OK, just tell me this. How do we greet him? Say I'm in the plumbing aisle at Home Depot bent forward at the waist searching for a beeswax toilet seal. I look up sideways. Damn it! It's George W. Bush.
"Oh, Hi, Mr. Presi...uh...former Mr....the ex...you... you... can you just tell me what the hell you were thinking...?"
I have respect for the office. I know it's not my place to grill somebody who was president of the United States. I don't want to make an ass of myself. But damn!
I try to imagine meeting him face-to-face on my own turf, in my own hometown, and I hear very bad words issuing from my lips like an autonomic response.
Don't tell me it's never going to come up. Of course it will come up. Probably not for me, but for lots of people. George W. Bush is returning here to live, and that means people in our community are going to have to live with him. So my question remains.
I'm at a loss even trying to find a parallel. Herbert Hoover, the 31st president, retired to California in 1932. So how did people greet Hoover? "Interesting to meet you, sir. Thanks for the economic depression."
And that was all they blamed him for. With Bush, helping ruin the global economy was only the last thing he did. "Hey, sir, before you leave the plumbing aisle, do you mind my asking about the thing where you attacked the wrong country. I mean, what? We should give you a mulligan?"
You know, we already have some pretty striking examples of how other people react to the man. There is, for example, the shoe guy. Mark my words. Within two years, there will be an enormous, Saddam-sized statue of the shoe guy in the center of a gigantic public square in Baghdad. The flying shoe will be covered in gold leaf.
Maybe shoe-hurling will be common here too. What is that strange, muffled sound in the distance? Thunder? A marching band? Oh, no, it's former President Bush coming our way, and the ominous sound we hear is the rolling tympani of shoes bouncing off his motorcade.
Anything is possible. The area around his home in Preston Hollow may become the site of pilgrimages, like Lourdes, but instead of crutches in the trees and merchants hawking religious trinkets, there will be guys with pushcarts selling shoes. The Secret Service will be out there in helmets scooping shoes off the lawn into wheelbarrows.
I just don't think Dallas gets it yet. We're far enough away from the action that we don't quite understand the flavor of things. This is the worst president in the history of the United States. He started a war for no good reason. He couldn't handle a flood.
And who else will come with him? Cheney lived here before. What if Cheney starts showing up in Dallas again? Oh...my...goodness. The difference between Bush and Cheney is that people give Bush a tiny break for being a hapless character in an Oliver Stone movie. But Cheney is real.
At this point in history, Dick Cheney is a global symbol for real evil. So is Satan coming to town too?
I'm actually serious about this. We need to have some kind of viable social ethic that will allow us to deal with this extraordinary turn of events. After all, we, too, will be in the eyes of the world, to some extent.
Try to imagine what would happen, for example, if Dallas were to greet Bush and his ilk with warmth and enthusiasm. Picture it on billboards along the highways leading into town. "Dallas: The city that loves George Bush."
Oklahoma used to have a motto on its automobile license plates that I always thought expressed the lowest self-esteem of any state in the union: "Oklahoma is OK." I understood the Rodgers and Hammerstein reference, but I still thought it sounded like an awfully low mark for the aspirations of an entire state.
But I'll tell you what: "Oklahoma is OK" sounds a hell of a lot smarter than "The city that loves George Bush." I honestly think we'd do better bringing back the old "Impeach Earl Warren" billboards.
Bush has a right to move here. This is America. The man is free to live wherever he wants, assuming the war crimes thing doesn't happen. It would be small of us to hope for a war crimes trial merely as a way to rid us of a local embarrassment, but the thought does come to mind. Got any evidence? Call me.
Then there is the whole business of the Temple of Bush that Southern Methodist University is building—his "library" and "think tank," for goodness sake. They should call it the what-were-you-thinking tank.