Thursday, August 4, 2005

The Unfeeling President – An Essay by E.L. Doctorow

A friend sent this to me. Perhaps you read it when it was published nearly a year ago, but I think in light of the recent “last throes” in Iraq, it is important to consider these thoughts again, especially these paragraphs, which reflect back on us all.

The president we get is the country we get. With each president the nation is conformed spiritually. He is the artificer of our malleable national soul. He proposes not only the laws but the kinds of lawlessness that govern our lives and invoke our responses. The people he appoints are cast in his image. The trouble they get into and get us into, is his characteristic trouble.

Finally, the media amplify his character into our moral weather report. He becomes the face of our sky, the conditions that prevail. How can we sustain ourselves as the United States of America given the stupid and ineffective warmaking, the constitutionally insensitive lawgiving, and the monarchal economics of this president? He cannot mourn but is a figure of such moral vacancy as to make us mourn for ourselves.

E.L. Doctorow is the author of such works as The Book of Daniel, Ragtime, Billy Bathgate, and many others.