If President Bush Gets a Plant Named After Him, It Apparently Won’t Be a Species of Rose

I live in a part of California where Republicans have managed to get their names on things. There is an LA County Supervisor, Michael D. Antonovich, on a nearby courthouse; there is a deceased California State Senator, Pete Knight, on a high school; and Ronald Reagan is on a freeway. So how about George Bush on a Northern California sewage treatment plant? Here’s the AP wire service story today:  

SAN FRANCISCO — A measure seeking to commemorate President Bush’s years in office by slapping his name on a San Francisco sewage plant has qualified for the November ballot.

The measure certified Thursday would rename the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant the George W. Bush Sewage Plant.

Supporters say the idea is to commemorate the mess they claim Bush has left behind by actions such as the war in Iraq.

Local Republicans say the plan stinks and they will oppose it.

This gesture is annoying or amusing, depending upon your politics, but I do think it illustrates something rather serious—and that is the notion that politicians function, metaphorically, as tenders of gardens. In other words, social systems are thought of as places where weeds can grow up, where things need attending to and cultivating etc.

Putting George Bush on a treatment plant perhaps inadvertently reveals our assumptions about the nature of government—and maybe it’s not good to think about government as a garden that has a chief gardener who is charged with the responsibility of not messing things up.

Doesn’t that feel too paternal? Maybe that’s giving too much power to a president.

Maybe we want more separation of powers in government, and less centralization.

Maybe putting George Bush on a Sewage Treatment Plant is investing his name, ironically, with a lasting power that he doesn’t deserve, even in the negative.

After George Bush leaves office, I’d prefer not thinking about him anymore—at least not in the realm of public space, giving his name power.

And haven’t we had enough of scapegoating? Aren’t we all, at least to some degree, responsible for whatever is messed up with America—from Iraq to foreign oil dependency?

You paid your taxes, right? Congress funds the Iraq War, right? Isn’t it just a bit too comfy to lay everything at the feet of our current dufus-in-chief?

Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant sounds just fine. Leave it alone.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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