Strangely enough, we find two famous men reading Albert Camus's "The Stranger" this summer.
One is Jean Girard, the villainous gay French race car driver hilariously played by Sacha Baron Cohen (a k a Ali G and Borat) - the sinuous rival to Will Ferrell's stocky Ricky Bobby in "Talladega Nights."
Girard, a jazz-loving, white-silk-scarf-wearing, America-disdaining Formula Un driver sponsored by Perrier, is so smooth he can sip macchiato from a china cup, smoke Gitanes and read "L'Etranger" behind the wheel and still lead the Nascar pack.
Frenchie contemptuously informs "cowboy" Bobby that America merely gave the world George Bush, Cheerios and the ThighMaster while France invented democracy, existentialism and the ménage à trois.
Mr. Bush's life has been premised on his confidence that he will always be insulated from the consequences and the cruelties of existence, unlike Meursault. W. or his people always work to change fate, whether it's an election or the Middle East.
"The Stranger" is about the emotionally detached Meursault, who makes a lot of bad decisions and pre-emptively kills an Arab in the sand. Get it? Camus's protagonist moves through an opaque, obscure and violent world that is indifferent to his beliefs and desires. Get it?
If there was ever a moment when this president could regard the unanticipated consequences of his actions, behold the world littered with the very opposite of what he intended for it and appreciate the gritty stoicism of the philosophy of absurdism, this is it. Iraq in civil war. Al Qaeda metastasizing and plotting. Hezbollah, Iran and Syria knitting closer, celebrating a "victory" in standing up to Israel, the U.S. and Britain, and mocking W.'s plan for a "new Middle East." The North Koreans luxuriating in their nuclear capability. Chávez becoming the new Castro on a global scale.
Maybe next the president should pick up Camus's other classic, "The Myth of Sisyphus." Was there ever a national enterprise more Sisyphean than the war in Iraq?
If there was ever a confirmation of Camus's sense of the absurdity of life, it's that the president is reading him.
Kinda beatnik shit for this dumbass ol' country fuck, but I think I "get it".