Turning mourning in America into the dawn of a better day

George Bush himself would not countenance that we grieve so long or loudly for him, just another citizen on the same journey as the rest of us.  But I sense he wouldn’t disagree with those who use the occasion of his death to grieve for the temporary loss of that which his life symbolized.  Leonard Pitts catches that well in his column in the Miami Herald today, in which he jumps off from Bush’s efforts to inspire with calls for a kinder, gentler country that could generate a thousand points of light

Presidents – and those who want to be president – have always sought to weave poetry from the prose of our daily lives, to ennoble our strivings and speak to what another Republican once called “the better angels of our nature.”

That’s what statesmen did once upon a time. But America has seldom seemed further from statesmanship – or from the vision Bush articulated – than it does now as the 41st president passes from the scene.

He died just days after the United States used teargas against asylum seekers, including children in diapers, after a handful of boys and men threw rocks at a border checkpoint in San Diego.

He was eulogized in Washington as lame duck Republican legislator[s] in Wisconsin brazenly strong-armed democracy and lifted a middle finger to the will of the people, voting to strip power from the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general.

He was memorialized in Texas as investigators in North Carolina probed an alleged scheme in which an operative working for a GOP candidate collected absentee ballots from voters in Democratic areas and diverted them from the ballot box.

These are the kinds of things that seem to happen every day in the thugocracy America has become. And that speaks to how thoroughly America rejected the vision of itself Bush offered 30 years ago.

(snip)

…the successes and failures of his public life have little to do with the very particular sense of loss some of us feel as the last president of the Greatest Generation takes his leave. There is always a sense of moment when a president dies. But the death of this president, this decent man, seems to close one of the few remaining doors between us and that time when presidents made poetry of our prose and you didn’t wake up every day to some new thugocratic outrage.

“Some have said this is an end of an era,” Bush’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. Russell Jones Levenson, Jr., said during his eulogy in Washington. “But it doesn’t have to be. Perhaps this is an invitation to fill the void that has been left behind.”

No, it doesn’t have to be the end, and we don’t have to give up hope that the system Bush cherished and served will revive, and survive.

There’s other news today that I choose to take as a positive sign that the body politic’s natural antibodies are turning the tide in the on-going fight against the invaders: in court papers filed in the cases against Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, federal prosecutors reveal evidence of legal violations they claim were committed by Donald Trump.  And with hints of more to come.  As Democrats are poised to take control from Republicans in one house of Congress with the hope that they will fulfill the constitutional mandate of checks and balances that Paul Ryan’s House never did.

A thousand points of light are just the beginnings of a new dawn.

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Happy birthday, Mr. President

If you gave this backstory to a character in a novel it would be justifiably criticized for being unbelievable, too over the top:

An East Coast child of Ivy League privilege, son of a U.S. senator, postpones college to enlist in the Navy and gets shot down over the Pacific and dramaticallyGeorgebush rescued on film but serves through until the end of the war, then goes to Yale where he is the captain of the baseball team and graduates Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in economics in just two and a half years before taking his wife and growing family to West Texas and making his fortune in the oil business before running for office and becoming the first Republican to represent Houston in the U.S. House; and after he loses a run for the Senate his party calls on him to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and then during the Watergate crisis the national party chairman, and then the chief liaison to Communist China, and then the director of the CIA; and when he runs for president but loses in the primaries, the guy who wins the nomination picks him as his vice president and he serves eight years as VP before winning the White House on his own and presiding over the end of the Cold War; and then he turns his attention to an international non-profit organization trying to solve social programs through the promotion of voluntary service to others.

Yeah, sure…very believable.

But it’s all true.  And today, George Bush turns 90 years old.  Despite the fact that he’s pretty much wheelchair-bound these days he celebrated with a tandem parachute jump (pictures included!) this morning before hosting a party for 200 that will feature Irish tenor Ronan Tynan.

The man is still a great example, perhaps especially to young people “who weren’t even born when he left office” and who are disenchanted with the American political system.

It starts with what Bush said to a group of young people in one of the last speeches he gave as President: “What all of us seek in our life is meaning and adventure. It’s through service that all of us can find both.”

Mary Kate Cary, a former Bush White House aide and the executive producer of a film about Bush that airs on CNN (twice) this Sunday, June 15, gives us a taste of what some prominent folks have to say in her film about Bush and his legacy of doing for others, and for the right reasons.

What I have to say is, thank you.  And, happy birthday!