I’ll try to see things your way
“Put yourself in the other person’s shoes,” said the first teacher who took an interest in my writing. “The reader shouldn’t know what you think. He should know what your character thinks.”
Since I drifted from writing fiction into writing things for which one could actually get paid, there’s been little occasion to create characters. I’ve stood mostly in my own shoes. Lately, though, I’ve been trying to imagine myself in others'.
Who are those 28 percent of Americans, for instance, who still believe George W. Bush is doing a good job?
That’s the number this morning: 28 Americans out of 100 believe the president is performing up to expectations. The rest of us …
No, strike that. Technically, Bush has met my expectations: I anticipated disaster, and he’s wrought it.
If I’d paid more attention in American History, I’d be comfortable calling him the worst president ever. Even now, I can say with assurance that he’s been a catastrophe for the economy, the environment, foreign relations, disaster response, for relations among the branches of government and between government and the governed, for human and civil rights, for the lives of ordinary people and in other areas I’ll think of in a minute.
Despite all this, an apparently irreducible 28 percent of my fellow Americans remain faithful.
Do they see something I don’t, I wonder? Or is it possible that reasonably intelligent and informed people could be so far apart that what one interprets as deception, incompetence, cronyism and bone-deep obliviousness appears to others as … what? Something acceptable. Something inspiring. Something that, when they contemplate it, doesn’t make their vision blur with rage. I mean, they can’t all be stupid.
Well, they could, I guess. If we set an arbitrary 100 as the median intelligence level, then half the population, by definition, is stupid. But I know Bush supporters who run businesses, who do surgery. So we can’t credit stupidity for more than, say, half that 28 percent.
Through the magic of extrapolation and rounding off, then, we can calculate that roughly 40 million people who are not stupid (plus 40 million who are) believe that what we’ve seen the last seven-plus years is what a presidency should be.
That’s a pretty astonishing thought. But it’s unavoidable, and it’s what bogs me down in this dilemma.
I’ve asked around, but without much success. I had some trouble keeping the skepticism out of my voice at first. ("What can you like about that moron?” was obviously prejudicial.) Even after I got objectivity down, though, the question put people on the defensive.
“You’re just a liberal” was a common response. It didn’t seem to address the issue, but it satisfied many respondents.
Still looking for an answer, I asked the question twice on the radio: “If you’re one of the 28 percent, give me a call. I won’t argue with you. I won’t make fun of you. I just want to know what you see.”
Two requests brought just one response, from a caller who said he liked Bush because “he sticks by what he believes” and “he’s a good Christian man.”
I held my tongue, but my curiosity was not eased. The “good Christian” claim is so diametrically opposed to everything I know and believe about Christ and his teachings that I can’t even think of how to counter it: If it’s not obvious to you, no amount of explanation is likely to help.
As for sticking by his beliefs . . . Ah, jeez. Doesn’t reality count for anything anymore?