W. Bush: a Revelation in Iniquity
by P.B. Wombat
To really grasp the significance of the symbol of the anti-Christ we
must first posit politics as itself symbolic. Politics is the semiotics
of a nation's will: it becomes the People just as the People become
it by being elected into office and participating in the political process,
or in dictatorships, by following the rules and not forming underground
movements. But in a democracy, it is an especially tight symbolic relationship,
thus the clear relationship between political symbol and anti-Christ
in George W. Bush.
Both subject and subjectifier, politics in this nation exploits as
it empowers by allowing a popular will (or a popular sense of defeatism)
to manifest itself as a political candidate, who in turn is forced by
his media (and his electability) to pander back to the People.
Thus a candidate becomes a symbol--being both subject and object in
the mind of the electorate. This goes beyond being a mere figurehead:
figureheads are allowed peccadilloes since they are not considered to
be "real" decision makers. Figureheads express a polity's
emotions about an office, and only those. American political figures--especially
presidents--express emotions and will, and they express them in terms
of a man (Americans seem to feel strongly that the office should be
held by a man). The presidency is symbol in that it expresses us: we
impeached Clinton because we found his conduct with Monica Lewinsky
to be reprehensible. There was not the political will to convict him,
however, because we knew that essentially he stood for us, and who among
us has not had love affairs of which we are embarrassed?
In essence, we brought Clinton before a crowd, but the crowd could
cast no stones.
The symbolism is thus established--the intimate connection between
our presidents and ourselves. And here George W. Bush comes into play.
According to Kevin Phillips, Bush is the quintessential spoiled, dumb
rich kid (56). As Phillips points out, this has not always been a plus
in American politics, but there is every indication that it may be in
the near term: we are doing very well as a nation, thank you very much.
Snooty and expensive clothes are back in style as Abercrombie and Fitch,
the Gap, and Eddie Bauer have proven. We wish to see ourselves as gentrified,
as having "made it," as being able to eschew study and hard
work and rest on the laurels of our success.
The George W. Bush candidacy shows us that we are corrupt.
Similarly, the themes of corruption and the methods of symbol are very
much a part of the book of Revelation. In it, we see symbolism at work
in the creation of image:
The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my
right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The
seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and
the seven which thou sawest are the seven churches.
Symbol itself is part and parcel with the process of revelation, and
any understanding of anti-Christ must therefore be with an understanding
toward symbol. Thus emerges the symbolic in our own time: our self-association
with political figures is the only way we are allowed to read the understanding
we have of any given candidacy. Bush's symbolic self becomes our own
selves; our own iniquity goes along with it.
The iniquity of the people in the age of tribulation is also evident.
We are frustrated with our politicians: poll after poll has attested
to that; the abysmal turn-outs on election day are further proof. We
struggle as we try to throw off the yoke of the corrupting influence
of them that lead us down this path--or they who we perceive to lead
us, but instead as much as represent us. Thus saith the Lord:
Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; these
things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his
right hand, who walkest in the midst of the seven
I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and
thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast
tried them which say they are apostles, and are not,
and hast found them liars. (Rev. 2.1-2.)
We see here a perfect parallel between the ancient church and the Republican
Revolution of 1994. Struggling with the obvious and false religiosity
of the Republican candidates of that year, we have since begun the slow
process of removing them from power. But we still find the notion of
a president-priest very convincing, continually moving as a nation to
churches more fundamentalist, more evangelical, more overtly religious.
And so we are split between the obviously false and the preachingly
pious--in other words, George W. Bush, whose own flirtations with the
religious right are well known, but whose appearance itself is one of
clean, well-pressed preppiedom.
But this ambivalence does not satisfy a jealous God: "So then
because thou art neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth"
Revelation 2 and 3 further this theme. Here God admonishes the churches
of a nascent Christianity for their own ambivalence, their fornication,
their following of false prophecy, their false practice. Just as we
have begun to cast the false prophets out of Congress, we still expect
politicians to be our "moral compasses," telling us as a nation
who we must be, instead of looking toward God for such guidance.
This is understandable given the nature of political symbolism, but
it remains idolatry in the eyes of God. But our corruption as a nation
is ingrained, and we see it as honorable and noble and correct and right.
We see that neither side is immune: the Democrats with their Monica
Jezebel, the Republicans with their Paula Jones Jezebel.
Most disturbing, of course, in the face of the current political cycle
as a symbol for the End Times is the idea that we have become idolaters
to our won success. At the point during which the economy is at its
peak, at which we have filled our larders with humongous SUVs, with
29" color TVs, with surround-sound stereo equipment, we think not
of others but work more to get more. We repent not but travel headlong
into the pit of riches: "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased
with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art
wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Rev.
3.17). At this same moment, G.W. Bush is calling for tax cuts so that
we may better facilitate our markets. He proposes that we be more free
to buy and sell: "And that no man might buy or sell, save he that
had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name"
(Rev. 13.17). And so the number of big business, of the same big business
that has for so long been a friend to Governor Bush (Conason 39-53),
which has Bush's number to the tune of $66.6 million or more. In the
name of campaign contributions or "soft money," the businesses
that support Bush understand what needs to be done to buy and sell under
a Bush regime. They understand what needs to happen in order for the
cycle of corruption to be complete, complying only because they recognize
the smell of power, just as the worshipers of the Beast are attracted
by his great power: "And [he] deceiveth them that dwell on the
earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the
sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they
should make an image to the beast" (Rev. 13.14).
The power to give tax breaks looms large in the view of the business
leaders of America, and Bush promises just that. This miracle would
certainly place Bush in the realm of worship: the "image"
then becomes the completion of the cycle of signification: the symbolism
of anti-Christ nears its completion as symbol for the People, its will,
But there still is the deception. How must this deception happen? We
see in Bush not the slick and persuasive serpent envisioned by Milton.
We see instead a bumbling anti-Clinton: poor of delivery, stuck in his
handler's script. So poorly spoken is the younger Bush "that his
own mother once made him sit at the opposite end of the dinner table
from the Queen of England, for fear of what he might say, when he was
forty-four years old" (Phillips 56).
This is exactly as the deception should be: so used to a Satan of great
rhetorical means are we, that we fail to see how it could happen the
opposite way. He does not meet our expectations of a Devil, so we are
deceived by George W. Bush's foolishness. More damning, we are positively
wooed by it. In Bush we already see ourselves: rich, spoiled, kind of
dumb, but basically likeable. Bush is the essence of America's self
image: untrusting of too much wit, intelligence or erudition. It would
be a miracle if he were to win the White House, which is exactly why
we will put him there.
Thus the cycle of representation and symbolism is complete: Bush is
who we are: corrupt, unrepentant, in awe of money and simultaneously
endowed with it.
The ultimate estimation of the Bush candidacy in terms of Revelation
is not so much that it will positively usher in the End Times, but the
indicators are undeniable. We have become the corrupt society that Revelation
predicts. We have become ripe to receive the deceiver.
Conason, Joe. "Notes on a Native Son." Harper's Magazine Mar. 2000: 39-53.
Phillips, Kevin. "The Prospect of a Bush Restoration." Harper's Magazine Mar. 2000: 54-8.