During the 2004 campaign, NPR put up a fascinating juxtaposition of the two candidates on the campaign trail: John Kerry speaking before a thoughtful gathering of the League of Women’s Voters, and George Bush standing with sleeves rolled up and arms raised in front of a crowd of raucously cheering Republicans. Rationality versus emotion. As a Christian, the choice was obvious: John Kerry was the right man to be president.
In the subsequent months, I had a number of dreams about Ohio, the key battleground state in the election, and clearly projected my preference. A young woman showed up at a dance club I enjoyed a few months later and asked me: “What if George Bush was president in 2004 and you were president in 2008?” I held my laughter, but let loose the thought, “I happen to know that I’m not qualified to be president.”
It wasn’t the first time I ran into the Bush machine, nor would it be the last. While I was writing everdeepening.com, a mute woman showed up in the library, the ex-wife that the Bush clan had silenced. The president himself showed up in my dreams one night to beat his forehead on mine. I simply stood back from the confrontation, shrugged, and announced “I’m not impressed.” And when I returned to LA during the second term, I noticed a room across the parking alley filled with electronics gear, and one night my son announced “Dad, those guys in the other building are shining a red laser on your window.”
Women tend to complain about conservative institutions as being “male-dominated”, but my mother told me when I was a child that all the great religious figures of the day were “propped up” by women. When I heard that the pastor at Saddleback Church “spoke to Jesus every day”, I went down and poked around to discover that it was his wife that was putting up the counterfeit. During Easter observances, I was sitting in the stadium seating at the local mega-church when the pastor observed that Jesus was rejected by the religious leaders because he “wasn’t what they expected.” I found myself frowning out of the corner of my mouth, but when I tried to break in on his train of thought, a wall of sorts came between us. It was his wife and her girlfriends trying to protect him.
Protect him from what? The truth?
The book of Genesis is about men breaking out of this trap – the trap of being the tool by which women work their will on the world. Nancy Reagan lives in a mansion just adjacent to the Reagan library, and when I stood out on the lawn overlooking Moorpark, the message I got from that direction was “This is a strong man” – not “Wow, another man like Ronnie.” And when the Obamas couldn’t figure out why Boehner kept on blowing in the wind, I looked through him and saw his wife in the background. It’s not just the conservative men that are upset at a minority presence in the White House.
It’s started up again now that Neil Bush has thrown his hat into the 2016 race. A sexy young thing showed up at the café, claiming at one point to have attended SMU (“You know, where Laura Bush went to school”, she observed). Once I got all the pastors’ wives and Bush women out of the air, we had a productive conversation concerning the use of technology to help people with mental disease validate their experience and find support.
During W’s second term, Laura Bush showed up to ask whether I could help her husband with the pressures he was under. I was direct: “Not until he’s out of office.” What hurts your men, ladies, is the Peter Principle. Your support of their oversized egos pushes them to heights that they can’t manage. Take a page from the Obamas – it’s not the success of your men that matters. It’s the success of the people they lead. When those two things align, your man will be lifted up.
Should I be concerned for the men propped up by the women of our political elite? Intrinsically, no: they have enormous resources at their disposal. It’s the children in the inner city that I push on the swings on Saturday: those are the people that most deserve my concern.
And if Neil Bush wants to be president, I start with this: what’s he done to prepare Florida for global climate change? When is he going to stand up to the Koch brothers? When is he going to avow that government is the practice whereby we solve problems too big for us to solve alone, and that when the rich avow “no new taxes”, they’re simply pushing their problems on down the road to my children?