Don’t Throw Our President to the Dogs

Coffee is the staff of life, and ever since Blue State Coffee opened up I’ve been stopping by there once or twice a week. I think it would be cool if it became one of those places like the coffee houses of England and France where modern democracy was born, but so far it’s too early to say. The coffee’s good, though.

Being a fan of the place, I got a little defensive when I saw a letter in the ProJo that I knew was aimed at Blue State Coffee. The name of the writer seemed familiar. Then I realized that Carol Dragon and I work for the same employer, but at different offices. That’s Rhode Island for you.

I had to calm down then, and really read her letter. What’s more, I have to admit that she makes a good point. The entire letter is here–

Two articles of interest in The Journal, Aug. 14: One announced that Cal Ripken is a U.S. envoy “as part of a program to help burnish America’s image abroad.� Mr. Ripken will use his new position to improve understanding among youths worldwide. The other article announces the opening of a coffee shop on Thayer Street, in Providence, that sells dog treats in the image of President Bush. Some of the proceeds from the shop will be donated to People for the America Way. If to “burnish� means to make shiny or lustrous, Mr. Ripken will need to explain why the American people do not show respect for the leader of our nation. No matter how we feel about the president, we should not tolerate disrespect.

If we are role models for our children and grandchildren, what values are we passing on? If the president is an object of ridicule, is it then okay to ridicule school and church authorities? Classmates? Parents? If we as adults cannot resist being mean-spirited, how do we discourage that behavior in our children? Let’s give Mr. Ripken a hand by stepping up to the plate by being kinder, gentler and by being the best Americans we can be.

I have to appreciate her argument on behalf of civility. Without civility there’s no way we can talk to one another. She’s got a point, too, about respect for the office of the President and all our elected officials. It is more telling to show respect for the office, respect for our common responsibility. From that perspective we can see how bad things really are.

Secondly, hating George W. Bush is a waste of time. There’s an infinite line of empty suits and washed-up movie actors ready to take his place, and we’ll end up with one of them if we don’t vote in someone better. We have to stop acting like peasants. We have a Constitution that lays out the process of impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors. Is taking our country into war on a false pretext a high crime? Is the abandonment of New Orleans a misdemeanor? Counting down to ‘Bush’s Last Day’ doesn’t do it, because another year is too long. Our government will be as corrupt as we allow it to be. Empty gestures and blowing off steam won’t get us anywhere, but letters, phone calls, and protests add up to real power when enough people get involved.

3 thoughts on “Don’t Throw Our President to the Dogs

  1. As for Ms Dragon’s concern about “…why the American people do not show respect for the leader of our nation…”

    Respect has to be earned. After 9/11, Mr Bush was given tons of respect. He squandered it.

    One receives the respect one earns.

  2. First, I’m not sure what the connection is between dog treats and some of Blue State’s profits being donated to the People for the American Way. Her syntax indicates a connection, but for the life of me, I can’t see it.

    Second, I think that Ms. Dragon confuses respect for the man with respect for the office. I have tremendous respect for the Presidency, but not as much for its current occupant. And I don’t mean any disrespect to the man. Rather, it’s the political figure that I have a beef with.

    Finally, I’m not sure what being the “best Americans we can be” means. If by being kinder and gentler (a throw-back to the days of GHWB) she means we should not criticize the president for his policies, then I guess I’m not kinder or gentler. When I raise concerns about government/public policies, I am being the best American I can be. I, like others involved in the issues of our times, enter Theodore Roosevelt’s “arena” to promote and defend those values I hold most dear. That is the only way that I can be the best American I can be. Dissent and questioning authority is an integral part of being American. It’s what make us unique. If that makes Ms. Dragon uncomfortable, then perhaps she should come into the arena and stop pontificating from the cheap seats.

  3. I would suggest that the treatment of American Presidents has with few exceptions seen rare distinctions between the occupant and the office. Frequently presidential “greats” have been subjected to very aggressive attacks, frequently at a level we today would find intolerable and in very bad taste. As early as Washington, castigated with great energy by the press for supposed “royalty” pretensions, to Jefferson, the subject of shameful attacks worse than those to which befell Clinton with less reason–there was no dress and no set of lies under oath by Jefferson. Jackson was villified in almost unimaginable ways, and if one looks at the press attacks on Lincoln, the vitriol was almost beyond belief for one of the greates of our leaders. Harry Truman’s second term parallels to a remarkable degree that of Mr. Bush, in part for the same reasons. Mr. truman began and tried to sustain a very unpopular war (called a “Police Action”) in which more than 55,000 American soldiers died and 250,000 were wounded in just the years 1951-1953. By contrast Mr. Bush’s unpopular war has seem 3500 Americans dead and 35,000 wounded in 5 years. It can be construed that neither war was justified and both were driven by confused goals. The treatment of Mr. Truman was amazingly harsh even by today’s standards.

    The iconoclastic lawyer, Clarence Darrow, once said that, “History repeats itself; that’s one of the things that’s wrong with history.” The treatment of Mr. Bush, deserved or not, disrespevtful of the office or not, is very much in keeping with the history of the office and its occupants.

    It is the American system for those in power, to be subjected to attacks by those out or power–this tension of democracy is almost peculiar to the American system of representation. Yet it is this system of goverment that was the inspiration for modern democracies the world over. It is not the best system, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, but all the others are so much worse.

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