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A View from Alabama

September 23, 2021 – George Bush Hits a Home Run

George W. Bush hit a home run with his speech at the 9/11 twentieth anniversary commemorative ceremony in Shanksville, Pennsylvania; the site where a group of brave Americans forced the crash of the hijacked plane believed headed for the U.S. Capitol.

The legacy of our forty-third president is mixed. He rallied the nation together after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. He rejected the idea that people of the Muslim faith rather than just the men who planned and perpetrated the attacks should be blamed. He undertook the changes that to date have successfully prevented another such attack on American soil. He gave us seniors drug coverage under Part D of Medicare. He championed a program called PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief) that has saved an estimated 13 million lives and made him Africa’s favorite US President. But his presidency was sullied by the ill-advised, lengthy, and costly (in deaths, suffering, and treasure) wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His administration will also be forever tainted by its terrible human rights abuses in the prisons of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

Whatever George W. Bush’s Presidential legacy, on 9/11/2021, in a field in rural Pennsylvania, he made the speech of his life:

“And we have seen growing evidence that the dangers to our country can come not only across our borders but from violence that gathers within. There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home. But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile our national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit.”

Today’s Republicans, with a few notable exceptions, either support White Supremacy or cover their faces and “See No Evil”. President Bush laid it on the line, he confronted it for the un-American “foul spirit” that it is.

Columnist Thomas Friedman, in a recent column, made the same point writing:

The US, set out to make the Middle East more like itself – embracing pluralism and the rule of law – and ended up becoming more like the Middle East – mimicking its worst tribal mores and introducing a whole new level of lawlessness into its national politics”.

While President Bush and Thomas Friedman drew the same conclusions regarding the current state of our body politic, Friedman took it a step further and explained how we got this way:

“Extreme Republican tribalism vastly accelerated as the GOP tribe became dominated by a base of largely white Christians who feared their long-held primacy in America’s power structure was being eroded by rapidly changing social norms, expanded immigration and globalization, leaving them no longer “at home” in their own country.”

These white Americans were fine with the glorious proclamation in our Declaration of Independence – birthing a nation where “all men are created equal” so long as their tribe was in undisputed control. Their realization that our country was actually becoming a multi-cultural nation where whites would soon be in the minority, laid fertile ground for the emergence of a leader who would fight to keep it from happening.

Donald Trump established his white supremacist creds with his “birther” campaign against President Obama and cinched it when he described would-be immigrants on our Southern border as “drug-smugglers, thieves, murderers, and rapists”. He won the hearts and souls of those white Americans who felt they were losing control. The white supremacist bond that Trump established with these White Americans was so strong that nothing he did or said, past or present, no matter how egregious or repugnant, put the slightest dent in their fervent support of their great white hope. Even when Trump led an insurrection to overthrow a free and fair election and install himself as what – Dictator? – President for life? – he lost little support.

These Americans paid a big price when they gave their hearts and souls to Trump. For Christians, it meant rejecting the basic tenets of their faith. This profane, sexist, racist, deceitful, narcissistic, hate-filled man spit in the face of the God they professed to follow. He claimed no need for prayer. When questioned whether he had ever asked God for forgiveness, he replied that if he ever did anything wrong, he would. For all his White followers, it meant giving up on a democracy where each person is equal under the law.

George W. Bush did himself and his country proud when he named the sinister internal force threatening our country. This anti-Americanism cloaking itself as nationalism threatens the foundations of our country. Radicalized foreign religious terrorism and radicalized white-supremacist terrorism are two sides of the same coin – “children of the same foul spirit.”

Can we give a big amen to George W. Bush?

Philip A. Watts

See Phil’s past columns.

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Phil Watts learned some early life lessons as a paperboy on the Southside of Birmingham, where he grew up. His education continued at Auburn University, where he earned a mechanical engineering degree and made lifelong friends in his Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. Later he earned an MBA from Samford University and served in the U.S. Army.

Licensed as a professional engineer, he co-founded Control and Power, Inc., an industrial distribution business in 1959. He retired from that business in 2011. His interests over the years have included handball, bicycling, canoeing, snow skiing, and reading. He is a longtime member and Sunday School teacher at Southside Baptist, an all-inclusive church in Birmingham, where he still lives. He is married and has three children and two grandchildren.

Phil wrote for business purposes throughout his career, along with occasional personal pieces. He became more serious about his writing after the infamous escalator ride at Trump Tower in 2015. His essays on life and politics circulated to his circle of friends for several years. Beginning in September 2019, they began to appear as regular features on The Op-Ed Page at www.newsouthbooks.com.

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