No one could have alienated me from friends and family better than George W. Bush
It was Thanksgiving 2000; my family was gathered for the traditional holiday dinner of turkey with all the trimmings. The Presidential election between George Bush and Al Gore had just come to a vote, but still had not been decided due to a recount in Florida.
Someone had started a political conversation at the dinner table with Bill Clinton’s indiscretions being the main topic, but it quickly turned towards Bush/Gore. The comments I heard were typical; “Bush will bring dignity back to the White House;” and “Al Gore is stiff as a board.” I was the only one who wanted Al Gore to become President.
I remember it explicitly, like it was yesterday. I said “If George Bush wins, we’ll be in a war within two years with a possible draft and we’ll get into debt with defense contracts. He was almost illiterate, couldn’t deliver a speech throughout his entire campaign and was a C student, part of the Skull and Bones fraternity and no… I did not want to have a beer with him.”
I was scoffed at, told that I thought the government should take care of me, and that I was always on the wrong side of politics, the typical conservative response. The logic was that Bush was going to have a fantastic cabinet, especially with Colin Powell. That was the beginning of the end of my family relationships. George Bush was named President by the Supreme Court, something that blows my mind to this day.
Immediately following 9/11, there was a lot of heightened emotion and thanks to my addiction to news, I knew it was probably Osama bin Laden who was responsible. As time went on and President Bush made media appearances talking about hunting down the “enemy” and bringing them to justice, I was appalled to learn the entire bin Laden family was escorted out of the United States without being questioned. It wasn’t long before President Bush decided to invade Afghanistan to find Osama bin Laden.
The media went into high gear; we saw videos of monkey bars, training camps and there were videos of Osama bin Laden saying “death to America”. Al Qaeda became a household term. My mother, being from England and living through World War II started to see my point when the Patriot Act was passed. She told me herself it reminded her of Nazis, but she still backed President Bush and his hunt for bin Laden.
In 2002, right out of the blue, Saddam Hussein was being accused of harboring Al Qaeda operatives and “weapons of mass destruction” by President Bush and his Administration. The media once again went into high gear and by the beginning of 2003, Colin Powell was testifying before the United Nations with a fake anthrax vial. Powell all the while looked down seemingly knowing he was lying.
As the Iraq war unfolded, conversations with friends, family and acquaintances started to transform into disagreements or arguments. I couldn’t understand how these people I liked and loved could actually believe these wars were justified. All I could do was just shake my head and walk away.
I kept talking about the budget surplus we had that was wasted, how much debt we were getting into, and being in Los Angeles, I was living through my third or fourth housing bubble. President Bush sent stimulus checks twice to all of us so we could go out to eat and not think about the wars.
It was astounding and it seemed like I only came across a few people who thought President Bush was on the wrong path. Any talk about the wars in a negative fashion made me sound like a traitor to the victims of 9/11. Things started to feel like the McCarthy era.
Then the 2004 re-election came. The Democrats didn’t have the strongest candidate in John Kerry but I just could not imagine George Bush winning again, but he did… and I cried. I had a 15 year old son, and two step sons, ages 15 and 13. I was still afraid of a draft and these boys were not soldiers or war material.
Many of my Jewish friends in Los Angeles were all for George Bush’s war because it meant a United States presence in the Middle East. I couldn’t believe that could be any American citizen’s priority, but of course their kids were not at war.
At that point I knew I was all alone, I rarely spoke to my siblings. Ironically I went to England in 2006 with my mom. Every time someone found out I was from the United States, I was asked, “How do you like your President?” I was embarrassed, but relieved to be in a country where people knew the war in Iraq was unnecessary.
More importantly, George Bush was recognized for his ignorance, lack of decorum, inability to speak and answer questions off the cuff. He was downright immoral and dragged Prime Minister Tony Blair down with him.
In January of 2005, I got married. My husband was not very involved in politics but knew that I watched closely. At least I got my sons and husband to watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Even they realized how ridiculous the state of the union was in.
In 2008, John McCain ran for President with Sarah Palin against Barack Obama, the potential first black President. I loved how Obama spoke. I thought his background was fit to handle large issues rationally. His wife was a strong woman who knew how to come across firm, but knew when to back off with a sense of humor.
John McCain soon came out and said that the economy was strong and there was nothing to worry about. That same week in 2008, I remember walking into the law firm I worked at. The receptionist was crying saying that she was going to have to work the rest of her life because her 401k was gone. She was one year from retirement. Partners were running around the law firm not knowing what to do.
While so many people were losing their shirts, I had a glimmer of hope. I had a feeling that at least Republicans would lose control of the White House thanks in part to Bushonomics. Between picking Sarah Palin and making a huge gaffe about the largest crash since the Great Depression, John McCain had fallen on his sword. Home prices were tumbling and things were spinning out of control.
By the time my in-laws found out I had voted for Barack Obama and was in favour of the ACA… All of them alienated me. I had no liberal family members except for my husband and sons. Everyone knew how I felt thanks to Facebook. I shared factual information about current events, but they remained in denial. I had quite a few threads they had loaded up with vitriol and harsh words.
I will never forget the night Barack Obama won the Presidency. Most people won’t forget that night of jubilation. As I sat there watching with my mother, my last friend who was not a party line Republican, I said to her, “But mom, bin Laden won. He wanted to take down our economy and he succeeded.”
My mother passed away about nine days after President Obama’s inauguration. She and I were on the same page finally, but she was the last person who didn’t want these wars. In the end, she didn’t approve of George Bush, but was proud of President Obama. Not because he was the first black President, but because he had fire in his belly. He wanted to change things and my mother hoped the Patriot Act would be overturned.
These days I hear people speak out against the wars they were originally in favour of, the economy has improved and I don’t know anybody unemployed. There is a sense of normalcy that has returned even with gridlock in Congress. 14 years of worry, stress, rejection and loneliness, but this country is great and has always made a comeback.
It’s been a lonely road, but fighting for what is right usually is.