Meekness not weakness: remembering Bush 41

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This week we will lay to rest a legend, a man worthy of virtually ever honor human beings can bestow, President George Herbert Walker Bush. Bush’s death has sparked nationwide introspection, and a societal conversation about our values both politically and personally.

We live in a world in which everyone knows who Chris Matthews and Sean Hannity are, but far fewer know Neil Cavuto or Chris Wallace. Measure, decency, respectability and pragmatism have become second class values in today’s American society. That devolution of American culture burst onto the national scene on the evening of November 3, 1992, when America first chose charisma over character, a theme that has sense defined her. On that night America rejected elder statesman and President George Bush in favor of the younger more exciting Bill Clinton. We traded Andy Griffith for the Kardashians, and our nation has never since been the same.

Since his passing late last week, President Bush has been eulogized by dozens of elected officials, past presidents, friends, and celebrities. His respect on the international stage is undeniable, and awesome in the truest sense of the word. Almost more precious and intimate are the testimonies of millions upon millions of Americans who have taken to social media this week to offer their own personal eulogies for the late President.

Bush was great because he was so successful in spite of the fact that he possessed few of the qualities our nation truly values, and all of them that it should. He was a holdover, even in the 90s, of a bygone era.  Where Clinton had charm, humor and good looks, Bush had humility, composure, and an unsplittable moral fiber. He was not particularly quick with a joke, or skilled on the stump. He gave TMZ and E News very little to work with. His tweets weren’t very exciting. But his decency was unmatched, his charity the stuff of legend. Virtually everyone who ever did him a kindness, from billionaires to bell-hops, received a hand written thank you note. One such handwritten note, left for President Elect-Clinton on the Oval Office desk the day he moved into the White House, sparked one of America’s greatest friendships. Some speculate that the elder Bush became the closest thing to a father that President Clinton ever had. What a testament to his graciousness.

Ambassador Victor Ashe, a friend of both presidents Bush, said it best. “His opponents were not his enemies.” As someone with a modicum of experience in the rough and tumble world of politics, this quote deeply touched me. Politics is a full contact sport. It is every bit as cut throat as the TV shows and horror stories make it sound. How someone with that outlook could rise all the way to the rank of President of the United States is almost beyond comprehension.

On Nov. 3 1992, the last time the elder Bush dominated national attention, Americans had a choice to make, and we chose poorly. Decades later, his death marks a second chance for a much different America than the one he served in the Navy and led as president. Since he left office, partisanship and vulgarity have cannibalized our politics. Pundits and politicians alike are in it for themselves. They show more regard for scoring points than for protecting the torch of liberty with which we have entrusted them. Media members on both sides spew lies and hatred, presenting diluted versions of the facts to drive ratings. Politicians filibuster and bicker when they should listen and work together. Indecency and rudeness are praised, where meekness and humility are counted as weakness. If we are ever to pull our nation from the ash heap, and heal the lacerations of division, we must heed the life and words of one of our great heroes, the late President George H.W. Bush.

“America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral principle. We as a people have such a purpose today. It is to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world.” George H.W. Bush

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