No, I don’t mean BUSH-3!!! (Though that is true too!)
There is another significant link between John McCain and George Bush –it just struck me yesterday!
(Maybe it has struck you too: do let me know.)
McCain and Bush: they both are Sons of Privilege –while, of course, Barack very definitely is not.
Both McCain and Bush are The Progeny of Rich and Powerful Families –The Bushes of Kennebunkport and the McCains who ran…what was that show called?… McCain’s Navy? Well, for two generations anyway. The McCains were…Not Just Admirals, but Big Time Admirals. Deck of the Aircraft-Carrier Admirals.
Sons of Privilege! Born into a world of influence and status –a heady combination that too often can fail to test and challenge the mettle of its progeny, and too often promotes a sense of presumption and superiority, especially when the progeny might not be –shall we say– all that… “reflective”.
It used to be –long, long, LONG ago, it seems– that Rich and Powerful Families carried with them a sense of Obligation to Service. It was called “Noblesse Oblige” –which the dictionary defines as “Benevolent and honorable behavior considered to be the responsibility of persons of high birth or rank.” A literal translation would be: “nobility obligates”.)
No doubt, some of you are reading this with an awareness that Barack Obama’s very humble beginnings could hardly have been more removed from, more deprived of privilege –no Aircraft Carriers moored outside the humble home; none of those wave-as-they-zip-by Cigarette Boats of Kennebunkport tied up his private pier.
Barack was –let’s not beat about the bush (or the m’cain) about it–the food stamp baby of a virtually single-parent Mom. His real achievements (Harvard; Community Organizer; Senator; orator, speaker, excellent writer) while not unique, represent –to me at least– the staggering achievement of a steely application.
Under no stretch of the imagination could one apply the tag “Noblesse Oblige” to Kenyan-Kansan Family Obama.
And YET: there was enough nobility in his Mom (and his Dad, too; and Mom’s grandparents; and in those distant Kenyan roots of his Dad), but most especially in the soul of Barack himself, to get Barack, after earning his up-by-his-bootstraps Harvard Law degree, to forego the high six figures of the corporate world that clamored for him, and to go instead to Chicago’s South Side to help the severely underprivileged, most if not all (I am assuming here) of whom were African-American. (Probably not Kansan-Kenyan….but that’s another debate, for another day.)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Now –as we face Election 2008– it seems to me that “privilege” has had its turn.
It has had its turn at running the nation –and fared none too well at it. Indeed, it has brought us two individuals of what seems to me to be staggering immaturity. Both of them appear driven by compulsions forged in family-dynamics that had no business spilling out on the national stage.
(There is, however, one Bush-McCain “noblesse oblige” distinction that I am obliged to make. Let us call it The Vietnam Distinction.
There is no denying that while George W. Bush, with no doubt all the backing and influence of The House of Bush, did everything possible not to serve, but to AVOID serving his country in Vietnam –and successfully so– John McCain, even though married, and with three children, requested to be sent on combat flying mission into North Vietnam, with all the prisoner-of-war experiences that we have heard so much of lately. Including some harrowing, almost sado-masochistic, details of his torture at the hands of the Vietcong.
We need not go into that any further at this point. Let us simply observe that McCain in his Vietnam service embraced the Heroic while Bush did everything to avoid it.
I have just one more observation to make: call it an evolving theory; a question that is forming, evolving in my mind.
It’s a point about fathers, their relationship with their sons, their influence on their sons, and the relationship of son to father. Present or Absent, we know that it is a powerful relationship, and a formative relationship. In it there is great potential for positive and for negative.
To my mind, George W. Bush has –probably all his life– been at war with his father, whether it was wanting to go “mano a mano” with him, coming home late as a young buck. Or never even talking to, consulting with #41 (who had already had his 1991 war with Iraq) about his own 2003 War against Iraq.
“I talked to MY REAL FATHER,” W. told us. Who of us will dare to touch that father-son landmine, that IED of Oedipality!
Certainly not me.
At least not here.
(For one thing, I simply do not have the time.)
But we don’t (YET) know too much about what oedipal forces might be flowing in the veins of John McCain. There have been signs that such forces are active, and perhaps even powerfully so. The Hero. The Maverick. The Rebel. The Man who crosses the aisle (who even gave serious consideration to becoming a Democrat.) The Man who takes on his own party.
Maverick seems to be image that McCain likes most, but his maverick-hood (maverick-ness?) has been interspersed with large doses of outlandish pandering (eg. that 2004 kiss and hug from Bush after the scurrilous smear from him in 2000.) We don’t know –or at least, I don’t know– what paternal interactions might have disposed the son to such flip-flopping, or if indeed it was a factor.
Clearly there was potential for military-style father-son discipline. And the naval family life meant that John McCain had attended twenty different schools by the time he was aged 15.
It is probably unfair to try to stretch this speculation too far, but there is no doubt that John McCain is an impulsive man, with a reputation for a fierce temper, and other vulnerabilities –all of which need to be set against his long service in the war and in politics.
Bush and McCain, the complicated and imperfect Sons of Privilege.
You can probably tell that I favor Barack Obama. He may not be perfect…
But I’ve had it with …Our Complicated Sons of Privilege!