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Postmodern Village
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George W. Bush: a Revelation in Iniquity
by P.B. Wombat

To really grasp the significance of the symbol of the anti-Christ we must first posit politics as itself symbolic. Politics is the semiotics of a nation's will: it becomes the People just as the People become it by being elected into office and participating in the political process, or in dictatorships, by following the rules and not forming underground movements. But in a democracy, it is an especially tight symbolic relationship, thus the clear relationship between political symbol and anti-Christ in George W. Bush.

Both subject and subjectifier, politics in this nation exploits as it empowers by allowing a popular will (or a popular sense of defeatism) to manifest itself as a political candidate, who in turn is forced by his media (and his electability) to pander back to the People.

Thus a candidate becomes a symbol--being both subject and object in the mind of the electorate. This goes beyond being a mere figurehead: figureheads are allowed peccadilloes since they are not considered to be "real" decision makers. Figureheads express a polity's emotions about an office, and only those. American political figures--especially presidents--express emotions and will, and they express them in terms of a man (Americans seem to feel strongly that the office should be held by a man). The presidency is symbol in that it expresses us: we impeached Clinton because we found his conduct with Monica Lewinsky to be reprehensible. There was not the political will to convict him, however, because we knew that essentially he stood for us, and who among us has not had love affairs of which we are embarrassed?

In essence, we brought Clinton before a crowd, but the crowd could cast no stones.

The symbolism is thus established--the intimate connection between our presidents and ourselves. And here George W. Bush comes into play. According to Kevin Phillips, Bush is the quintessential spoiled, dumb rich kid (56). As Phillips points out, this has not always been a plus in American politics, but there is every indication that it may be in the near term: we are doing very well as a nation, thank you very much. Snooty and expensive clothes are back in style as Abercrombie and Fitch, the Gap, and Eddie Bauer have proven. We wish to see ourselves as gentrified, as having "made it," as being able to eschew study and hard work and rest on the laurels of our success.

The George W. Bush candidacy shows us that we are corrupt.

Similarly, the themes of corruption and the methods of symbol are very much a part of the book of Revelation. In it, we see symbolism at work in the creation of image:

The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my
right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The
seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and
the seven which thou sawest are the seven churches.
(1.20)

Symbol itself is part and parcel with the process of revelation, and any understanding of anti-Christ must therefore be with an understanding toward symbol. Thus emerges the symbolic in our own time: our self-association with political figures is the only way we are allowed to read the understanding we have of any given candidacy. Bush's symbolic self becomes our own selves; our own iniquity goes along with it.

The iniquity of the people in the age of tribulation is also evident. We are frustrated with our politicians: poll after poll has attested to that; the abysmal turn-outs on election day are further proof. We struggle as we try to throw off the yoke of the corrupting influence of them that lead us down this path--or they who we perceive to lead us, but instead as much as represent us. Thus saith the Lord:

Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; these
things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his
right hand, who walkest in the midst of the seven
candlesticks;
I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and
thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast
tried them which say they are apostles, and are not,
and hast found them liars. (Rev. 2.1-2.)

We see here a perfect parallel between the ancient church and the Republican Revolution of 1994. Struggling with the obvious and false religiosity of the Republican candidates of that year, we have since begun the slow process of removing them from power. But we still find the notion of a president-priest very convincing, continually moving as a nation to churches more fundamentalist, more evangelical, more overtly religious. And so we are split between the obviously false and the preachingly pious--in other words, George W. Bush, whose own flirtations with the religious right are well known, but whose appearance itself is one of clean, well-pressed preppiedom.

But this ambivalence does not satisfy a jealous God: "So then because thou art neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth" (Rev. 3.16).

Revelation 2 and 3 further this theme. Here God admonishes the churches of a nascent Christianity for their own ambivalence, their fornication, their following of false prophecy, their false practice. Just as we have begun to cast the false prophets out of Congress, we still expect politicians to be our "moral compasses," telling us as a nation who we must be, instead of looking toward God for such guidance.

This is understandable given the nature of political symbolism, but it remains idolatry in the eyes of God. But our corruption as a nation is ingrained, and we see it as honorable and noble and correct and right. We see that neither side is immune: the Democrats with their Monica Jezebel, the Republicans with their Paula Jones Jezebel.

Most disturbing, of course, in the face of the current political cycle as a symbol for the End Times is the idea that we have become idolaters to our won success. At the point during which the economy is at its peak, at which we have filled our larders with humongous SUVs, with 29" color TVs, with surround-sound stereo equipment, we think not of others but work more to get more. We repent not but travel headlong into the pit of riches: "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Rev. 3.17). At this same moment, G.W. Bush is calling for tax cuts so that we may better facilitate our markets. He proposes that we be more free to buy and sell: "And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name" (Rev. 13.17). And so the number of big business, of the same big business that has for so long been a friend to Governor Bush (Conason 39-53), which has Bush's number to the tune of $66.6 million or more. In the name of campaign contributions or "soft money," the businesses that support Bush understand what needs to be done to buy and sell under a Bush regime. They understand what needs to happen in order for the cycle of corruption to be complete, complying only because they recognize the smell of power, just as the worshipers of the Beast are attracted by his great power: "And [he] deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast" (Rev. 13.14).

The power to give tax breaks looms large in the view of the business leaders of America, and Bush promises just that. This miracle would certainly place Bush in the realm of worship: the "image" then becomes the completion of the cycle of signification: the symbolism of anti-Christ nears its completion as symbol for the People, its will, its business.

But there still is the deception. How must this deception happen? We see in Bush not the slick and persuasive serpent envisioned by Milton. We see instead a bumbling anti-Clinton: poor of delivery, stuck in his handler's script. So poorly spoken is the younger Bush "that his own mother once made him sit at the opposite end of the dinner table from the Queen of England, for fear of what he might say, when he was forty-four years old" (Phillips 56).

This is exactly as the deception should be: so used to a Satan of great rhetorical means are we, that we fail to see how it could happen the opposite way. He does not meet our expectations of a Devil, so we are deceived by George W. Bush's foolishness. More damning, we are positively wooed by it. In Bush we already see ourselves: rich, spoiled, kind of dumb, but basically likeable. Bush is the essence of America's self image: untrusting of too much wit, intelligence or erudition. It would be a miracle if he were to win the White House, which is exactly why we will put him there.

Thus the cycle of representation and symbolism is complete: Bush is who we are: corrupt, unrepentant, in awe of money and simultaneously endowed with it.

The ultimate estimation of the Bush candidacy in terms of Revelation is not so much that it will positively usher in the End Times, but the indicators are undeniable. We have become the corrupt society that Revelation predicts. We have become ripe to receive the deceiver.

Works Cited

Conason, Joe. "Notes on a Native Son." Harper's Magazine Mar. 2000: 39-53.

Phillips, Kevin. "The Prospect of a Bush Restoration." Harper's Magazine Mar. 2000: 54-8.