The way out for G.W.B.

-- and all of us
The Norman Transcript May 06, 2006 12:16 am — Lloyd Williams For The Transcript Robert Burns, poverty-ridden and given to pleasures of the tavern, wrote charming poetry. Some of it entailed sound psychology and moral philosophy. His closing lines from "To a Louse," for example, would solve many a problem if we could take them seriously. Wrote Burns: "O wud some Pow'r giftie gie us To see ourselves as ithers see us! It wad frae mony a blunder free us..." And Walter Scott, a generation younger, gives us judicial counsel in his romantic narrative "Marmion" when he says: "O what a tangled web we weave When first we practice to deceive." The connection between these sentiments and the social-political-economic problems distressing us is greater than appears on superficial examination. Our efforts -- often unimaginative and stumbling -- to solve these problems frequently leave us entangled as much as ever. But all of us, from the White House on down, can extricate ourselves without spending a nickel. The key: looking at ourselves as we are as Burns suggests, and speaking the truth and only the truth as Scott's couplet implicitly counsels. Imagine what would happen if we abandoned the images we have of ourselves and our nation and acknowledge the fallible, imperfect, temporary and inconsequential nature of our individual existence and the errant nature of our foreign influence. Or what would happen if we all decided to speak and write nothing but the truth? Suppose professors acknowledged they know less than they think and that there is more they don't know than they do know. Suppose advertisers always told the truth about their products. Suppose, from the pulpit, the clergy gave us absolute truth, abandoning efforts to provide divine sanction for selected political and economic -isms. Suppose lawyers wrote contracts in basic English and gave up casuistry. Suppose the media gave us only unbiased news while clearly separating editorials from fact. Suppose the business community concentrated on "just prices" while workers focused on enduring craftsmanship. And consider the revolutionary consequences of politicians seeing themselves as servants of society, as officers promoting only legislation advancing the collective good, and with the spirit of public duty overriding the covetous temptations of office. There are other provocative suppositions. If G.W.B. took these ideas of the poets seriously and acted on them the result would be a scintillating political pirouette, or perhaps a governmental earthquake of monumental proportions. The war would come to an end. The pirates plundering the Federal Treasury would be checked. Our national debt would become manageable. The needless killing of innocent people would be dramatically reduced. Worldwide hatred of the U.S. would significantly diminish. And our government could devote its energies to extending an honest good will to all the world. Then America truly could become "America, the Beautiful." Predictions are always conjectural, a risky pretense that we can see the future. But with such a change in the President he could go down in history as a man of honor, integrity and humane sensibility. As things now stand it is doubtful he could outrank such a cipher as Calvin Coolidge. But when Americans see and understand reality they tend to prove a fair, courageous and forgiving people. So with these changes G.W.B. could go down in history as a man of integrity, an esteemed President, perhaps one worthy of the American pantheon of great leaders. And all of us could live with a sense of membership in a nation striving to follow the wisdom of the world's most eminent philosophers, poets and sages. Lloyd Williams is a retired educator. His column stumbles around every other Saturday in The Transcript. Copyright © 1999-2008 cnhi, inc.