A good piece
. You should read the whole thing.
Lileks bookends it, as he often does, with talks with his young daughter:
We’re in the car after voting.
“If John Kerry wins he won’t be our president,” Gnat said.
Ah, a teachable moment. No, honey. He will be our president. He will be the new president, and we will respect him.
“What does respek mean?”
Man, that is a good question. It means we treat him like a teacher or the pastor or a doctor. Someone we should listen to when they talk and someone who is important to everyone. Because he’s the president, and we have to respect the job of president.
Because it’s hard and very important.
She looked out the window with the expression that either means she was processing my remarks or thinking about My Little Ponys. Since she said nothing else, I’ll never know.
And the next day, after finding out that Kerry had conceded:
Walking around downtown that afternoon, I listened to Kerry’s concession speech. Human, genuine, not a touch of Senatitus . . . well, then there’s the odd riff about the kids who gave him money for his campaign. I never understood the appeal of this meme. Kids don’t know anything about politics; they’re just reflections of their parents’ desires, and the idea of little kids handing piggy banks to a guy who’s married to a billion dollars seems unseemly. I’m relieved for Kerry, and wish him well. For heaven’s sake, he should be relieved, too. In his case the consolation prize is a life of unimaginable wealth and leisure, with plenty of time and resources to do good works. He could easily assume the Dole mantle, and become the guy we all like to like, in a way, after all, ‘cause, whatever. And I think that’s how he’ll turn out. Not that I know anything. But. I think the narrative of John Kerry’s life as he understood it pointed him at the White House; it was his destiny. He made his bid at the worst possible moment, for him. Not the man for a time of war. He had to run as Janus - the anti-war warrior, the guy who voted for it before he voted against it, the guy who supported deposing Saddam but deplored the fashion of his deposition, the man who had to assure his supporters he would end the war as soon as he had finished continuing it. And so on. I think he understood the contradictions he had to make, and his peevish insistence on his unerring clarity was a way of dealing with the myriad of positions he had to take. All of that would have been compartmentalized and forgotten had he won, of course. A few months of psychic annoyance would be a small price to pay for such a large role in history.
But that, of course, never happened. So, as Lileks says, he has to settle for a leisurely billionaire lifestyle. Hard to feel too sorry for the guy.
And then, today, another conversation with his daughter:
“Who is the father of George W. Bush?” Gnat asked on the way to school today. Oh boy.
“You’re not going to believe this, but his name is George Bush, too.”
“True.” Pause. Should I? Might as well. “And he was the president once, too.”
“George Bush’s daddy was president too? You’re joking me. That’s silly.”
And so it begins. But if all goes as it usually does, in 14 years she’ll vote for someone I don’t like; he’ll win, and she’ll and remind me: you taught me to respect the President.
If I can give her that much, I’ve done my job.
True enough. While I think it's incredibly important to make fun of the people in charge (in many ways it's a more important check on power than investigative journalism), I think there are more and less respectful ways of doing so. Many of the impersonations of Presidents on Saturday Night Live have carried an air of gentle respect.
So I'm all in favor of making fun of our leaders, but I think when we cross that line and dehumanize them into grotesque caricature, we've lost our perspective. This is someone we might disagree with, but he's our leader, chosen not by guns or by lineage, but by the say of the people. Even if you disagree with his every single stance, you might still consider a modicum of respect for that.