Viewpoints

Time travel not worth the effort

Have you seen The Time Machine? No, I don’t mean the older classic, I’m talking about the 2002 blockbuster starring Guy Pearce and bearing only vague resemblance to the H.G. Wells novel of the same name. It’s the classic story of love: Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Girl dies. Boy spends four years building time machine to travel backward and save girl. Boy encounters temporal paradox and, despite his best effort, fails to save girl. Boy then travels recklessly into the future, glimpsing the bleak and terrifying world awaiting mankind, wherein he confronts a maleficent Jeremy Irons endowed with potent psychic powers and bent on controlling the tattered remnants of humanity. Fun for the whole family.

Despite the persnickety treatment the movie received from the egos of the film page, the lesson learned by the hero is important for Americans to bear in mind as the post-Bush era looms: Changing the past is impossible.

However, if we were endowed with a time machine, I suspect a popular goal of contemporary time-travel would involve something preventing or limiting the presidency of George W. Bush. This is far from unreasonable—as his legacy solidifies, he has successfully alienated a remarkably broad band of the political spectrum, and now even his own party has trouble standing beside him.

But gazing unerringly backwards and hoping against hope for a time machine to offer a simple and easy—if ethically and scientifically questionable—solution to the “Bush problem” gains nothing. Sad and sardonic little tirades against Bush have proliferated in every corner of American culture, ranging from The View to Letterman and everywhere in between. It’s the equivalent of leaning on your car horn while you’re stuck in traffic: You might get a kick out of it, but for everyone else, it’s nothing more than an annoying buzzing noise that makes a frustrating situation all the worse.

So then, instead of a presidential hopeful traveling back in time to “change” Bush, Americans can do more good for the country by understanding his past actions. If we realize where he went wrong, errors can be corrected, whereas the alternative—simply reviling and reacting to him—yields shortsighted, ultimately useless solutions.

It wasn’t what Bush did that mattered but rather how he presented that to the American people. It was not his continued commitment to Iraq that made us lose our patience so much as his rhetorical refusal to admit mistakes.

Bush failed in honesty and humility, and that is precisely the lesson that candidates from both sides should learn. Lies and falsehoods are not only condescending, but they dig a president into a hole of distrust from which, as can be seen today, there is no escape. Indeed, Bush governed through a national crisis, but we’ve seen that fallibility and a constantly renewed sense of humanity, rather than graven imperturbability, are what people seek.

No candidate can undo the errors of the past, but anyone, no matter how ideologically polarizing, can rebuild a political atmosphere that has degraded into petty mockery. By no means is this an end to partisan bickering, but instead just a chance to step beyond politics becoming Saturday Night Live and toward something more worthwhile.

At this point, all that Americans can do is cope with and make something positive of what has been the undoubtedly tumultuous tenure of George W. Bush. We shouldn’t go jumping blindly into the future like Guy Pearce, but rather accept the past and try to build a better future from it. If we don’t, we veil ourselves from the real issues at hand and welcome inevitably dire consequences. We could find ourselves in the same abysmal future as our hero: in the literal hell of a ruined library on the barren surface of post-apocalyptic Earth, discussing literature and philosophy with an electronic Orlando Jones. Beyond hope, beyond help.

At this point, all that Americans can do is cope with and make something positive of what has been the undoubtedly tumultuous tenure of George W. Bush. We shouldn’t go jumping blindly into the future like Guy Pearce, but rather accept the past and try to build a better future from it. If we don’t, we veil ourselves from the real issues at hand and welcome inevitably dire consequences. We could find ourselves in the same abysmal future as our hero: in the literal hell of a ruined library on the barren surface of post-apocalyptic Earth, discussing literature and philosophy with an electronic Orlando Jones. Beyond hope, beyond help.

Seth Berlin is a fourth-year in the College.