I must admit a certain sadness for ex-President, George W. Bush. I never voted for him; I was repeatedly appalled by his butchering of the English Language and I continue to consider him the worst president in my 80 years of life.
He seemed, however, a nice enough chap; he just never did seem very bright. Often it appeared that his vice president was the one truly making the presidential calls. I was thankful when his presidential limit was reached.
But we all want to honor ex-presidents. As much as President Bush disappointed my hopes and expectations, I never thought him a "bad man"; in my opinion, he simply was a good man who sadly was an inept president. At the dedication of his library, all our ex-president's gathered to say nice things about what a fine fellow was No. 43. There was patriotic music, flags flying and smiles all around. That was a good thing and as it should be regardless of personal feelings.
Unlike the tragic and vile attacks upon the person of the present president, President Bush was spared vindictive attacks on his citizenship, his character, and his loyalty, as endured by President Obama.
President Bush was always "one of us;" a good ole boy from Texas. We had a white man in the White House, and he was afforded the appropriate respect, if not regard. Of course we know that since he departed Washington and a "black man" moved into the white house, the tenor of cruel accusations and insults has sharpened the focus on "who the president is", not on what the president does. Thanks be to God, the majority of Americans twice chose our president based upon his character, wisdom and devotion to serving the people. Unfortunately there remain persons whose bitter distaste for Obama is grounded in personal prejudice.
But back to President Bush and his library. In spite of all the smiling accolades poured upon him, what is the true legacy of his eight-year presidency? Sadly, America just suffered another grievous wound as a result of the Bush legacy. The two young murderers responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings claim that their motivation for this heinous action was to achieve some justice for the American attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan.
These horrible invasions and the resulting carnage were spawned by the Bush administration. It was President Bush and his advisers who lied to themselves, to the American people, and to the world as they built a fabricated justification for preemptive invasions of these two Muslim nations. They spuriously accused Iraq of having "weapons of mass destruction" that threatened the world.
They somehow allied Saddam Hussein with Osama ben Laden in the attacks on the World Trade Centers, when in fact these two tyrants were mortal enemies. They posited that Iraqi's were longing for liberation and would greet our invasion forces as liberators. Of course all these claims were proven to be fantasies by the then president who truly wanted to get the Iraqi tyrant that his father had failed to remove. He promised a short conflict and arrogantly proclaimed mission accomplished when the war was far from ended! The only mission accomplished, from which we continue to suffer, was a heightened and intensified Muslim hatred for America. More than a decade later the consequences of President Bush's legacy still haunt America and we still ignore that.
Page 2 of 2 - There sadly is more sorrow. The hundreds of burial sites in Arlington Cemetery marked as Iraqi or Afghani war veteran deaths; the many maimed, wounded, and mind robbed veterans of those unnecessary wars remain part of the unspoken Bush legacy. His legacy still bleeds and dies in the dead and suffering in Boston. Republicans continue trying to avert America's attention from this horror by condemning Obama and Clinton for the tragedy at Benghazi were four Americans were sadly slain. All the time they practice their selective memory and callously ignore the truth.
If we are honest, there are more ghosts in the Bush legacy. All the foreclosed homes, unemployed workers, lost stock market savings that resulted from the finance policies of Bush and his broker, banker and business buddies that caused the shameful financial crisis of 2008, the last year of the Bush legacy. The sponsors of the Bush Library may find some virtues in his claim to be a "compassionate conservative" but the many families of the dead, the suffering wounded and those financially broken may find it difficult to find any compassion in Bush's conservatism. To me that is a sad legacy to be memorialized.
The real irony, of course, is that the American people are the most forgiving people on earth. If President Bush would only face the truth, accept his responsibility, and express his regrets, his stature would immediately grow in the hearts and minds of most Americans. We want to honor our presidents, but we expect them to be truthful about their own failures and follies, expressing contrition for their wrongs, and courageously seeking forgiveness. The whole nation would celebrate that, and even the whole world might more highly respect and admire America. We truly could win a great victory over the hatred some hold against us without firing a shot; by just being honest.
It has been said by theologians wiser than I that "Pride is the root of all evil (not money.)" If pride keeps America from being true to herself, we all will continue to suffer. What a great legacy President George W. Bush could leave his country: courage, honesty, and yes, some humility.
His Memorial Library could surely remember and celebrate such stature. I know I would.
Father Bob Layne is a retired Episcopal priest living in McPherson.