Our 41st President, George Herbert Walker Bush, died yesterday (November 30, 2018) at the age of 94. In many ways, his gentlemanly approach to political discourse stands as a model for the type of engagement we spirited reasoners are striving to retain. Or perhaps “resurrect” might be a better verb.
Those on the right wing who criticize his compassion (he was quick to tears) as a sign of weakness might do well to recall that President Bush was a hero of World War II. He was a Navy pilot whose plane was shot down over the Pacific. He completed that particular bombing run, even though his plane was on fire. Do those critics of the Bush form of statesmanship–and I’m thinking of one such critic in particular, who happens to reside in the White House–hold war records that would certify the extent of their own courage and patriotism? Or, when the time came for them to put their lives on the line, did they slink away, hiding behind their family’s money and influence?
Those on the left wing who criticize his lack of compassion might do well to recall that President Bush was the moderate opponent to Ronald Reagan’s conservative crusade during the Republican primaries of 1980 and was the Chief Executive who signed the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1992.
My guess is that the Bush family is too classy to use the funeral of their patriarch to remind Americans of the many times candidate Donald Trump leveled vicious accusations against the Bush style of politics. Most Americans, however, will recognize the contrast between their manner of speaking to all Americans versus the current President’s preference to speaking only to his base.
Civility can be reborn from the grass roots. But its growth could be accelerated with a little help from the top down.
May the life of our 41st President serve as an inspiration to all of us about the merits of true patriotism, civility, inclusiveness, and compassion.