Saturday, September 13, 2008

Moments that Define an Entire Life

I was going to write a slightly more date-appropriate post about this on September 11, but I never had time on Thursday, so I'll be late. When those buildings actually fell down, my mind was quite literally blown. It was an inconceivable event happening right in front of me, and I was swept up in the moment. I wasn't swept up to the point where I believed what the Bush-Cheney Administration eventually said about Iraq. But there was a moment where everything I thought about politics, society, and possibly ethics changed completely.

I was watching on live television a few days after the attacks when George W was touring the rubble at Ground Zero, and he was giving a sort-of-impromptu speech through a megaphone, a series of fairly mundane platitudes that are barely memorable. A male voice shouts just loud enough for the microphones to pick it up, "We can't hear you!" George shouts back through the megaphone, "But I can hear you!" And the crowd goes wild, and I went wild. That answer was worth more all the next four years of speeches about security and safety. Those speeches showed the incredible hypocrisy of Republican policy regarding global security, and their outmoded, foolishly simplistic moral approach to the world, "Axis of Evil" concept included.

But for that one moment of connection, of calling and answering, George W Bush amazed me. For at least a few days in September 2001, I supported George W Bush because of the power of this moment. I was astounded that this idiot could understand the transformative power of this moment. That one exchange I think was the greatest point of George W's entire presidency. I don't consider it hyperbole to say that September 11 and the immediate aftermath in New York is a single event that defines me as a person more than any other.

I have since realized that George W Bush is still an idiot, still misguided as to the nature of the world, still insular, and still barely able to think. Yet he remains a fascinating character, probably the most fascinating person in American political history of at least the past hundred years. I think George W Bush the person will be the focus of mesmerized scholars, historians, students, politicians, truck drivers, bureaucrats, activists, ministers – pretty much everyone who bothers to look – for centuries. How did this drunken lout become the president of the United States of America? How did he feel being the public face of Dick Cheney's disguised dictatorship? Did he even know he was a patsy?

This is why I'm looking forward to Oliver Stone's new film, W, which seeks to tell the story. The trailer is mesmerizing, and the film looks like a genuine exploration of this man. Stone's politics veer left, and so do mine. But I don't think politics is really the driving force behind this film W. Instead, it's that question from the trailer – Why this man? Of all people?

Here is a moment of pure professional jealousy. Hanging out in a hotel room are various music industry people in 1965, including Donovan and Bob Dylan. They're talking and smoking and decide to trade songs. Donovan sings one he's working on, a nice enough little song. Then Bob Dylan sings "It's All Over Now Baby Blue." You will rarely see a face that seethes with more resentment than Donovan's listening to that song follow up his own.

A small update since my post last week about the St John's music scene. In an article on the AE Bridger band in the first Muse of the semester, they discuss exactly the same problem that the structure and geographical isolation of Newfoundland creates for a working musician.

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