Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Bush goes existential

Well, sort of. Recently, "President" Bush claimed he had been reading the works of existentialist and French Resistance leader Albert Camus. This is a very amusing concept for several reasons, the least of which is that the allegorical, philosophical writing of Camus would appear to be over Bush's head. As an ardent admirer of Camus, and an ardent detractor of Bush, there are many other reasons to be at least amused by the concept of Bush reading Camus.
One: Camus, unlike "Jesusland" president Bush, who is attempting to tear down the wall between church and state by funding "faith-based" programs and church-sponsored abstinence education, was an atheist. The Stranger concludes with the imprisoned protagonist confronting a priest and proudly declaring his lack of belief. "The Missionary," one of Camus' finest short stories, involves the title character's mission being turned on its head, with him converted to the pagan idolotry of the primitive tribe he was meant to convert to Christianity. His fanaticism is transferred to the idol in a satire of the nature of faith.
Two: I wonder if Bush read Camus' essay "Reflections on the Guillotine," in which Camus eloquently and convincingly argues against capital punishment. With Bush's determination to "stay the course" in a dead-end war, and his career-long support of the death penalty, if he did read it, he wasn't convinced. The essay opens with a description of Camus' father after he has witnessed an execution. Camus describes him as coming home and vomiting. Whatever revenge is supposedly sated by witnessing an execution, it is still watching someone die, which, unless you're one of the sociopathic killers on death row, is not a pleasant experience.
Three: Camus, as a member of the French Resistance and author of The Rebel, was always the type to question authority, and not give into government propaganda. If Camus were living in America today, I'd like to think that he'd be as disgusted with the current administration as I am. He'd be working at a publication like Combat, the one he edited in France during World War II, where he voiced his opposition to the Nazi occupation. Camus, like his fellow Resistance members and existentialists, believed in the necessity of dissent and rebellion. Bush's government, in its desperation to fuel patriotism and support for an unpopular war through wiretapping and holding prisoners without a trial, is trying to squash both. But we can take some comfort in the fact that, with lines of communication more open and immediate than ever, and two judges finding the wiretapping unconstitutional, and Bush's waning popularity and that he'll be out of office in two years, the rebellious spirit has not been squelched, despite all the far right's best efforts.

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