Required readingAnd yes, this will be on the final exam. If you managed to resist Dr. B's exhortations on behalf of this post, it is now officially required reading. I don't know to what extent we can blame Bush's "personality" for his pretty obvious unconcern as the post-Katrina disaster developed with agonizing inexorability, but it's hard to believe that a genuinely decent and deeply caring human being, of whatever ideology, could fail to betray that compassion as completely as GW has done throughout his presidency. There's a plasticity to the Bush family: Laura Bush looks more like a Tussaud figure than a breathing human being, and the daughters, too, give off the "replicant" vibe (think, Blade Runner's Sean Young) rather than the natural inconsistencies of young women.
I was briefly pleased to note that Bush has become grayer, his simian features more furrowed, during his presidency. I had hopes it might mean that the moral and ethical weight of his decisions had in fact sunk in. I'm afraid not. Miss Alli suggests in your required reading that Bush is perhaps motivated by a cynical political disdain for black, traditionally democratic New Orleans. I'm afraid it's not even that calculated. I believe that for this president, as for several of my own extended family members, those folks who are suffering are simply outside of his definition of humanity. For him, as for too many Americans, the "human race" has shrunk to encompass only those who can afford the trappings of middle-class life. It's a direct outgrowth of the insane faith Americans place in our supposedly merit-based society. By redefining the poor, too many of whom are, in fact, people of color and the descendants of prior generations of the poor, as moral failures, the prevalent public discourse has removed them from contemporary definitions of "Americans." By refusing to see the institutional and systemic causes of generational underprivilege, and waiting instead for some kind of epiphany of the middle-class work ethic among those for whom "the system" has never worked, today's neo-conservatives have managed pretty effectively to erase compassion (except when directed at embryos or those poor, over-taxed super-rich) from the public discourse. In further refining the historical American belief that success is genuinely available to all, the pro-Bush factions have managed to persuade (and not had to work very hard to do so) many middle-class Americans that most of those who suffer--in the floodwaters, in the ghettoes, without healthcare, living in cars, skipping meals and medication--do so through their own economic failings. They have further reasserted the moral implacability of one's economic condition: to be poor is to be immoral, and the "greater good" has become the "good of the greater."