A Bush hater finds salvation

Photo Illustration by Carey Wilson

Jaime O’Neill teaches English at Butte College and is a frequent contributor to the Sacramento Bee and the San Francisco Chronicle.

I am, alas, one of those notorious Bush haters so much is written about. Don’t know what it is, but I have taken to making obscene gestures at my television screen whenever he appears, and that is surely irrational behavior. Whenever I see him walking so arrogantly toward the helicopter we provide for him, I get upset, and when his shoulders bounce up and down when he chuckles, I have to leave the room.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Just about every day the media tell me how likeable the guy is, so I don’t understand why I can’t get with the program. Political analyst Tucker Carlson once described the president as a “towel snapper” kind of fellow, and he used that description as an illustration of Bush’s likeability. But getting snapped with a wet towel hurts, and people who are attracted to that sort of humor are, in my experience, jerks, so Tucker Carlson’s explanation of Bush’s winning ways hasn’t helped me with my Bush-hating problem one damn bit.

Fortunately, the problem of Bush hatred had grown so widespread that a nationwide self-help program had sprung up to offer a way out for people like me.

The first thing we Bush haters had to do was admit we were powerless over our hatred, making our lives unmanageable. This was easy for me to do, especially since I had nearly lost control of my vehicle on the way to my first Bush Haters Anonymous meeting. The president had come on the radio and said: “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.” I nearly ran a red light.

Now normal people seem to find this kind of misstatement endearing. It shows our leader to be fallibly human, a regular sort of guy. But, see, I don’t get that. I’ve known regular guys, and most of them don’t talk that way even when they’ve had a half-case of beer. Bush does it constantly, and he does it sober. I hate it when he does that. It makes me feel my safety and security have been entrusted to an idiot.

Sure, that’s probably an over-reaction on my part. It’s not as though he misspeaks every single day. Sometimes an entire week will go by without his going off script and saying something stupid. Every time I start to relax, though, he’ll come up with another gaffe, and then I start worrying about who’s in charge, and as soon as I start worrying, I get mad all over again. I hate worrying almost as much as I hate Bush.

When I got to the Bush Haters Anonymous meeting, the room was very crowded. Step 2 in recovery was to seek help from a power greater than myself. I had already turned to that remedy before I’d even heard of Bush Haters Anonymous. For nearly four years, I had been muttering “God help us all” just about every time the president made a speech. I sought a higher power, for instance, when I heard Bush say: “I’m honored to shake the hand of a brave Iraqi citizen who had his hand cut off by Saddam Hussein.”

And when Bush said, “God loves you, and I love you. And you can count on both of us as a powerful message that people who wonder about their future can hear,” I almost cried out loud.

But when he asked Brazilian President Fernando Cardoso the probing question: “Do you have blacks, too?” I nearly lost faith in a higher power entirely. How could an all-knowing Supreme Being put the most powerful weapons of mass destruction ever known to man in the hands of such a ninny?

I regained my faith and my composure, though, after I heard him offer the following kindly advice: “People say, how can I help on this war against terror? How can I fight evil? You can do so by mentoring a child; by going into a shut-in’s house and say I love you.”

In that spirit, I entered the home of a nearby shut-in and told her I loved her. I did 90 days on that charge, and my anger issues increased with each day of incarceration. Besides that, on the day after the incident in question, with the screams of that poor shut-in still ringing in my ears, the Homeland Security guy raised the terror threat level to Orange, so I can’t see as how my gesture did a damn bit of good.

Still, something seems to be working as I do battle with my powerlessness over Bush hatred. I’ve noted lately that some of what he says is beginning to sound almost as though it makes sense. Recently, when Bush was explaining how his proposed changes are going to save Social Security, he said:

“Because the—all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculated, for example, is on the table; whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There’s a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those—changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be—or closer delivered to what has been promised. Does that make any sense to you? It’s kind of muddled. Look, there’s a series of things that cause the—like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate—the benefits will rise based upon inflation, as opposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those—if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.” (Tampa, Fla., Feb 4, 2005)

Maybe my efforts with Bush Haters Anonymous were paying off, or maybe more than four years of listening to this kind of talk had won me over, but as I listened to those words being spoken, I thought I almost apprehended a meaning behind them, almost felt myself understanding what the president was saying.

And then, as I listened more intently, I found myself becoming inspired by those words, found myself infused with a kind of light I had not known before. It was as though a great weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I had, at long last, become one with all my brethren in the red states. I had come to see so clearly what they had been seeing for so long.

I felt my Bush hatred drop away, felt a warm aura settle over me. I was no longer powerless. I felt the strength of 10 million bumper stickers, knew the fundamental altruism of Halliburton, and could at last discern the kindness and the decency in the faces of Dick Cheney and Tom DeLay. I felt reborn. Fear of what the future might bring fell away from me as I came to know the sense of security that came with turning over my worries to a much, much higher power—George W. Bush. And, in that moment, my hatred turned to love, and I was saved.

The next day, at the gym, I did something I’d never done before. A guy at the next locker bent over to remove his gym shorts and, driven by a strange compulsion, I snapped him with my damp towel, raising an immediate and unsightly welt on his butt.

He didn’t take it in the fun-loving spirit I intended. As soon as I get out of the hospital, I intend to invite him to go to a Bush Haters meeting with me. Clearly, this guy doesn’t know a likeable fellow when he meets one.