By Robert Wilson
August 25, 2011
A monthly magazine that I won’t name—it has an undersized audience and an oversized opinion of itself—saw fit a few issues back to fling the musty term politically correct in our direction. Never mind that even when the term had some currency, two decades ago, it was applied so broadly as to be meaningless. Since news of any slight usually travels fast, and I only discovered this one inadvertently, months after it was attempted, I suspect that even the few readers the monthly has aren’t really reading it. Such sad attempts to revive the culture wars would in normal times be tiresome. But the alarming recent events in Washington, featuring full-throated attacks on government and the economy, make battles over culture seem quaint and almost sweet.
It is in this spirit, then, that we offer our cover story about George W. Bush. Whatever your politics, or whatever you surmise about our politics, I hope you’ll see this story as we do—as an intimate and revealing look at the person who did more than any man alive to shape the world we live in. The bio line for “Dubya and Me” might cause confusion for those with binary vision, because the author of this sympathetic article about the former president is a former reporter for The Washington Post. How can this be? Isn’t that a socialist newspaper? Binary vision goes both ways, of course, and there are those who will be shocked to find President Bush, this bête noire, presented on our cover and in our pages as a man who reads, who thinks, who is fiercely loyal to his family, who is an amiable companion. Our writer, Walt Harrington, chronicles an odd sort of friendship even by Washington standards, one that endured although Harrington did not vote for President Bush and said so later in an op-ed piece the president read. But Harrington’s point in that op-ed, and an implicit point of his article for the Scholar, is that we should not demonize the people with whom we disagree politically. Like everything else along the political divide, this fairly obvious insight makes perfect sense when applied to the other side, less sense when we try to imagine its applicability to ourselves.
But hatred everywhere begets hatred—see, for example, our “Letter from Belfast.” Two other articles herein attempt to break that cycle. One, “Scar Tissue,” a disturbing personal story by the essayist Emily Bernard, tells of her being stabbed 17 years ago in a coffee shop in New Haven and of the trauma she has suffered since then. Her account is admirably free of enmity toward her attacker, a deranged person who picked her and his other victims that day at random. The second article, “Out in the West,” by Jennifer Sinor, describes her attempt to come to terms with living and teaching in a Mormon community where homophobia and religious certainty are widespread. Are such attempts at understanding politically naïve? Politically correct? How about just correct?
Robert Wilson is the editor of the Scholar and the author of Mathew Brady: Portraits of a Nation.