oh, the pesky presidency

So this summer, I have an intern from Belgium who told me she wasn’t sure what to think of America before she came here. She was like “I thought every American likes George Bush.” When I explained some of the less than positive opinions of him out there, she didn’t understand why we voted him. And then I had to go into the whole schtick of “we didn’t,” as in the popular vote belonging to Gore two terms ago, etc., etc. but it didn’t really make either of us feel better about the U.S.

As a bigger explanation, I told her the quote from the David Mamet book on the movie business I’m reading — every civilization is either marching towards its maturity or its decay, and in our case, we’re definitely the latter. India and China are so obviously skyrocketing towards having the biggest brain trust in the world and healthy economies, Europe has their Union and their friggin’ strong euro, and I’m totally jealous. Because really, I’m American. I want America to be the best country in the world that everyone wants to move to, but it’s not true any more.

Did the rot start before Bush? Probably. But with eight years with him at the helm, we’ve been set back in our development as a civilization by at least a generation. The best science brains from India and China used to come here, but now is doing the reverse immigration thing. Our kids are not even passing elementary school, so where are the inventors, Ph.D.s and all those leading minds who can help undo the damage going to come from?

Don’t worry. I’m trying to be very Zen about it and to comfort myself with how other countries have coped. Like when the Roman Empire fell, Italy was okay, right? I mean, the Mussolini phase wasn’t, most likely, a great time of pride to be a citizen there (unless you were a Fascist?), but people probably shrugged and went on with their lives, with some good times, happy moments, fleeting experiences of fulfillment. That’s all I need to keep going.

Now, the next president, I’m afraid, I think will be McCain, which doesn’t thrill me. He interviews well and shows some charm, but he’s also rabidly pro-life and he still refers to Asians as “gooks,” which excuse me, makes me feel a tad uncomfortable. I’m not really interested in getting to know the nitty-gritty of each candidate b/c what they say now doesn’t necessarily predict how they’ll be once they’re in the White House.

I asked my intern what government they have in Belgium. “We have a monarchy.” Having a king is definitely something elementary school taught to outright reject as a scummy British heritage, but now I wonder if it works as well as any out there.