing? Alright, what about Bob at the convention last spring? What, I'm supposed to believe it's just a coincidence you just happen to like the same wine? Admit it! Why do you lie to me?" But there's no divorcing this guy. And he has a proven predilection for domestic violence.

The US economy is circling the bowl with dollar bill toilet paper, but aside from a few platitudes and the promise of spending more money the US doesn't have, hardly a word of concern. But he really lights up when he talks about putting a glass to the wall to hear what people in other rooms are up to, and asking for more Superman outfits to kick in their doors and set them straight. It was entirely revolting. If the Free World is a gang, does having a bloodthirsty psychopath as a member really qualify as an asset? Especially one who thinks he's running the show and calling the shots for us all?

The torch is being passed to southeast Asia... that was probably inevitable, but George Bush really greased the wheels with oil and blood that his great-grandchildren will still be paying for. I honestly feel we're watching the decline of the United States, and with it, the eclipse of the West as the principal civilization of the world. I think those days are ending. There was probably always a reckoning due. But it probably didn't need to be either this sudden, or this pronounced.

That's the State of the Union, folks.


Polt said...

After watching several State Of The Unions, I myself, was shocked when I first watch the PM in the British House of Commons. people were grumbling and mumbling while he talked, and then got all loud and noisy and stuff. I thought it all a bit rude.

The difference I think, comes because parlimentary systems, the PM is a member of that house. the president is not, and in fact is not allowed onto capitol hill or in the congress unless invited.

It's all a bunch of pomp and circumstance, kinda like the speech itself.

The opposition does get it's day, after the president is done speaking. But during the speech, I suppose thethinking is, he's the president of ALL of us, and if you have nothing nice to say, jsut sit there while his people applaud and stand up.


Lone Primate said...

What amazes me is the role reversal. People in the States were always supposed to be mavericks, independent, don't-tread-on-me types... while Britons and Canadians were supposed to be forelock-tugging yessir-yessir-three-bags-full lackies. But the kind of deference a guy gets just for being elected president is foreign to me. It's like when the Romans deified later emperors while they were still alive or something. Meanwhile, prime ministers are in the bumper cars 24/7. I think that's how it should be. It's fine to be polite to the Queen... she doesn't really decide anything. But to treat the president like royalty, well... you might as well have a REAL king, it seems to me. I didn't like what I saw at all. :(

Polt said...

Hmm, interesting points, I had thought of the comparison you made myself while reading this.

The queen is the head of state, the pm the head of the government. Our president is both. And when he's doing the speech, I suppose its like he's the head of state. Afterwards, though, all bets are off. And the opposition does get federally mandated tv time right after the speech to have one of thier own give a speech as well, albeit in a studio and not from the floor of the congress.

Its really only during the speech that the president, of either party, gets such deference.