Remember when he called himself a "uniter, not a divider"? Remember like it was just the other day (because it was) when it was his own wife, along with Cindy McCain, wielding the millinery metaphor of "Republican hats" and "American hats" —suggesting we take off one and put on the other? President George W. Bush wasn't the only one, last night at the Republican National Convention, to bring up the trials John McCain suffered as a P.O.W. during the Vietnam War. And I suppose the whole evening's celebration of the man's courage, character and patriotism must carry with it some implied question or challenge to the same of the man opposite McCain's candidacy, not only Obama but those who support him. But I think it was our president who outdid all others, not in celebrating McCain —but in the cynical, divisive and destructive exploitation of his story.
McCain's arms were broken as he jettisoned from his plane over what was then North Vietnam. In his years in captivity there were times when his captors tortured and abused him, stressing his already injured limbs, beating him and throwing him to the ground, breaking his bones all over again. The President, like everyone else who spoke last night, pointed out that McCain's body may have been broken —but he never was. Then the President said, with something of a wink, that if John McCain could withstand those abuses there was no abuse "the angry Left" in this country could bring to break him down either. The line got him a nice round of applause.
The "angry Left," Mr. President? Do you really mean to equate those who are "angry" with you or to your "left" (there are quite a few) with enemy combatants opposing our country? With sadistic monsters —torturing abusers? There may have been instances in our history when a sitting president said something more cynical, divisive and destructive, as he referred to his political opposition, to his fellow Americans who happened to differ with him. I just can't remember one in my lifetime.
There was really only one saving grace to President Bush's comment at the Republican National Convention: no one was really listening to him. His comment was lost in among the rest of his witless jingoistic cheerleading. It was only more fodder. Many of those present were set about the task of distancing themselves from him anyway. They offered the president's winking equation applause like it was some bon mot at a Friar's Club roast. It was a nice jab, nothing more. Maybe that's a saving grace, or maybe it's something sadder still. (Have we surrendered all sense of accountable meaning to the things we are told —or the things we say?)
I watched last night, not as a Republican (that's for darned sure) but as an interested American, attending to the national discussion. There were a great many things I heard said that I found debatable. That I welcome and even embrace. But with this from my president, in what could be one of his last comments to his party and the American public while in office —after eight years in that office—I wasn't left "angry" or to his "left" by what I heard—I was only offended to my core. And for my country, saddened.