How Should America Remember the 41st President?

The media has continually compared Trump to George H.W. Bush since his passing.

Politics Features

Leaders and heads of state from all over the country gathered at the National Cathedral Wednesday to bid farewell to the 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush. His son and former US president, George W. Bush, gave the eulogy at the service, saying that his father, "valued character over pedigree and he was not a cynic. He looked for the good in everybody, and usually he found it." The younger Bush remained relatively stoic throughout, until he said, "He was the best father a son or daughter could have," at which point he let out a strangled sob.

This touching image of a son grieving his father evoked further outpourings of sympathy from a nation that has seemingly warmed to the elder Bush in the wake of his death. Even left-leaning public figures and media outlets posted statements honoring and remembering the good qualities of the 41st President.

Consequently, posts began spreading across social media not only condemning H.W., but those who would publicly express grief at his passing. In particular, his refusal during his presidency to help fund the research and treatment of AIDS — given that his death happened to fall on the eve of world AIDS day — was widely criticized. It seemed that many felt that to remember Bush as a good president, was to erase the harm he had caused. For example, Michelangelo Signorile wrote for HuffPost, "The Media Is Erasing George H.W. Bush's Catastrophic Harm To LGBTQ People."

This combination of the usual bipartisan post-mortem beatification of a political figure with the public's refusal to forget 41's wrong doings, is further complicated by the left's desire to use Bush as an example of an honorable Republican figure in contrast to Trump. As AP press says, "the national media has almost inevitably focused on the contrast between his [Bush] era and the present day." Or as the The Washington Post wrote, Bush has become, in death, "a yardstick for Trump."

What liberal Americans are left with is an interesting narrative that boils down to, "we shouldn't honor him in death, he was a bad person" combined with a desire to position H.W. as another reflection of the complete moral vacancy that Trump represents. This leaves us all with the question: how should we remember a President? Can we honor his service to the country and still acknowledge his low points? Will Trump's legacy be one of casting a flattering light on all Presidents before him?

Surely, the best course of action in remembering a President is to take a holistic view. We can remember the many failings of 41, and still use his legacy of productivity and sanity as an example of the kind of President the country deserves and — prior to Trump — expected, regardless of political differences.

Brooke Ivey Johnson is a Brooklyn based writer, playwright, and human woman. To read more of her work visit her blog or follow her twitter @BrookeIJohnson.

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