Saturday, October 30, 2004

"My Pet Goat"

It’s startling.

I remember where I was on September the 11th. I was asleep, planning on sleeping through my morning class—on Islam no less. My roommate woke me up, we watched, the whole dorm was watching, the whole world…and I didn’t know what to do, how to react. Just pure shock.

George W. Bush was on camera when he heard. Reading the now infamous story “My Pet Goat.” And he stayed there for seven minutes after being told, “America is under attack.”

This image has proven to be iconic. Michael Moore in Fahrenheit 911 used it to prove that Bush was incompetent and unable to function without a script. Eminem used it in his video to prove Bush knew of the attacks beforehand. Osama Bin Laden alluded to the image to prove Bush was a coward. The image is a virtual Mona Lisa, with its’ meaning being found in the eye of the beholder.

For me, this image just about sums up all my feelings about this election. The importance. The surreal-ness. The confusion. The shock. The fear. The quiet panic. The anxiety.

To use this image to indict Bush is unfair. How would you or I react, on camera, knowing suddenly the weight of the world was just dropped on your shoulders? And that your actions in the next few moments, minutes, hours, days would change the world? Some of us have no idea what that is like. We were too busy hiding in a cave.

But the image is useful. It punctures a myth being echoed in the media of a decisive, determined, steadfast leader who knows America’s enemies and how to fight them. The image they paint is that of some superhero who is taking charge of history, who is the only one will save America, the only one who cares, who has the guts, who has the will. He is a man chosen by the Almighty to lead America against the enemy of freedom and good. Instead, we see a human being, confused, overtaken by events. He is capable of mistakes, paralyzed and unable to react, a deer in the headlights.

And now we are faced with another attack ad. And a choice in three days. We will not be intimidated. But the image of the President, with the odd smile on his face, reading the book, frozen…The image will stay with us, ambiguous, disturbing waiting for history to move on.


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