Today there are many extreme opinions on this moment in history. Some are rejoicing that Obama is our new President, others scared. Some are somber about our former President George W. Bush leaving his office, while the majority are in grand celebration that he no longer has any real power in this country.
Yet I have had a few friends go as far to thank the former President to The United States, claiming that he had no control over the problems of the past 8 years and that thus he should not be in any way hated or even disliked.
I'll tell you the problem with this. It's the fallacy of blind leadership. Across the board President Bush did almost nothing right. When he took office our international standing could not have been stronger, our budget could not have been more balanced and our economy was the strongest and stablest it had ever been. Today, after Bush declared war on nations, refused to hold peace negotiations, called other nations "evil", took more vacation days than any other President in History and single-handedly destroyed the image of the United States to the population of the world, I have ONE thing to say this despicable evil little man.
Ok, two things.
There is no suggestion that President Bush had the ability to stop Hurricane Katrina, and no one hates him for it happening under his eye--people hate him because he was vacationing for three days while hundreds of people were facing the possibility of death as he did nothing.
With conspiracy theories aside, people don't hate Bush for the fact that a terrorist attack occurred--they hate him because he and his administration had every warning sign in the book yet they did nothing. Even on the day of the attack he did not act like a President as he sat there reading 'My Pet Goat'.
While President Bush did nothing to cause unwise bankers to make bad loans, his administration certainly did nothing to prevent it either. As a profound supporter of deregulation that eventually led to this mess we are in now, one cannot say that President Bush and his administration had no power over this economic depression we're heading into.
How can someone thank a man who was the icon of The United States and left that icon utterly, and possibly forever, tarnished? How can someone thank a man who no one can look to and say, "See, he at least did that right"? How can someone thank a man with the lowest approval rating in the history of the gallup poll?
His Presidency was a disaster from the day he "won" his first election. His administration was an utter disaster. The past 8 years have been deplorable and most Americans will with ease sweep them under the carpet. His life has been an unquestionable failure. And yet there are people who are going to thank this putrid son of a bitch?
Respect is not simply earned from a title, and the same thing should be warned to Barack Obama. Just because he is my President does not mean he immediately is deserving of reverence. Respect, trust and admiration should be earned, which Obama has already shown progress toward and Bush never even attempted to pursue.
As terrible as Bush was, he is no more. Those days are behind us now. The question is--now what? How will we act different today than we did yesterday? How will we make the 'change' Obama has promised in our everyday lives? Saying "Yes We Can" is far easier than actually going out and proving it.
So it starts at home, with one person. As much as I want to say it starts with this country, this state, with this city, with everyone who watched the inauguration...it really comes down to me. And to you.
You and I need to stop contributing to this nation of whiners. We need to yet again be the greatest innovators in the world. We need to stop looking at one another as enemies and start realizing we are all Americans living in the greatest country in the world. If we want to heal this nation we're all going to have to put down out People Magazine and maybe go out and help real people. Instead of watching local heroes on TV, we need to turn into our own kind of heroes--whether that means cleaning up our neighborhood or just picking up a single piece of trash. We need to start looking out for one another instead of looking out just for ourselves.
All of us, beginning with just you and I, need to stop lamenting about our problems and start working to fix them. Instead of complaining about the place this country is in, how about we start putting together a solution?
That may seem so small, and truly it is. Giving a friend a ride home from work, picking up a few pieces of trash and changing our attitude won't save the world, no. But if it makes just one person smile, just one person a bit happier with their lot in life...is it worth it? And if every American wakes up tomorrow with a smile on their face, would you do it? And if there is one thing I know about smiles, it's that they're contagious.
I'm certainly smiling that George W. Bush is no longer the President of The United States. I'm definitely smiling as I look at President Barack Obama and I hope for a better tomorrow. I hope you're smiling with me as you think about how things from here can only get better.