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The World after Bush

LONDON – There is a marvelous painting by Brueghel in the Brussels art gallery. The British poet, W.H. Auden, was sufficiently impressed to write a poem about it.

The painting shows Icarus, his wings melted, plunging to a watery grave. No one seems very interested. The world goes on, the peasants continue plowing their fields, getting on with their lives. They show no interest in the dramatic fall of Icarus.

Real life often seems simply to tick on like that, regardless of headline news and momentous events. So President George W. Bush will go back to Crawford, Texas at the end of the year. Will anyone notice? Does anyone care anymore? His wings scorched from Iraq to Guantánamo, Bush already seems to be yesterday’s story; his minders carefully steer audiences into the front rows at public events, lest the absence of interest in what he is doing and saying becomes too obvious.

The reason we should take more notice of his departure is not what his absence will make possible, but what will remain absolutely the same. Consider four examples.