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Monday, November 13, 2006

Mr. King's Memorial

Guest Post by Jack

I do not pretend to know and cannot imagine what it must feel like for an African American to see George W. Bush participate in the groundbreaking of the Martin Luther King Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C..

As an alcoholic, sober for the past seven years, I do however know what it feels like to see Mr. Bush's own recovery from alcoholism. Not good.

Another Governor of Texas, Ann Richards, spent the last twenty-six years of her life sober and in recovery. As she entered treatment in 1980, Richards worried that she would no longer be funny. Yet her worry was unfounded and she remained funny, sobriety and all, for the rest of her life. Recovery she said turned out to be a wonderful thing for her. I remember seeing interviews of her in which she exuded an easy and natural effervescence and bubbly wit, and it did indeed seem as though recovery was a wonderful thing for Ann Richards.

Does anyone, I wonder, ever look at George Bush and conclude that for him recovery is a wonderful thing? I do not believe the tabloids when they say Mr. Bush is drinking. I believe he is sober from alcohol. But I do not see a recovered person.

Recently, Mr. Bush felt compelled to announce that he "at least knew who he was." Whether that is true or not I do not see a person at ease with himself. And if it is true that he knows himself, why did he have to declare it? I do not see a man who appears to know himself as much as he appears to doubt himself. How many sixty year old men with such awsome power need, after all, to announce themselves the Decider?

No, Mr. Bush seems more like someone who never learned the basic elements of sobriety, such as humility, modesty, and to resist grandiosity. Sobriety is about leading an examined life, which means in part, taking responsibility for mistakes and apologizing for them. Mr. Bush does not seem given much to examination of any kind, much less of his own self. He does not give apologies because he does not make mistakes.

Mr. Bush seems not to have recovered as much as he appears to have substituted addictions and intoxicants, whether they be religion or an inflated sense of self, conflated and confused with a larger destiny.

The intoxicants seem to be working. Recently Mr. Bush was told by Charles Kudlow that he needed some good news, to which Mr. Bush responded, that he needed good news too, because after all he reminded Kudlow, "You are talking to Noah and there's a flood." So much for humility, modesty, and a lack of grandiosity.

It might have helped jar some reality into the President if Kudlow had reminded him that Noah did not create the flood. Though I doubt it. The Decider as much as anything seems to be the Pretender.

It is unfortunate such a man was given the deference of his office to lead the groundbreaking today of Mr. King's Memorial. Martin Luther King was thirty nine years old when he died, but he seems to have understood things Mr. Bush at sixty does not, and perhaps never will.

Mr. King embodied so many things, not the least of which was humility. I remember when he was assassinated. The television stations ran highlights of his speeches, including the last one he gave on the eve of his death. In it he speculated that his own life would not be a long one. And yet he spoke of how his own fate no longer mattered. For Martin Luther King his cause was important, he was not.

Martin Luther King made grown men cry when he spoke. He was no pretender. He was the real deal. Too bad the Pretender had to be there today.