The boos that greeted former President Bush on the Mall in Washington and at Symphony Space in Manhattan and, no doubt, at venues across the nation and maybe around the world were misguided, or at least unfortunate, for two reasons.
1. If we are to take President Obama and his aspirations seriously, we should not be booing anyone but moving forward -- acting, not reacting. Hard to boo when you need your breath and your strength for herculean efforts in new directions. It's human and understandable to deplore the awful malfeasances of the last eight years, but I hope that the election of Obama says, precisely and loudly, "Don't waste your time." Scorn-heaping is in some ways an indulgence -- one of the childish things that the Bible and Obama have reminded us to try to put aside.
2. The dialectic at work: If we hadn't had Bush, we almost certainly wouldn't have Obama -- at least not now. George Bush hastened our readiness for a new kind of leader and a renewed kind of leadership. If Kerry or Gore had won their elections, their victories might easily have delayed this huge and welcome tectonic shift in our politics, our polity, our social evolution, by years if not decades. It's almost as if the American electorate needed these eight years to understand more clearly and more quickly what it had to do and what it had to stop doing. From up close, it has been a long, slow purgative process, but from the standpoint of history, it surely happened faster than it would have happened without Bush's goad. So while to decry the man and his administration comes naturally and understandably, maybe a moment's thought will show that he and his two terms in office were self-inflicted requirements we had to fulfill in order to graduate. No need to applaud Mr. Bush, but no need to boo him, either. He was our own doing, after all, and anyway, we are, perversely, in his debt.
Postscript: Even those who didn't vote for Bush must bear some responsibility for his election, it seems to me. Did we all do everything we could to defeat him? I didn't, I am ashamed to say. This inertia on the part of some who detested Bush is what in part galvanized the gigantic efforts on behalf of Obama in '08. It appears that people finally realized that they couldn't just sit back, denounce, and then vote.
And yes, I agree--Bush's Presidency was not worth the death of even one American soldier or one Iraqi civilian. But I still believe that his Presidency mobilized the enormous support for Obama, and I still say, Don't bother giving him the mustachioed-villain treatment of booing and hissing. Prosecute him.