Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Actually, You Have More In Common With King George III

On Monday, our current president celebrated Presidents' Day with a visit to Mount Vernon and a speech that drew parallels between George Washington's presidency and his own. "I feel right at home here. After all, this is the home of the first George W.," Bush quipped.

I've always felt sort of lukewarm about George Washington so this doesn't get me
as fired up as when George Allen used to compare himself to my beloved Jefferson, but it bothers me when people who know better deliberately misrepresent the views of our Founding Fathers for political gain. To be fair to the current George W., he does have a few things in common with the first George W: they share a first name and they've both held the office of US president.

But there the similarities end. For starters, George Washington knew how to put a fucking sentence together. More importantly, he believed in democracy. When presented with the possibility of becoming king of the newly created US, Washington declined: "How irrevocable and tremendous! What a triumph for the advocates of despotism to find that we are incapable of governing ourselves, and that systems founded on the basis of equal liberty are merely ideal & fallacious!" Bush, on the other hand, refused to concede the controversial election of 2000 and isn't particularly troubled by the possibility of despotism: "If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."

Of course, some dictators are bad, and we're currently engaged in a war whose purpose was to remove an Evil Dictator from power. Bush, who has sent
3150 Americans to their deaths in the Iraq War, never served in the armed forces (unless you count the whole Texas Air National Guard thing, which I certainly don't). Washington experienced war firsthand as commander of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and later lamented, "My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth." He warned against involvement in foreign wars, and suggested that "overgrown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty."

Overgrown military establishments, however, are Bush's bread and butter, and he's never really concerned himself with pesky little things like liberty or the will of the people. "I will not withdraw, even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me," he's assured a critical populace.

While Bush came to power as a result of a
lawsuit the Supreme Court decided in his favor, George Washington took office only reluctantly and even tried to refuse his presidential salary. Washington was a contemplative man who deeply valued the principles for which America stood and was concerned with the common good.

"Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience," the first George W. once urged -- a bit of advice he might today offer the current George W., whose celestial fire seems to have been all but extinguished by his delusions of grandeur.


gizmorox said...

Well said!

Flannery Alden said...


lulu said...

I do love a fired up socail studies teacher!

lulu said...

social too!

Chris said...

I wish I could write like you! Damn excessive childhood television viewing!

Phil said...

Chris - I was thinking the same thing... or was I... I can't remember now... Anyway, what's on the old boob tube.

Megan - Great post! Washington's greatest decision, and maybe the most important decision by a leader in U.S. history is his refusal to be crowned king.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Yes, one of the really super-cool things about Washington is that he absolutely STUNNED THE ENTIRE WORLD by not assuming the throne of America. How many of our subsequent commanders-in-chief would be capable of the same restraint?

Phil said...

From what little I know about U.S., and world history, I'd say, 0. I'd be very interested if anyone knew of another leader, given that opportunity, who turned it down.

Coaster Punchman said...

Yeah, what she said.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Although of course this is not on the same scale, I admire both Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel for refusing to be enshrined and for keeping it real as their countries got back on the democracy track.

Anonymous said...

you know, the REALLY sad thing is that theres a bunch of folken out there who will nod their heads an' say, "yeah! he really IS like Washington!!"


I wanna write like U when I grows up.

Megan said...

Gizmorox and Flannery and CP- Thanks! It was fun too.

Lulu - I love me some Founding Fathers. . .

Chris - The upside is that you usually understand all these jokes about pop culture that people are always making.

Phil - Stepping down after two terms was a pretty important trend-setter as well. I really admire Washington for his humility.

Vikki - Maybe Jefferson? I bet most of the early guys would have rejected a kingship, but after that. . .not so much. And oh great, now I'm gonna have to google those people.

Orange - There was an editorial in my local paper the other day making basically my same point: