Sunday, November 02, 2008

Bush’s cultural legacy

The Guardian asked twelve leftish American writers and artists what the “cultural legacy of George W. Bush” would be.

Joyce Carol Oates scoffed at the very idea. “The ‘cultural legacy of George W. Bush’ would seem to be the punchline of a cruel joke,” she blubbered, “if there could be anything remotely funny about the Bush administration.” The other responses were just as predictable:

• “These past eight years have been about the worst that I can imagine” (Paul Auster).
• “Although all politicians tell lies, Bush has gone right round the bend as a liar. . .” (Gore Vidal).
• “[A]n administration of criminality, complicity and incompetence. . .” (Edward Albee).
• “I think the Bush administration did its best to create a vast wasteland” (Alex Gibney).
• “[T]here’s something about the brute force of this administration, and the fetishisation of brute force by this administration, which literally stands in opposition to civilisation and the arts” (Naomi Wolf).
• “Culture’s a dirty word to these people, like ‘liberal’ or ‘literate’ ” (Daniel Libeskind).

Three of them repeated, in almost the exact same words, the rumor, demonstrably untrue but apparently immune to correction, that President Bush is “a man who’s proud not to read books.”

Did it occur to none of these cultural authorities that their common style of foam-flecked hyperbole and reckless disregard for proportion and truth might just be that cultural legacy?

Update: Literary Saloon joins in, proud not to distinguish itself from the common style. “[I]t’s easy to agree with the whole lot of [anti-Bush writers in the Guardian],” because, after all, “they’re all pretty much agreed,” and apparently, then, they exempt you from having a single independent thought.


NigelBeale said...

One might hope that the cultural legacy of George Bush might be to inspire some of these authors to produce work that is worthy of their anger...instead of this 'foam flecking'(wonderfully put) !

D. G. Myers said...

Nicely put, Nigel. Think of the work (on both sides of the “aisle”) inspired by President Clinton, from Charles McCarry’s Lucky Bastard to Philip Roth’s Human Stain. Nothing like these novels so far.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to second our host's complement of Nigel's hope.

I would also like to take the opportunity to complain about the intellectual environment that science has been operating under for the last eight years. Not being an in the know big whig myself, I don't know whether to blame it on the departing administration, grumpy scientists who, like me, are progressive Democrats, or some combination of the two.
I was at a talk by a politically appointed funding boss three years ago who told us to keep our mouths shut if we know what's good for us. "Stop signing petitions, just lay low until the next election" is approximately what this administration representative said to a gathering of physicists. My brother-in-law, a faculty member in a history department, laughs. We physicists are supposed to be so small "c" conservative that he can't imagine us ever getting in trouble with any federal administration.

My instinct would be to reply "a pox on both your houses." They should give us resources and let us do what we do. (I know, I know. Socrates said something like that, didn't he.) It will be one of my lasting memories of the Bush 43 years, though.