Why I Now Like George W. Bush

Donald Miller

I’ve always had mixed feelings about George W. I voted for him once (his second term) and coming from Texas, had something of an emotional tie to the former President. Not only that, but I like him. I naively believe, of all the former Presidents, he and I would get along the best. I’d rather sit in a duck blind with a dog and George W. than with anybody else. I think we’d get along. If only he drank beer.

That said, I wonder at times if his Presidency didn’t get swayed too strongly by Dick Cheney and the whole Neo-Con control machine (without which he would not have gotten elected). It’s a shame, really. W. may have done more for the continent of Africa than any other President, at least from a foreign policy/financial perspective. Despite popular belief, he was a strong advocate for the poor and marginalized. And I like the fact he wanted to lower taxes, but I hate the fact he increased the national debt.

I protested the invasion of Iraq, and I’m fully aware of the atrocities that have taken place there. The Iraqis have lost more than 100k of their own, and too many voices now believe a true democracy is unlikely. And not only this, but recent statistic reveal that up to two-thirds of Christians have had to flee Iraq for fear of massacres. This of course begs questions about the wisdom of the invasion. We toppled an evil regime, but that toppling cost untold devastation. Would you stand up to a bully if you had to kill children to do so?

It’s been ten years since the invasion of Iraq and if we’ve learned one thing it’s that life is not a spaghetti western. It seems Americans forget that fact quickly.

That said, my mixed feelings gave way to some grace recently by of all things, a painting. And the painting was this one:

It’s not an especially great painting. It’s just the former President in the shower, looking at a mirror. What interested me about the painting, though, is that the former President painted it himself.

It reminds me, to a small degree, of Winston Churchill’s behavior after he was first ousted from Parliament. Did you know, after Churchill was voted out he went to his house by the sea and learned to paint? It’s true. And when Hitler came on the scene, they brought Churchill back because they needed a man of war. (They quickly voted him out again after he won the war. They didn’t need a hammer after that, another fact Americans forget in their romantic notions of simple heroic characters.)

What is interesting to me about the fact the President is painting now is that it means he’s exploring, creating, feeling something, being vulnerable, if you will. You have to be vulnerable to create art. Art is difficult if you’re defensive.

There is no question this man has spent hours wondering about his decisions, and there’s no question he’s wept over the lives lost.

Dick Cheney seems like a man who justifies his decisions no matter what evidence you stack against him. George W. Bush doesn’t. I think the man is honestly objective.

And here’s the reality, and perhaps the point of this post: We tend to demonize people, don’t we? We tend to think other people are either angels or demons. But they aren’t. There is a messiah and a devil and then the human race caught in-between.

Why is it so hard for us to embrace this reality? Do we not want to give each other the effort of nuanced thought? Must our conclusions be the same as the talk show hosts, who only make money in the polar charges of good and evil? (and lately, a few shock-jock preachers who have hijacked the gospel for their own attention and glory.)

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I’m no die-hard Republican and I think “picking a political team and letting that team define your identity” is evidence of sloppy thinking and a disregard for truth.

There is a temptation to paint a man evil for the ramifications of his decisions. And I think while his motives were not pure (self-deluded at best), I don’t believe they were evil. I think he made dramatic miscalculations.

That said, I’d still duck hunt with G.W. I wonder what we’d talk about. I’d probably start by asking how he did that self portrait in the shower without getting the painting wet. I’d not talk about the war. I’d ask him about his father. I might ask about baseball.

I don’t think the man is a monster. I think he’s a man.

Can I ask you, do you believe half the people in the world are demons and the other half are angels?

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller is all about story. He helps people live a better story at creatingyourlifeplan.com and grow their business at storybrand.com. Follow Don on Twitter (@donaldmiller). To read more of his posts on the Storyline Blog, click here.