Step 1. Acknowledge the Problem
Hi. My name is Gene. Like you, I am now doing my best to recover from eight years of George Walker Bush, the forty-third president of the United States.
Some of you know exactly what I am talking about. But many of you are asking, What does he mean? What is he saying? Recovery? I don’t drink a lot. I don’t smoke a lot. I don’t even shop a lot. I don’t need recovery.
Yes, you do, You, too, need recovery from the eight years of the presidency of George W. Bush.
Where were you during these last eight years? Do you even remember? Probably not. It’s all a haze of horribly hideous headlines, excruciating election evenings, and idiotic international incidents.
So, together, let’s try to remember what happened: During these past eight years, this country has seen its citizens’ civil liberties imperiled, its environment endangered, and its freedoms jeopardized. Nature reserves have been destroyed. Energy policy has favored enormous oil conglomerates over consumers. The financial markets have suffered some of their worst months since the Depression. Education for our children has been underfinanced while being tangled in red tape and test scores. The Supreme Court has been stacked with justices who were less than truthful in their confirmation hearings and have gone on to redefine judicial precedents. The Constitution, the basic framework of our government, has been mocked and abused.
It’s been a bad eight years for culture, music, and television, too.
Now, are you beginning to remember? Are you overcoming your forgetfulness? Is it all becoming clear? Are you becoming conscious of your Bush-induced insanity?
And what were you doing throughout all those years? Were you fighting to stop these things from happening, doing everything you could to limit the damage? Or were you repressing your ill feelings and sitting on your hands?
To get a better sense of your true emotional state, take this simple test. Grab a pen and circle the words in the list below that best represent your feelings about the Bush years:
Anger Fury Resentment Annoyance
Wrath Bile Rage Dissatisfaction Vexation
Discontent Bitterness Indignation
Degradation Humiliation Powerlessness
Regret Wistfulness Loathing Repugnance
Abhorrence Revulsion Sullenness Animosity
Hostility Displeasure Exasperation
Now look closely at the words you have circled. Do you see a pattern? If more than a few of the words you chose indicate negative feelings, there is a strong likelihood that you are sitting on a large reservoir of anger and resentment. Don’t let it destroy you. Admit the problem and move on to the solution!
Are you starting to believe me? What about one more test? Answer this short list of yes-or-no questions and see how you fare:
Do you ever tell people overseas that things aren’t nearly as bad as they think?
Do you wake up in the morning and pretend it’s 1999?
Did you stop donating money to left-wing causes?
Did you ever “forget” to protest the war?
Do you indulge in fantasies that the Supreme Court is fair and just?
Do you ever use liquor to ease the pain induced by American politics?
Do you watch DVDs of The West Wing
and pretend Martin Sheen is the real president?
Do you ever watch Fox News and believe it really is news?
Do you think the damage done to this country in the past eight years is minimal?
Do you wish Jeb Bush could become president?
Do you wish Jenna Bush could become president?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you probably need to enter a recovery program.
Are you ready to admit it now? Can you see through the miasma of forgetfulness? Do you want to know more about how bad it was?
Sean Wilentz, a professor of history at Princeton University, wrote in a 2006 article for Rolling Stone magazine that great presidents “rallied the nation, governed brilliantly and left the republic more secure than when they entered office….Calamitous presidents, faced with enormous difficulties–James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, [Herbert] Hoover, and now Bush–have divided the nation, governed erratically and left the nation worse off.”
An informal survey of more than one hundred professional historians, conducted under the auspices of the History News Network, revealed that 98.2 percent of them regarded George W. Bush’s presidency as a failure. Moreover, 61 percent of them ranked Bush as the “worst ever” president.
For those of you who still do not comprehend this concept, realize that you are living in denial. You don’t recognize that you have a problem.
Here’s a well-known fact common to all recovery programs: Denying the problem is the first sign of having one.
Here’s another well-known fact: Denial never works. Denial always ends up creating more and more denial, until you spiral into oblivion.
So its time to leave all this denial behind and admit the truth: You, and this country, have been in a terrible haze for the last eight years, and it’s time to take the appropriate steps to recover.
There is no such thing as a problem without a solution–at least not in the world of recovery. There is always hope.
Not that the recovery from the Bush years will be easy. Just as any journey has its ups and downs, its rewards and its hazards, its progressives and its conservatives, so will this journey.
However, there is good news. You are not alone. There are many other people just like you. In fact, there are approximately three hundred million of you, all facing the same difficult issue.
Even better news, if you have picked up this book you are open to the idea that you have a problem. You are starting to admit that these last eight years have caused enormous damage. You are beginning to understand that you let you power slip away from you and that, in the process, life became unmanageable.
Instead of running from the problem, you are now seeking a healthy solution. You are seeking recovery. You needn’t be ashamed. You needn’t hide this book from the checkout clerk. A new life–a happier life–awaits you.
This program was loosely adapted from 12-step programs designed to treat other types of issues. Besides the twelve steps themselves, you will find twelve guest speakers, who have come to the Bush Recovery Program to discuss momentous topics such as recovery for the environment and humor.
You now understand that only with outside help can you recover from your Bush-induced insanity. You are ready to move on to Step 2. Guest Speaker Jonathan Z. Larsen on
The EnvironmentJonathan Z. Larsen is a journalist and environmentalist. He has been an editor and Saigon bureau chief at
Time, news editor at
Life and editor in chief of
New Times and
The Village Voice, and served on the editorial boards of the
Columbia Journalism Review,
Nuclear Times, and
OnEarth. He is also an honorary trustee of the National Resources Defense Council and is currently building a no-carbon solar and geothermal house in Vermont.
It is not too much of a stretch to claim that George W. Bush won the presidency with a lie about the environment. Throughout his 2000 campaign he pledged to cap carbon emissions, a remarkable concession from a second-generation Texas oilman. This lie effectively co-opted Al Gore’s biggest issue.
Once Elected, Bush welshed on that promise and set about to hobble the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other environmental watchdog agencies by stuffing them with oil and auto lobbyists, party hacks, and religious quacks. Author Carl Hiaasen called Bush appointee Gale Norton “the worst Interior Secretary in modern history.”
Meanwhile, Dick Cheney was famously meeting behind closed doors with the world’s biggest polluters to determine how the Bush administration could make them happy. The result was lax enforcement and general incompetence across the board.
Bush’s two terms have been marked by rampant corruption in oil and gas leases, by public land giveaways, and by the manipulation and suppression of information. Worse, as president, Bush utterly failed to use his bully pulpit to address two of the biggest threats facing the country: global warming–the effects of those carbon emissions he refused to cap–and the country’s staggering dependence on foreign oil, which in turn has created the largest transfer of wealth in history from the United States to our current and future enemies.
Thanks to a dedicated opposition in Congress and the unflagging efforts of the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the field, his attempt to roll back thirty-five years of environmental regulation has largely failed. The next president, the Congress, and the federal agencies will have to do much better going forward to make up for the lost eight years.
Indeed, citizens also have to do a lot better. Here is what you can do, both to recover from the Bush calamity and to help you nation move forward.
1. Buy a pair of solar hot water panels, put them on your roof, and take a long, restorative shower.
2. Hurt Dick Cheney’s feelings by intensifying your personal ethic of conservation and recycling.
3. Put your money where your heart is: Support your favorite environmental organizations and invest in top-performing socially responsible funds. Last year, these included Arial (ARGFX) and Pax World (Balanced–PAXWV).
4. Using recycled paper, write letters to the White House and your local representatives at home and in Washington in support of environmental legislation.
5. Go out of your way to hug a scientist, an economist, an environmentalist–these have been the most endangered species over the last eight years.
6. Give the grid a break. As often as possible, turn off the trickle-power transformer on your cell phone charger and the standby power on your cable/satellite receiver, your audio system, and your microwave.
7. In 1931, Thomas Edison declared, “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power.” It is not too late to follow his advice.
8. Pray that the League of Conservation Voters will give the next president an A on the environment. They gave George W. Bush an F, the lowest score the organization has ever given.From the Trade Paperback edition.
Excerpted from The 12-Step Bush Recovery Program by Gene Stone. Copyright © 2008 by Gene Stone. Excerpted by permission of Villard, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.