Friday, March 09, 2007

Symbolism of Bush's Visit to Mayan Site

The shrillness in the last few days of those who defend George W. Bush, Scooter Libby and the Republican Party suggests a growing crisis among right wing conservatives. The worst of them can't compute. They have been drinking what some critics call the White House 'Kool Aid' for so long that they either believe the nonsense that comes out of the Republican Noise Machine or they're so angry at the world that they delude themselves with word games to somehow twist things in a shape that excuses their failures and the failures of the president. Make no mistake: those who are still powerful among right wing Republicans are like wounded bears—they're desperate and they're dangerous. And their rage makes it impossible for many of them to see straight as their mythological conception of the world falls apart. We can be thankful that many independents, rational conservatives, and a few rank and file Republicans are steadily shying away from the most ideological of the right wingers (that includes, among others, the president and particularly the vice president).

To be honest, I'm not sure what rank and file Republicans think of their leaders these days and I suspect there is a range of views and that some of those views are complicated. But I found an AP article on The Huffington Post that seems symbolic of how Bush and his fellow Republicans are viewed by the world:
Mayan priests will purify a sacred archaeological site to eliminate "bad spirits" after President Bush visits next week, an official with close ties to the group said Thursday.

(snip)

Bush's seven-day tour of Latin America includes a stopover beginning late Sunday in Guatemala. On Monday morning he is scheduled to visit the archaeological site Iximche on the high western plateau in a region of the Central American country populated mostly by Mayans.

Tiney said the "spirit guides of the Mayan community" decided it would be necessary to cleanse the sacred site of "bad spirits" after Bush's visit so that their ancestors could rest in peace. ...

I know Republicans who will sneer at this story as irrelevant or maybe just phony showmanship and that would be their mistake, and an historic mistake at that. Ronald Reagan and the senior Bush made a mistake ignoring the Indians of Central America. In their zeal to deal with communists, Republicans have frequently failed to note that communists are about the only people who pay attention to Indians in Central America. Just as it has been bad foreign policy to have a naive view of the Middle East, it has been a bad foreign policy to ignore people who are often marginalized by those who dominate their country.

Their record was not perfect but Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy and Jimmy Carter understood that fighting communism during the Cold War, or taking on the other foreign policy issues of their era, required winning people over rather than just using military force to impose our demands. Without American involvement and help in post-World War II Europe, any number of countries might easily have gone communist. It was, despite Republican mythology, a cost-effective foreign policy (by the way, as intertwined as they were, it was the totalitarian and ideological nature of communist regimes that tended to come into being that always bothered me rather than specifically a somewhat impractical economic system).

In the early 90s, the senior Bush missed an enormous opportunity to help Afghanistan after the Soviet Union left in 1989; helping Afghanistan might have had far reaching effects and might have forestalled the rise of al Qaida and the Taliban. But the failure to help the Afghans, who after all had been our allies and proxies in the war against the Soviet Union, was an inevitable outcome of a kind of Republican indifference that we have seen too often, especially since Reagan came into office. Having been raised in a conservative community, I have heard Republicans over the years utter a hundred variations of "What's it to me?" or "What's in it for me?" A certain shallowness and the failure to think down the road is something the senior Bush and his son have too often shared. It's something we can no longer afford in our leaders.

But let's get back to the Mayans. Like billions of people around the world, the Mayans do not trust George W. Bush. And that does not help us. Bush's trip to South America is almost a waste of time. If he had credibility, his trip might be useful. But millions of people in South America worry about what Bush is really up to—that anxiety is real and is a direct consequence of Bush's lies and arrogance. And it is yet another sign of a profoundly flawed foreign policy and president.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

The two main reasons for this trip, as best I can tell, are: 1, to lift Bush's image at home at least a bit; and 2, to somehow show up Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

I think Bush's chance of doing either effectively are infinitesimal.

The trip might also be seen as a helpful distraction as the Walter Reed, U.S. attorney firings and FBI abuse of Patriot Act provisions scandals provide fresh, superabundant evidence of what craven political hacks, mossbacked ideologues and half-witted twits are running the federal government.

8:03 PM  
Blogger Craig said...

S.W., the Bush scandals are beginning to pile up. Normally, a trip overseas can do wonders for an American president but Bush's propaganda has never taken root outside the United States and the world sees clearly how much Bush has violated the principles of our own country. Of course, if Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton take a trip overseas, they're received very differently. The world sees differences, even if the talking heads on the cable news cannot.

I wish the American press would take up the simple question of whether people who don't believe in government can govern? There's a thousand ways to ask the question.

I think back to Nixon who was always inclined to blame supposed Democratic shennigans for his problems. Can a man who easily convinces himself that others are playing games refrain from playing games himself? Nixon promoted the mythology that if he had won Illinois, he would have won the election but a quick look at an almanac that covers that election shows that's not what the vote of 1960 says. First, the election in Illinois wasn't as close as Nixon implied. Second, if Nixon had won Illinois, he still would still have lost the electoral count. It's hard to get a right winger to look at an almanac!

I like 'mossbacked ideologues,' by the way. I think I remember that expression from somewhere but haven't seen it for years. It fits the times.

10:05 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

America's press taking up the basic matter of electing people who despise government to govern is an excellent idea. Alas, I suspect most of the media want as big a piece of Fox News' action as they can get, and so shy away from that kind of inquiry.

For one thing, when the obvious sensible answer is arrived at, St. Ronald is inevitably cast in a very bad light. That's because he for it was the one who blazed a trail to the White House by insisting government is the problem, not the solution.

It struck me back then that if that were true, it would make more sense to elect someone dedicated to making government work better, not someone who claimed to wish it could just go away.

10:52 PM  

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