Understanding others and sympathising with them is hard for most of us. It would be a lot easier if we just did not sympathise with others; we tried _not_ to understand other people's point of view; we decided with certainty that "our's" and "our side's" worldview is the right worldview. Ignore and scorn all others; feel good about ourselves; feeling torn is for losers!
How about that W: the president of the United States for a couple more weeks! A month ago, I saw a tweet (a twitter message) about GWB being at an international conference and avoiding eye contact with the other leaders. They were trying not to shake hands with him. There was a piece in the NYT the week after Obama won demanding W resign. "Let's have Barack already!"
I watched "W (Dubya)" - the movie by Oliver Stone. I enjoyed that movie a lot. The actors were good and the end sequence was artistic and touching, almost tragic. Dubya is portrayed as a lover-of-life, a man who partied a lot, drank a lot, ran a lot. The actor playing Dubya hit on a really nice device to convey W's personality: eating.
Almost through the whole of the film, Dubya is munching on something. I thought the device nailed the man. Always enjoying himself, doing something else while talking to you. Whatever you and him maybe talking about is not more important than eating or drinking or going all touchy-feely on you. You can see it as disrespect, but it brings a dynamism to his character. It worked on Laura! In the scene that they first met, he does not stop munching on his burger, or taking swigs of some drink.
The film mines an often-mentioned theme: W's relationship with his father. GHWB (the father) excelled at school and in sport, he was decorated for his military service, was an elected member of Congress, was ambassador to China and the UN, was director of the CIA, was Vice-President, and then President. His mother, Barbara, while a strong personality of her own, deferred to her obviously impressive husband.
W on the other hand, was never good at his studies, could never hack it as a star sportsman at school, and more or less stumbled through his twenties and thirties. His father (whom he calls "poppy" and occasionally "sir") was clearly an overpowering presence in his life. He was clearly under his shadow. More than that, Jeb, the younger brother, soon became his parents' pick for successor to Bush Snr - which must have hurt W.
And to Dubya's credit, he found his way. He picked a good match in Laura, sorted his drinking problems, found God, stumbled through a few career crashes until he found the right calling, and, having learnt from his father's loss against Clinton, amazed his family by running for Governor of Texas and winning.
The only thing is: he should not have run for president. And he should not have won. He was not qualified to be president.
It says a lot about the corruption of the US - corruption in an embedded, seeping-out-of-every-pore sense - that he ran for and became president. His father, the man who had criticised him many times, now worked the phones like a suave marketing man selling an exclusive, high-end product - his son.
And it worked!
The repercussions are tragic.
The obvious, direct corruption found amongst the poorer people of the world is inconsequential to most other citizens of the world. The corrupt people are the ones who pay its price. But the corruption of the wealthy and powerful has deep, deep impact. It leaves scars that need generations to heal - around the world.