God eyes Crawford, Texas and she is pissed

I am spiritual and not really religious. Nonetheless, if I were religious then I would be wondering about the message of Hurricane Rita, which looks like it will hit the Texas coastline with its full fury on Saturday. Where it makes landfall is anyone’s guess. However, I did notice that, at least at the moment, that its projected path would take the center of Rita right over Crawford, Texas. Hmm.

Crawford, of course, is our president’s official home away from home. It is also about two hundred miles in from the coast. Therefore, even if Rita makes landfall as a Category 5 hurricane, it would lose a lot of its punch by the time it hit Crawford. Still, according to the news, only three category five hurricanes have ever hit the U.S. mainland in recorded history. Even the hurricane that killed 6,000 people in Galveston, Texas in 1900 was not a Category 5 hurricane. So this hurricane could prove to be even more destructive than Hurricane Katrina. It is possible that Mr. Bush himself may choose to apply to FEMA for some disaster relief. If so, he and Senator Trent Lott would have something new in common. Perhaps sometime after the storm and subsequent repairs they will visit each other’s houses and sip mint juleps on their new porches. Doubtless, they will be discussing their bravery for hunkering down hundreds of miles from the event and making sonorous statements at press conferences about how they feel the pain of the displaced. (Do not call them refugees!)

It seems like Bush spends more time at the Prairie Ranch than he ever does at the White House. With Rita bearing down on it, he is unlikely to spend this weekend dallying at his ranch. No, of course he will be elsewhere, most likely at Camp David. Anyhow, Bush doesn’t do weekends in Washington. This weekend in particular he has incentive to stay away. Antiwar protestors (including the woman who sat outside his ranch during most of August, Cindy Sheehan) are coming to Washington on Saturday. If Bush holds true to form he will be safely absconded in Camp David where, thanks to its blessed remoteness, antiwar protestors are never seen nor heard.

Perhaps with his poll numbers in the toilet he will deign to skip his regular bike ride. Instead he may hover somewhere near the edge of the hurricane zone and engage in some desperately needed photo ops. This time Karl Rove should be astute enough to make sure that there is plenty of time for him to been seen hugging evacuees and perhaps giving them bottles of Perrier. This looks much better than strumming the guitar with country western singers when hurricanes are approaching our coasts.

If I were a believer in God influencing the course of natural events, I would be struck by a few observations. First, Rita grazed the Florida Keys. It is like sending a warning shot to Bush’s younger brother that God is coming, and she is pissed. Second, Rita is hustling toward Texas, and picking up new energy on the way. If God is the vengeful God so popular in the Old Testament and channeled by religious conservatives, whipping up what may be the most massive hurricane to hit Texas just a few weeks after our botched response to Hurricane Katrina (Category Four) and pointing it directly at Crawford … well it would suggest she would be sending a message.

This is one of the reasons that I do not believe in a vengeful God. Because although Texas is a bright red state, and although it has been millennium since God got formally into the genocide business, no one with half a brain, Republican or Democrat would wish this kind of misery on anyone. Nevertheless, since so many of the people who voted George W. Bush into office apparently are believers in this kind of deity, what is the message? Why does God hate lawful, God-fearing, obnoxiously Christian, obscenely low tax Texans? There is hardly sufficient time for some of these citizens to load up their essentials into their Hummers and beat it into Oklahoma. They are probably thinking, why us God? Why us when there are so many other tempting targets? Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, Boston would have made excellent targets instead. Many of these cities are rife with homosexuals, wiccans, pagans, transvestites, gun control advocates, and (shudder) Unitarian Universalists.

Besides, many of these devout Texans believe the end is near. Yes, the apocalypse is right around the corner. You can tell because God has been ordering them to buy read all those Left Behind books. When the apocalypse arrives, the good book tells us that the heathens are going to Hell. The God-fearing, morally upright Christians, populated en masse along the Texas coast, get rapture and eternal life instead. But, but after Hurricane Katrina, even good religious conservatives have figured it out: surviving a hurricane is no rapture. It is more like living in hell. I mean, it might even mean living in a shelter with poor black people. That alone might cause a stroke.

Now is the time for prayer. I am not a praying man, but I will make an exception. I will pray that some greater force of nature stops Hurricane Rita. I want it to dissolve into a wimpy little storm that leaves a few sprinkles along the Texas coast. Yet somehow, I expect that God will not be listening, or if she is, she will have no change in heart.

On the other hand, maybe bad things just happen, and God stays studiously hands off. Maybe God expects us to use that body organ called the brain to build our gardens of Eden on firmer ground.

Oy, these things are meant to try us. The god-fearing and not so god-fearing residents of Texas look like they will soon have to deal with nature’s bountiful wrath. Meanwhile, California, a big and bright blue state has much of its population adjacent to the San Andreas Fault. Those who believe in a vengeful God will be positively giddy when a big one strikes over there. When this happens, they will doubtless see the hand of God at work. Meanwhile, they will have to ignore this little theological boat anchor dropped on their lap called Hurricane Rita.

As for me, I will keep sending my checks to the American Red Cross. In addition, I will urge my fellow citizens in these unsafe areas to move somewhere less likely to have natural disasters. Nature has been giving us a wakeup call the last few years. Are you listening?

(P.S. Of course, Rita has nothing to do with global warming.)

All Hat and No Cattle

Cindy Sheehan is a 48-year-old mother from Vacaville, California whose son Casey, a U.S. solider, was killed last year in Iraq. As you may know from news accounts, she is camping outside President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. She is vowing to stay there until Bush comes out to talk to her or until he returns to Washington in five weeks.

It will likely be a long and futile wait for Ms. Sheehan. Bush is not exactly the sort of president who welcomes dissent. In fact, he cannot deal with it. Witness his so-called campaign events during the 2004 presidential campaign: highly scripted events at which only carefully selected supporters were allowed to attend. An antiwar bumper sticker on your car was enough to have his goons evict you from his rallies. Even the questions he “answered” were screened in advance, to ensure they were all softballs.

Clearly, Bush is not at home in Washington. Consequently, he earns many frequent flier miles commuting to and from his ranch. It fits his modus operandi. Ah, sixteen hundred acres and the press usually absconded to hotels dozens of miles away. When his media handlers figure it is time for a photo op, the press dutifully treks out to the ranch. Then, to fill the airwaves on Fox “News” we get videos of him clearing brush, an activity that appears to be his true calling.

One thing he has not had in Crawford is anything resembling organized dissent. His Prairie Chapel Ranch is his sanctuary. The place is so remote and so darn hot this time of year, that only fools and coyotes will hang around. So why is Cindy Sheehan waiting outside his ranch? Does she really think he will come out and talk to her? She is not that naïve. I think she might as well be waiting for Godot. She wants to hear from the president first hand why her son’s death was, as Bush claimed, part of a noble cause. It is a good question. Had our invasion not resulted in anarchy and terrorism perhaps it would have been noble. Instead, it has turned out to be foolhardy. Even calling it folly understates it.

There is no point in me reciting once again why our war was so foolhardy. (It is now pretty self-evident. Readers that need illumination can browse my politics archives.) The real problem for President Bush is that short of having Sheehan arrested for her lawful demonstration, this is one protest that he cannot escape. The press corps has little else to do but interview Cindy Sheehan. In addition, aside from swallowing large quantities of bottled water and slathering on lots of sunscreen, Sheehan has little to do but keep raising those uncomfortable questions that our cowered press corps does not have the gumption to ask.

If Bush were not “all hat and no cattle” as he was accurately described in his presidential campaigns, he might do a manly thing. He might actually venture down to the road, open the gate and engage in an honest conversation with Ms. Sheehan about his war. If this actually happened then I would be one of many people whom you could knock over with a soda straw.

There is little likelihood that this will happen, of course. Bush will probably find it convenient to spend much of his vacation elsewhere, hoping to draw attention away from him. For Sheehan exposes not only his cowardly behavior, but also demonstrates his propensity for frequent vacations and short working days. They would even make Ronald Reagan envious.

Meanwhile, Sheehan broils in the Texas heat, spends a lot of time being interviewed and attracts heaps of media attention. Now it appears that she is also gathering more supporters willing to endure the Texas heat with her. They will be unlikely to get Bush to emerge. Nevertheless, the longer the protest goes on the clearer the true nature of our president will become. The American people will see that Bush is nothing but a pathetic coward who hides behind a Texas bravado but who cannot confront criticism personally.

My hope is that her protest will grow. I hope she will bring compatriots to her lonely vigil by the thousands. Ideally, I would like to see protestors camped out around the entire periphery of Bush’s Texas ranch. I would like to see the front page of our nation’s newspapers every day show growing crowds of antiwar protestors expressing their opinions about our ill advised and illegal war in Iraq.

The pendulum has finally swung decisively against the Iraq war. According to Newsweek, sixty one percent of Americans disapprove of the way Bush has handled the war. Fifty percent of Americans expressed the opinion that our troops should either be brought home immediately or fully withdrawn within a year. Sixty-four percent say the war in Iraq has actually made us less safe from terrorism. At last, the veil is lifting from our eyes. Cindy Sheehan’s simple act of asking for an honest explanation directly from the man whose reckless decision caused the death of her son demonstrates clearly that we have a president bereft of both presidential qualities and moral authority. Instead, we have a corporate pandering, fiscally reckless, environmentally hostile and anal-retentive president. He is only comfortable living an isolated existence where he never had to experience controversy. See no evil. Speak no evil. Hear no evil.

George W. Bush has made a career of avoiding accountability. However Cindy Sheehan will finally succeed where all others have failed. While she probably will not succeed directly, she will succeed indirectly. By ignoring Ms. Sheehan, Bush blinks first. He loses.

George, you have to know when to fold ’em. Cindy Sheehan has called your bluff.