Legacies

20 May 2009

u.s. presidents

Advertisement, p. 10 of the Tuesday, May 19th El País.

Always fun to check up on the home front in a Spanish daily. This is a different angle from what I think is that January luncheon with all living presidents, photo taken in the Oval Office, Obama then still the president-elect. (Though if it is that photograph, Jimmy Carter, who was standing to the right of Clinton, has been cut out entirely). Each president conveniently labeled with his accomplishments, next to Obama’s as-yet blank yellow circle. The ad is for a daily political talk radio program. (Click for a larger view of the text.)

George Bush is remembered for signing the treaty that ended the Cold War – Él y Gorbachov firmaron un pacto de cooperación, poniendo fin a la guerra fría en 1991.

Clinton, for his popularity – Terminó su mandato con un 66% de aprobación. El más alto desde la 2ª guerra mundial.

Carter is, by Spaniards, not remembered at all.

And our most recent office-holder? Interestingly, he’s not even gifted with one of his legacies as president – the bubble remembers him as Governor of Texas: Como gobernador, tiene el record de ejecuciones – He holds the record in executions, highest in toda la historia de Estados Unidos.

Now, speaking of legacies, isn’t this an odd sort of thing to say? Everything else the man did or was during his presidency taken as a given, I mean – wars in Iraq & Afghanistan, one election decided by judges, torture instrumentalized as foreign policy, a major American city left to drown, etc, etc, etc, etc. The obvious stuff.

But what do you do with the obvious stuff when it’s almost unsayable? You can’t argue with the number of people executed during his term of governor, even as the number of Iraqi civilians we’ve killed continues to be debated in terms of orders of magnitude. All of which puts me to mind of these pieces at the excellent academic blog zunguzungu, and the exchange  he quotes from an English teacher in the Sudan:

“So,” I said at length. “I hesitate to ask this question, but what is America famous for?”

“Killing people,” said one young lad sitting at the back, without hesitation.

Obama & Bush are the only presidents in the photograph wearing flag pins.

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2 Responses to “Legacies”

  1. blogmeridian2 Says:

    Jim,
    Yes indeed, re reading about one’s home country through the eyes of the foreign press. I could go on (and on) here . . . but I have my own blog, don’t I?

    • Jim Sligh Says:

      You accidentally blogging in my comments section would be a nice bonus for me, though.

      I could go on and on, too. In fact, I edited this piece down by about half, because the topic had started to spiral outward uncontrollably – which always seems to happen when I set out to do what I think is a simple scan-and-comment about a scrap of newsprint.

      I just noticed now the look W. is giving the camera lens while he and Clinton palaver. He’s staring right at us, almost conspiratorially – the only one breaking the fourth wall in this shot. Something creepy about it, the way it’s captioned especially.


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