Is George W. Bush one of the world's leading existentialists?
If you think that it is highly likely that it will be a very long time until the Republicans and Democrats agree on anything whatsoever, then there is an experiment you should try.
If you make a serious suggestion that former President George W. Bush deserves a place of honor in the Existentialists Hall of Fame; Democrats will want to tar and feather you, and Republicans will form a lynch mob. Both will be very adamant and be in full agreement that you shouldn't say that.
The Republicans are trying so hard to disavow any hints of <em>elitisim</em> in their agenda and conduct and, instead, want to do the branding necessary to firmly establish their political party as a populist movement that only wants to improve the lot of the union worker and the bank clerk. There's a rumor (which is being started right here) that the theme song for the Next Republican National Convention will be the Rolling Stones rendition of "Salt of the Earth."
A Republican consulting firm has established the guiding principle that more Americans like corn than caviar.
The concept of lumping George W. Bush in with the likes of French Intellectuals such as Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre will be sufficient to send most of Ronald Reagan's disciples staggering off to the nearest emergency room (where all immigrants and some Americans get free medical services?).
Democrats, on the other hand, will recoil in horror at any hint of seriousness in the suggestion that George W. Bush is an Existentialist because it will be misinterpreted to mean that they think that you think George W. Bush was smart enough to be ranked as a genius deserving a place alongside the likes of Camus or Sartre. The Democrats will react as quickly and as energetically as a bull at the rodeo when the gate is opened.
It would be easier to preach the gospel of Ferdinand at a bull fight than it would be to get the Hartman, Maddow, and Malloy fans to second the idea that Bush was an outstanding example of Existentialism in action. Note the words "in action." Isn't a part of Existentialism the "to be is to do" school of thought? If George W. Bush instinctively acted in an Existential way, without bothering to put "<em>Being and Nothingness</em>" on his famed reading list, then he was an Existentialist and thus eligible for membership in the Existentialists Hall of Fame.
Didn't 43 cause a ruckus when he casually mentioned that "Le Stranger" was on his reading list?
On the web site for PrincetonUniversity this definition of an existentialist will be found: "a philosopher who emphasizes freedom of choice and personal responsibility but who regards human existence in a hostile universe as unexplainable." So Bush and Cheney decide they gonna kick Saddam's ass, they get a convenient excuse, they replace a Congressional Declaration of War with a clause in the doctrine of Executive Privilege, they replace the Chancellor-for-life title with Commander-in-Chief, and then when the war goes into extra innings, they hide behind a tsunami of "no one could have possibly forseen" bullshit, and if that doesn't fit the definition of Existentialist, then this columnist had better start singing the song with the line about "gimme three steps towards the door."
In "The Rebel," Camus wrote: "The advocate of crime really only respects two kinds of power: one, which he finds in his own class, founded on the accident of birth, and the other by which, through sheer villainy, an underdog raises himself to the level of the libertines of noble birth whom Sade makes his heroes." Do you seriously think, if Camus were alive today, that he would be doing political punditry for Fox. They just couldn't hire the man who said: "A free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad."
Camus again: "I have seen people behave badly with great morality and I note every day that integrity has no need of rules." Does that mean that sidestepping the Geneva conventions and leading the Christians for Torture posse qualifies Dubya for membership in the Existentialists Hall of Fame? Isn't the Bush Family motto: "Fuck your rules!"?
"When one has served in a war, one hardly knows what a dead man is, after a while. And since a dead man has no substance unless one has actually seen him dead, a hundred million corpses broadcast through history are no more than a puff of smoke in the imagination." Isn't it obvious that George W. Bush would concur completely with that Camus quote? When one has served as a pilot in an Air National Guard unit that can't provide the type of aircraft that one had been trained to fly, doesn't that leave the fellow free to choose to become the Commander-in-chief and thus be free of messy encumbrances derived from dead bodies?
George W. Bush might not agree that he is an existentialist, but most of the existentialists also rejected the suggestion that they be dumped into that category.
Sartre said: "Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself. Such is the first principle of existentialism." Thus if a man becomes the Commander-in-Chief by fiat of the United States Supreme Court, that's just as good and better than being elected by the voters.
Can we get a witness from Nietzsche? In "<em>Thus Spoke Zarathustra</em>," Nietzsche said: "But thus I counsel you, my friends: Mistrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful. They are people of a low sort and stock; the hangman and the bloodhound look out of their faces. Mistrust all who talk much of their justice! Verily, their souls lack more than honey. And when they call themselves the good and the just, do not forget that they would be Pharisees, if only they had - power." Sometimes, by God, they get it!
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So would that be referring to the members of the Bush family?
When Camus said "You know what charm is: a way of getting the answer yes without having asked any clear question" was he referring to the Dubya challenge to America: "Come on, what say, we invade Iraq!"?
Wasn't saying "I'm the decider" tantamount to openly declaring himself to be an Existentialist of the highest rank and thus qualified to be considered for a place in the Existentialists Hall of Fame?
At this point some readers may challenge the columnist's credentials to elaborate on the subject of Existentialism. If a man chooses to call himself an expert on Existentialism; isn't that sufficient? Isn't a self-proclaimed expert on Existentialism a walking, talking personification of the philosophy of "to do is to be"? Would it be better to get a philosophy professor from CalBerkeley to fact check this column? Wouldn't that be a repudiation of the Republican/Existentialist heroic reliance on the code of self determination? "If I say this beach is safe to surf; it's safe to surf!"
It was best said in some graffiti from the Sixties:
Camus: "To do is to be."
Sartre: "To be is to do."
Sinatra: "To be, do be, do."
Now, the disk jockey will play Edith Piaf's "Non, je ne regretted rien" (Bush's theme song?), Les Baxter's "Poor People of Paris," and Bobby Darren's "Mack the Knife." It's time for us to cut out. Have a "le jazz hot" type week.
BP graduated from college in the mid sixties (at the bottom of the class?) He told his draft board that Vietnam could be won without his participation. He is still appologizing for that mistake. He received his fist photo lesson from a future Pulitzer Prize winner. (Eddie Adams in the AP lunch room told him to get rid of the everready case for his new Nikon F). A Pulitzer Prize winning reporter broke BP in on the police beat for a small daily in Pa. By 1975, Paul Newman had asked for Bob's Autograph.
(Google this: "Paul Newman asked my autograph" and click the top suggested URL.)
His co-workers on the weekly newspaper in Santa Monica,(in the Seventies) included a future White House correspondent for Time magazine and one of the future editors high up on the Playboy masthead. Bob has been to the Oscar ceremony twice before Oscar turned 50.
He is working on a book of memoirs tentatively titled "Paul Newman Asked for my Autograph." In the gold mining area of Australia (Kalgoorlie), Bob was called: "Col. Sanders."