Well that is a surprising headline. Here’s an even more surprising one: Matt Damon wants to kiss George Bush on the mouth:
Matt Damon, known for his liberal politics, gave credit where credit was due to former President George W. Bush.
And he said he’d do it with more than just thanks.
“I would kiss George W. Bush on the mouth for what he did on PEPFAR,” he told The Atlantic in an extensive interview about his charity work.
From that piece:
MD: I would kiss George W. Bush on the mouth for what he did on PEPFAR.
JG: How long would you kiss him?
MD: Three seconds. No tongue.
You know, PEPFAR is an incredible thing just in terms of how many lives it saved. These ARVs have a Lazarus effect on people. You see a picture of them before and then you see them vibrant, alive, working. Their whole family has been dragged down by the illness and now this. I went on a trip in 2006 (to Africa) and I just had a sense of national pride going around, talking to these people, and they were so happy, they would say, “America,” and I was saying, “Yeah, our president did that, and it’s terrific.” It’s such an obvious connected thing. People aren’t going to hate you when you’re saving their lives.
Well, good for Matt Damon, who — for all of his sometimes insulting and inappropriate remarks about folks on the right — is able to be fair enough to give credit where it’s due. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this were a baby-step toward the nation moving away from our paralyzing (and stupid) polarization?
Bush did something really great in Africa and helped to save a lot of lives, but it seems only figures from the pop culture — Damon, Bono, Bob Geldorf — have had the generosity of spirit to give him props for it. When Bush visited Africa before he left office, he was greeted with great love — and not just for the AIDS program but for the anti-malaria help too. The press, meanwhile, barely covered that trip.
He made a lot of mistakes as president (what president doesn’t make some doozies, press-covered and press-ignored?) but he got some stuff right, too. Africa was one of them; he not only helped people with AIDS but brought assistance and attention to the malaria problem. So was his scholarship program in DC, toward which the present, teachers-union-beholden administration is not amenable.
Bush’s commitment to Africa has not ended with his presidency, by the way. Here he is talking last December about Africa’s potential:
I did this interview with President Bush about Africa, where he traveled earlier this month to promote a new Red Ribbon Pink Ribbon campaign to stave off cervical and breast cancers. The campaign follows up the PEPFAR initiative he launched as president to fight AIDS and other diseases in Africa and elsewhere . . . Here’s an excerpt from my question to him about how he sees Africa developing:
“They’ve got enormous problems, of course. For example, when Africa modernizes its agricultural sector, the continent would be better off. And right now there’s a lot of subsistence farming. But some of (Africa’s) enlightened leaders are beginning to understand the great potential of agriculture. It makes no sense for sub-Saharan Africa to not be food exporters and not be completely self-sufficient.
“I’ve always believed in the potential of Africa, but I also see some of the roadblocks, some of which were (a product of) corruption and the unwillingness of governments to invest in the health and welfare of their people. Or not adhering to the markets.”
The writer, William McKenzie notes:
Bono said in this Time interview that Africa’s population is supposed to hit 2 billion by 2050, while China is expected to be around 1.3 billion. If those numbers hold up, and if Africa continues to grow economically (it is on par with East Asia, says The Economist,), then we’re talking about huge markets for American companies to trade with in the future.
I am not an African expert, by any stretch. But it’s worth thinking about the potential the continent holds. As Bush said, “Trade, markets and commerce with Africa are in our national interest.”
By the way, the Atlantic interview with Damon chronicles his own deep commitment to clean water initiatives, and that’s worth reading. In the January issue of ONE magazine, (of which our own Deacon Greg Kandra is Executive Editor) there is a terrific piece about how the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (a papal agency for humanitarian and pastoral support), has restored a dwindling water supply for people in Lebanon, by constructing 13.2 million-gallon capacity reservoir.
It’s a great piece, so check it out. ONE is a terrific publication — award winning writers and fabulous photograph!