In January 2001, shortly after the Supreme Court's Bush v. Gore decision which stayed the Florida recount and handed the 2000 presidential election to Barbara Bush's ne'er-do-well eldest son, I was sitting in my weekly group therapy session for high-functioning gay men. Which was high-functioning in purely relative terms, since one of the participants had been busted for crack while turning a trick.
Anyway, I hijacked the discussion for a half hour to complain at length about the election, the Supreme Court, and the forthcoming Bush administration, and, for good measure, San Francisco's public transportation grid. I had an aching suspicion that all the rhetoric about compassionate conservatism would unravel at the "compassionate" part. And the whole thing made me feel unwelcome in the country.
Fast forward to the present. Everyone I know has reacted in very personal ways to the miasmic stench (Latin root: stenchum cheneyium) of what we have all endured, as if we all lived in the Anbar province of Iraq. (Everyone except for one conservative bonehead in my hip-hop dance class plus a few Orthodox Jewish family members, who think Barack Obama is the second Shabtai Zvi [meaning false messiah, and the only thing I remember from Hebrew school, and which probably underestimates the number of false messiahs]).
Not to suggest that our suffering even comes close to approximating that of the Iraqis, but Americans have been fraying at the nerves for a long time. Here's a quiz: how many people do you know who have not taken the last eight years very, very personally? Almost as if they had been psychically extraordinarily rendered. My grandmother used to render shmaltz to great effect, and now because of George Bush's way of rendering, I no longer enjoy matzoh ball soup. It's that bad. This nightmare has gone on so long that the battery finally died in my backward-Bush-counter (a clock which for five years kept me updated, to the 100th of a second, about how long we had to go before January 20, 2009).
In situations like this, truth-and-reconciliation commissions can sustain a lot of healing. Under the threat of conviction if they fail to confess, the bad guys admit to what they have done. The public meditates on the crimes. A lot of former victims cry. Scholars write some books and hopefully get tenure. And then, after much deliberation, catharsis, argumentation and grief, society kind of moves on, at least a little bit, with a more sober sense of what has been allowed to pass in its name.
Sadly, we are unlikely to muster the political will to hold such a commission in the United States. Three obstacles, in particular, come to mind. (1) The Democrats are spineless toads; (2) A big chunk of the electorate, including the 46.2% of the public who voted for Bristol Palin, doesn't really care that much about what Bush has done; (3) It's not unimaginable to believe that on his way out the door, Bush will pardon everyone in the country including himself who had anything to do with his administration. With the possible exceptions of Paul O'Neil and Chuck Norris.
What we need is a national healing ceremony. My friend who has breast cancer came up with a ritual of her own. She's writing down all her fears, aspirations and regrets on little slips of paper and then burning them in a boobie-shaped ashtray. Since her ritual poses a fire hazard, I propose the following resolution instead:
Whereas we're about as likely to get a truth-and-reconciliation commission as we are to see Condi Rice succeed at something;
Whereas so many people need to heal from the Bush Years;
Whereas Bush's newfound avuncular reflections make me want to vomit on the life-sized inflatable Keith Olbermann who shares my bed (note to W: wisdom usually follows from trying to solve problems. So please ix-nay on the essons earned-lay):
Be it resolved that Arianna et.al. organize a little next-best event on HuffPo, which would involve readers writing in to nominate the most odious thing that the Bush administration has done.
The hideous accomplishment that gets the most votes could be spelled out in Texas barbecue sauce and showcased on the Colbert Report, maybe next to Bill O'Reilly's picture. At very least, this would allow us to share our kvetches with each other and get a sense of what gave thoughtful people ulcers during the past eight years.
If the HuffPo elders agree to this proposal, I'll start things off with my vote for the single most odious crime that the Bush administration has committed. The obvious winner is John Yoo's hack job on the Geneva Convention!
But wait, what about the extraordinary rendition of Khalid El-Masri et al? Or the 600,000 dead Iraqis, and the looting of the Iraq National Museum? No, no hold on. I forgot about Kenny Boy Lay. And Ohio voter suppression in 2004. Yikes, what about the Federal Marriage Amendment, and Karl Rove's face? And lying their asses off at every turn...
Hell, since this is my idea, I get to vote for them all. I might even need a few more votes. I wish I had a friend at the RNC.