There's so much to do before I leave for the beach this weekend. Like I said earlier, I hadn't planned on making the trip this year, so when I found out that my excuse for not going to the beach wouldn't work out, I had to cram several weeks worth of planning into a couple of days. As part of my mad dash to get ready to relax (some irony there, no? I heard a cruise ship captain interviewed on an NPR program lament that when Americans go on vacation the treat it in much the same way as they treat their work, trying to maximize every moment. Instead of relaxing and enjoying their time on ship, doing only the things they really want to do, they try to cram everything in, all at once, creating a chaotic and stressful environment. I am, after all, an American, even if I don't always eat like one) I went to an optometrist today, to get a new prescription and order some contact lenses.
Why do contacts constitute a necessity on the beach? Simple. Without them, I can't wear sunglasses, unless I want to shell out for some prescription sunglasses, which would still have required a visit to the optometrist. And, of course, you need sunglasses on the beach.
I remember the one year I went to the beach without sunglasses. I had just graduated from high school, and for the first time in my life I was going on a vacation without my family. My friend Andrew invited me to go with his family on their beach vacation, and I just couldn't resist. But not having my Mom to hold my hand through the planning and packing, I forgot some essentials. Like sunglasses. Those long walks on the beach were anything but relaxing with the glare from the sun rising up from the gorgeous white sand, burning my eyes. I spent most of the week inside.
On the way back from the visiting the optometrist I saw a bumper sticker which reminded me that the last two presidents may be the two most hated leaders in our nation's history (though what do I know about history?). It read:
I'm Not Anti-Bush;
I'm Just Pro-Intellegence.
While this is sly, subtle, and more than just a little bit funny, it is not exactly an articulate political statement. It does, however, have good company in the pantheon of Bush-bashing bumper statements. Some of my favorites include:
A picture of a very menacing looking President Bush, with a caption that reads:
Another stock photo of the current president, with a caption that reads:
Not My President
A drawing of a cartoonish running man, wearing a cowboy hat roughly the size of Texas, with a caption that reads:
Somewhere in Texas a Village is Missing its Idiot
And, of course, there are a whole host of others, arguing either that the president is evil, stupid, or simply illegitimate. I have some sympathy for the messages of these bumper stickers - I have a great deal more in common with the people who would put them on their car than I do with people whose cars would say simply
as though we weren't already painfully aware of that.
But as much as I might agree with the political agenda of people who cannot help but voice their frustration or despair or even outrage at the man who currently holds the office of the president and the reckless decisions which he has made from that office, I don't see the proliferation of anti-presidential automotive messages as a good thing for this country. I'm not saying that people shouldn't be allowed to put such messages on their car, nor am I saying that they should be shamed for doing so. Rather I am saying that the proliferation of such messages reflects a toxic political environment.
It is perhaps fitting that the current recipient of such toxicity is someone whose political career has so benefited from the same toxicity which now threatens to effectively destroy it. President Bush was elected in part because of former Vice President Gore's fear of "Clinton fatigue," a by-product of the political toxicity created by conservative and Republican backlash at President Clinton, an irrationally hated figure in much of America. While Clinton's natural charm and charisma was enough to make more than half of the country love him just as passionately as the other just-slightly-less-than half of the country hated and still hates him; his infinitely less charismatic, and, well, staid and stoic former running mate ran as far away from him as he could in the 2000 Presidential election, running himself right out of office, even as he collected a slight majority of the votes.
But all of that is old news. I bring it up now because I have heard more than a few Republicans complain about how their opponents show nothing but contempt for the president, and as such for the presidency. I don't have much sympathy for them. After all, they are the ones who made this bed, and now we all have to lie in it. As the famous bumper sticker reads:
No One Died When Clinton Lied
but the moral indignation of some already indignant blow-hards and hypocrites forced this country through a divisive impeachment process as the culmination of a campaign to cripple an opponent they couldn't beat fairly.
Perhaps the biggest victim of the campaign to "get" President Clinton, to catch him doing something so sinister that the rest of us fools would finally know just how evil this charming anti-Christ really is, was the office of the president. Now presidents are more than fair game for childish ad hominem attacks, and a Republican president is now on the receiving end.
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