The Bush back yard
This morning the newspapers report on the opening to the public of The George W. Bush Childhood Home, a new 'Presidential Site' to attract tourists to Midland, Texas. There are pictures of stripped pine walls and single bed with a geography book in what is called 'Dubya's Den'.
The last time that I saw that house on 1412 West Ohio Avenue, in the summer of 2004, the den still had a hole in the wall. There were garage-sale appeals for 1950s artefacts to fill the dining room (only authentic flying ducks would do) and financial appeals for $50,000 to sponsor the 'childhood back yard'.
The house is just one of the stops on the Bush tour of Midland. When photographer, Nick Danziger, and I took the ride around this wind-blasted desert town for The Times Magazine, not everyone thought it was a worthwhile assignment. 'Dubya', they said, 'was a fake Texan and the tour was merely log-cabin-to-white-house mythmaking'.
This was an easy line but a comfortable distortion of the truth. George W. Bush is not the big-hatted, cowboy-booted kind of Texan; but when he said on inauguration that he would govern 'by Midland values', he was thinking of something wholly different from that.
High risk and fundamentalist religion are the two keys to understanding the place where the President spent his first years of life and his first years of adulthood. Midland is not the only influence on him. But it has been a big one.
I have just reread what I wrote about the 'town of the rising son' two years ago. Almost everyone there expects divine 'rapture' and sees war by the Euphrates as a sign of an imminent 'second coming'. So how they see the Iranian nuclear claims this morning I can readily guess.
Readers of this blog might like to read it now too.