Bush Going Down

“You’re not going to believe this,” Diane said as she came in the door. “Bush’s latest.”

It was a week in which Dick Cheney had announced he was not a member of the Executive branch so he was therefore outside the reach of the law, and Bush had pardoned convicted White House perjurer Scooter Libby, then responded to a letter from a bunch of high school kids asking him to stop the renditions and abuse of prisoners with one of his Humpty-Dumpty classics: “America doesn’t torture people.” What could they do to top that?

She pushed across the table two blocks of postage stamps. “I was mailing packages and I picked up some of the new Express Mail and Priority Mail stamps. Take a look.”

She was right: at first, I couldn’t believe it. The chutzpah of those bastards is Olympic.

The Priority Mail stamp doesn’t even say “Priority Mail.” All it says is “USA $460” and “Air Force One.” The picture is the president’s aircraft, flying to the right in golden sunlight. above sun-crested clouds and a landscape in dark blue twilight.


The Express Mail stamp is even worse: the text is “USA $1625” and “Marine One.” The image is the President’s helicopter flying at a slight tilt over Arlington National Cemetery, with the Marine Corps Memorial under its belly and the Washington skyline in soft golden light in the background. The Washington Monument is almost in dead center.


George W. Bush, the US president who has done more to populate Arlington National Cemetery than any president since Richard M. Nixon has the nation’s top stamp depicting him flying over the nation’s honored dead.

If it were a motion picture stamp the ground underneath would be moiling with the dead turning over in their graves.

On her next trip to the post office Diane mentioned how much we loathed both stamps. “Everybody here hates them too,” the clerk said. They compared reasons, which were pretty much the same. The arrogance of Bush, the militarism, the contempt for the dead, the irony of him flying in comfy golden light while the nation beneath sinks into darkness.

“But you’re putting the Priority stamp on wrong,” the clerk said. She took one and showed Diane the correct way to affix it to the envelope:


“Bush going down,” she said, smiling.

BRUCE JACKSON is a Marine Corps vet and author of The Story is True: The Art and Meaning of Telling Stories, published this month by Temple University Press. He edits the web journal BuffaloReport.com.



Bruce Jackson’s most recent books are Inside the Wire: Photographs from Texas and Arkansas Prison (University of Texas Press, 2013) and In This Timeless Time Living and Dying on Death Row in America (with Diane Christian, University of North Carolina Press, 2012). He is SUNY Distinguished Professor and James Agee Professor of American Culture at University at Buffalo