Basic Training is not pleasant. You go to bed at 10pm if you're lucky, wake up at 4:30. Every third night, we had fire guard, which meant crawling from bed for two hours in the middle of night and sitting at a desk, waiting for a fire to happen.

There was endless berating from drill sergeants. There's the physical toll. There was the host of viruses which stuffed our noses and lungs and the wealth of bacteria. There was athlete's foot, which became jock itch. There was bickering and politics between soldiers: kids from inner-city Atlanta or rural Kansas mixed in with older guys who'd graduated college.

You can't wait to get out. Anywhere is better than here, you think.

But then, when it's all over...the drill sergeants tone down their act and maybe even laugh with you...you're given loose hours of free time to shop at the PX...you start to think, this isn't so bad. By the time you're flying out in your Class As to your next duty station, you miss it. You're not used to freedom and regular life anymore. You're used to Basic Training. Every day in, you wanted to be out. Once you're out, you miss the expected.

Reading President Bush's farewell address last night, I felt that same wistful institutionalization.

It was an ugly eight years. But this man took office when I was twenty years-old, and has presided over the major events of my life. He was my Commander-in-Chief. I remember where I was when he was elected (the first time), and I was glad.

President Bush was not the right person, but he did his job the best he could. He's been faced with threats and information you and I would be shocked to learn, the sort of news to erupt sudden ulcers.

I wish George W. Bush the best.

Throughout, President Bush has emphasized how seriously he takes the task of protecting the American people. Barack Obama has said the same, and the President-Elect's introduction into the threats America faces has been rumored jaw-dropping.

But I believe the most important role the President of the United States should play is not protecting us, but upholding the Constitution. And these two roles do not always work in harmony. Sometimes eroding our rights will keep us safer.

It's much easier to say in times like this (than, say, September 12th, 2001), but I'll take my freedom over my safety any day. Some would point to the invasion of Iraq, or economic policies, but I point to this as the reason, in the end, I'm glad to see these eight years end.

1 comment:

  1. My husband asked me to give Bush a letter grade. I thought, "how?" How do I know what it's like to be in his shoes? How do I know what he was privvy to? I think he made some grave mistakes, whether from false/incomplete information, bad advisors, and/or lack of reflection. But I was in NYC on Sept 11 and he was our hero, then.

    My biggest issue was his abuse of the presidential signing statement, circumventing legislative and judicial checks on executive power. In the name of safety? But he did great things to alleviate poverty in Africa. I wish peace for George Bush. And may we forgive his mistakes. And now, it's time to be happy.