THE DIVINE RIGHT TO SUCCESSION

For nearly a month now, the newspapers, TV commentators, magazines, and every declared Republican presidential candidate except George W. Bush, have spoken of the overpowering juggernaut of the Bush machine, which has already raised more than $36M dollars for the forthcoming campaign. Without doing much but breathing regularly and evading sensitive issues, he is the all-but-annointed Republican nominee. That rubs me wrong, but I understand the reason. Having lost the plum of the presidency, Republicans so badly want to install a man in the Oval Office they wouldn't care if he were the devil himself. Rightly or wrongly, George W. Bush looks to them like a winner, and they're going to jump on his chuck wagon. From the point of view of an independent thinker who believes this country is in fine, if risky, economic shape, but sadly lacking in little, politically unimportant things like honesty, ethics, and relying on a man's word, it smacks of nepotism. George W. Bush isn't a qualified candidate for the presidency just because his old man spent four years in the Oval Office.

As bad as that was, last week's unfortunate accident in which an inexperienced pilot without an instrument license made an indefensible decision to fly after dark with a broken ankle over water on a moonless night to an island shrouded in haze, evoked something even worse. Sometimes the lucky make it, for God often looks after the foolish: he has done it for me, and perhaps for you, too. John Kennedy, Jr. didn't make it. God rest his soul and those of his passengers.

Almost 36 years ago, as the three year-old son of an assassinated president, little John-John captured my heart with his salute to the passing casket of his father. The boy grew up, matured into what appeared to be a gracious, decent, down-to-earth man with a self-deprecating sense of humor, and eventually became the owner and editor of a magazine. Though bearing the magic of the Kennedy name, which assured him an immensity of both earned and unearned popularity, he kept to himself and refrained from running for public office. The record shows he had done nothing sufficiently important to be considered for a congressional or senatorial seat, or for president. And yet, during a 36 hour search period in which any sane person realized he was dead, and why, the media used the words royalty, of high birth, and one destined perhaps for the highest prominence, to describe him.

To paraphrase the words Shakespeare used in Julius Caesar, "I come not to praise John Kennedy, but to bury him." I am not going to make a demigod of him, either, and wonder for what reason we are doing so. Men become legends from the things they have done, not from supposition about what they might or might not have done. John Jr. wasn't a qualified candidate for the presidency just because his old man spent a bit less than three years in the Oval Office.

A considerable portion of those reading this mini-essay will call me shrill, vicious, callous, and probably un-American, for writing it. As a man who held his breath, his temper, endured pain, kept his mouth shut, and just picked em' up and laid em' down during four hard months of Underwater Demolition Training, perhaps I am. You get tough-minded doing that, and very aware the award for screwing up can be fatal. Heavy dues had to be paid in training, and my comrades and I paid them before we earned the modest status of navy frogman, not Princes of Neptune. We had to work for everything we got.

As a consequence, I am greatly underwhelmed by the secular knighthood our media have freely accorded George W. Bush and the late John Kennedy, Jr. If we had nobility in this country, which we don't, neither of them earned it. Both led pampered, self-indulgent lives, were given prep school educations, did not serve in our military, though George W. became a pilot in the Texas Air National Guard, were never concerned where their next penny or meal was coming from, and inherited fortunes that were easily enlarged because of the prominence and political influence of their respective families. They got it free, primarily as an accident of birth. I'd already decided from what little I've read about and seen on TV of both men, that they were nice guys, reasonably successful in business, and not ego-driven, arrogant, or conceited. But that's it. That's all. There are other fine men out there who have solid political experience, men who have won more than one election, men who have apprenticed within the system as underlings, men who have really worked for what they've got. And it is from among these men I hope to elect our next president.

I seem to remember being taught in grammar school that my country fought a war with Great Britain to free itself from the fetters of monarchy. We didn't want a king, couldn't elect a king, and wouldn't abide a king. Why on earth are tens of millions of Americans so desperately seeking the sons of former presidents to celebrate and deify? Why are we looking for a line of succession, for clay-footed demigods to anoint as royalty and worship, totally independent of merit, and elevating them to a level where they are considered presidential material? Unconsciously, at least, we seem to be crowning the prince to replace his father, the king? I'm not sure if the media are leading this horde, or if these pundits and cardinals of news are perceptively pandering in offensively mawkish taste to the sentiments our public wants?

Neither our people nor the media realize just how tenuous democracy really is, how easily it can be subverted, or understand the instincts of lower primates, and perhaps mankind, to live under a leader for whom the rules of the group do not apply. America rejected monarchy more than two centuries ago: why are we embarking on it now?

7/25/99

Sam Orr sorr@metrolink.net
World Traveler
and Philanthrope
(Location Unknown)