Write it down. Memorize it. Bind it between your eyes. Don’t let anyone tell you different.
The president who vowed to lead America in a moral crusade to win hearts and minds around the world has so inflamed anti-American sentiment that America’s moral standing in the world is at an all-time low. The president who vowed to defend the Good in the world from the forces of Evil has caused the United States to be held in deep contempt by large segments of virtually every country on every continent of the world, including large portions of nations with which the U.S. has historically been allied. The president who vowed to undertake a war in defense of American values and freedoms has presided over such radical departures from the defining values and liberties of this country that many Americans find their country and its government unrecognizable. And the president who vowed to lead the war for freedom and democracy has made torture, rendition, abductions, lawless detentions of even our own citizens, secret ‘black site’ prisons, Abu Ghraib dog leashes, and orange Guantanamo jumpsuits the strange, new symbols of America around the world.
In sum, the great and tragic irony of the Bush presidency is that its morally convicted foundations have yielded some of the most morally grotesque acts and radical departures from American values in our country’s history. The president who insists that he is driven by a clear and compelling moral framework, in which the forces of Good and Evil battle toward a decisive resolution, has done more than almost any American in history to make the world question on which side of that battle this country is fighting. The more convinced President Bush and his followers become of the unchallengeable righteousness of their cause, the fewer limits they recognize. And America’s moral standing in the world, and our national character, continue to erode to previously unthinkable depths.
I’ve pretty much given up writing posts about Bush and Iraq and the war on America’s core values. It’s simply too draining, and all I’m ever left with is despair. All the evidence is out there already for everyone to see, and I can’t keep banging my head against the wall, knowing nothing will change until we completely excise this administration from power. For all of China’s sins, I am glad to be living here now – not only because I’m loving my work and my life here, but because I don’t have to live in America. I never thought I’d say that. 911 changed everything, but Bush changed everything even more. 911 was our opportunity to unite the world, and look at the impossible train wreck. If we had hired consultants and asked them to design a plan for alienating all our friends and creating countless new enemies we couldn’t have done better. A tragic legacy, and one we’ll be paying for for the rest of our lives.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.