I am deeply saddened by the passing of President George H.W. Bush. I did not vote for the man, but in retrospect, I will greatly miss him. It is shameful that only the death of a good leader and a good man should sharply define what was then and what is now.
I feel bereft of a world within which good men, educated in the genius of our founders, led our country with strength, empathy, vision and moral-ethical restraint. The dignity of this fallen leader and his fundamental humanity should bring forth tears of regret that we now have a leadership cadre that lacks the ability to calm us and to endure against the myriad of troubles faced by our nation, both within and without.
Indeed, there was a time when fear and loathing of a political philosophy swept our country. One Senator took this unreasonable fear and with it fashioned a brutal weapon that destroyed many citizens. But just a few words brought him down. "Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness." “You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?"
Words like these, brought forth from an ethic that once was the foundation of our country, are desperately needed today. When do we release our thoughtless embrace of one or another politic and rise above pettiness and debasement? When will we insist upon a leader who combines decency, dignity and skill with vision? One who gives no license to hate, no tools to division. One whose behavior encourages our children to believe in the attributes of good leadership, so the genes of future generations will contain the DNA of a George Bush and others like him.
As I watched the somber funeral of this man; as I saw the exquisite architectural monuments of our capitol and adjacent structures, my heart was filled with a nostalgic yearning for the disciplines of love, respect and reason.
It is unreasonable to expect perfection from any man. Our defects and flaws are a natural concomitant of our being. Yet, moral and ethical precepts elaborated in a thoughtful Constitution, contain and prevent most of the egregious outbursts and risks within human interaction.
History tells tales of adoring, cheering crowds goading evil men to create hells of abominable camps, massacres of unthinkable numbers and inhuman catastrophe. This is not simply the past. Hear the cries from Syria, Yemen and Africa. Hear the sounds of assassination. Hear the last desperate breath of poisoned political enemies. Hear the cries of prisoners in gulags. Hear all this and I wonder if you don’t cover your ears.
The lyric of a song written almost 70 years ago, echoes our yearning:
“Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?”
Written in protest to the war in Vietnam, it was one of many such outcries from a vulnerable yet very aware generation. It and they finally won the day.
“When will they ever learn…?” the lyric asked. “When will they ever learn”.
Is there really division in our society today. Should my neighbor and I, very different in our political preferences, be unable to dine together? Should we not share views and, perhaps, change one or the other? Or is division being sold to us and are the flames being fanned by leadership to ensure elections by one cohort or another? Observed closely, I doubt anyone will fail to see the snake spewing venom.
Rest in peace, Mr. Bush. Know that by your passing, you have given us a blessing. Perspective, honor and longing for a better array of values in our leadership.