Published December 3, 2004
Strong words, perhaps: “the death of democracy”? But this was surely the last real election we’ll ever have. People will still vote, of course, but they will have no real choices.
For the left, John Kerry was the best shot we’re ever going to get. The man who founded Vietnam Vets Against the War, with almost 100 % ADA rating, super-intelligent; all of this made him a war hero who could be acceptable to the mainstream.
A nod´s as good as a wink to a blind bat
We were even willing to set aside our reservations and swallow some very disturbing facts. Kerry talked loudly about winning the war. Well, he had been in Vietnam and (wink) he wouldn’t really sacrifice American lives in another senseless war. He was opposed to gay marriage but (wink) against a constitutional amendment. He was a staunch supporter of Israel (gulp). He was opposed to capital punishment – except for terrorists (gag).
For once the left, from anarchists like Chomsky to the neo-liberals, was united. We turned out in record numbers and we lost anyway. The majority of Americans delivered democracy up to the tender mercies of George Bush and the Republican Party.
The Republicans have been quite open in their disdain for democracy, ever since Florida in the 2000 elections. In 2004 they were poised to strike large segments of the population off the electoral rolls only it proved not to be necessary. The Bush administration has shredded the Bill of Rights, imprisoning citizens indefinitely without trial. They have legalized torture, in contravention of international treaties. And now they’re talking about appointing three Justices for the Supreme Court.
Some people blame voting irregularities, others blame the media or the timidity of the Democrats, as if Denis Kucinitch would have done any better. They miss the point, which is that most Americans want just the sort of nightmare George Bush offers them.
What is it with Americans? Are we so stupid as to vote against our own clear economic and social interests? What are we so frightened of?
Languishing in masochistic langour
Americans are not stupid. As Michael Moore points out, just listen to them discussing something that really matters, like baseball statistics. I’ve lived in this country since the late 50’s and, in my experience, Americans are no more stupid than, alas, any other people in the world.
On some level, Americans have known all along that the reasons given for the War in Iraq were bogus. I knew it. The rest of the world certainly knew it. And for good reasons: a United Nations inspections team failed to discover any. The UN is a credible organization while the President, no matter what party he belongs to, lies.
And yet I’ve heard Americans affirm, in a kind of masochistic languor, that we went to war to protect the country. They remind me of the wife who defends her abusive husband because he promised he’ll stop beating her. She ignores all evidence to the contrary, his history of broken promises, his lack of genuine remorse and she says this time he means it.
No, Americans are not fools. What we are though, is very, very rich. So rich that we can afford to elect a total imbecile for a President.
About wealth, there’s no question. As a nation, the US controls almost half of the world’s wealth. As a people we are foremost in the development of obesity, as well as being pioneers in the associated disorders of anorexia and bulimia.
The American Dream come true
True, there are Americans living in dire poverty. But they are invisible in reservations or in ghettos, invisible, that is, to the majority of Americans stuck in their suburbs. And, compared to the situation in many other countries, even the poorest Americans are well off. Some Americans may go hungry, some may be malnourished but there is no famine or starvation here, no threat of skeletal figures or bloated children in the streets.
For most Americans, deprivation is when you can’t afford cable. Unemployment means running up your credit card, or maybe taking time for personal growth or going back to school, perhaps even exploring “voluntary simplicity”. There is still plenty of the fat of the land to cushion us.
On the whole, Americans live comfortable lives; they are not suffering. This is the American Dream. Americans, I said, are much like people anywhere in the world. And people from all over the world are flocking to this country to live that very dream.
Over a thousand Americans have died in Iraq but there are no photos of the caskets to disturb us. The suffering in Iraq has no reality for the majority of the American public, just another TV show. They are protected from the killing by a fatty layer of ignorance. And, in contrast to the Vietnam war, there is no military draft so the citizenry is in no danger of being sent off to die.
How Iraq is unlike Vietnam
And my guess is that there will be no draft. The Vietnam war ended when the draft was changed to a strict lottery system, ending the deferments and endangering the lives of middle class children. The Republicans are talking about vast arenas of conquest, wars which would require a much larger army to win. But the point is not to win the Iraq war or any other war. The point is for the War against Terrorism to go on endlessly, fueling the insecurity of the nation and the resulting masochistic fascination of the populace.
In the same way, I don’t believe the Republican leadership has any intention of ending abortion. It would cause immense hardship for middle class women, and certainly result in a backlash against the Party. It’s a dangerous game they are playing with the southern fundamentalists, who seriously want to outlaw abortion, but I think abortion rights will be upheld, narrowly, in years to come.
The Republicans will find targets that cause the least amount of pain in the general populace. The first victim will be the environment where destruction is incremental, unnoticeable over the short run, but from which immediate, and immense profits, from the sale and exploitation of vital habitats, can be made. Social Security is another easy target. Young people all believe they will never grow old and will be happy for an excuse not to contribute.
Democracy requires enough communality to generate tolerance for your opponents, so that even when they hold power, you can still collaborate for the common good. I predict that George W. Bush’s most enduring accomplishment will be the legacy of hatred by which he has divided the country.
John Ashcroft the librarian
I now know that the majority of my fellow citizens are psychopaths who would happily torture me and kill me. I see the smiling face of Lynne Englund on the woman driving my bus. I feel the eyes of John Ashcroft upon me at work, I feel his cold fingers at the library. And of, course, Republicans must feel the same way about me.
There will be no tanks rumbling through the streets, only the guzzle and drone of Hum-Vees conveying commuters out to the suburbs. No burning of books, why bother when no one takes ideas seriously? No firing squads, only the statistical shortening of our people’s lives as medical care is limited to the super-rich. No network of concentration camps for a scape-goated minority – oh, wait, we already have a sizable proportion of our black citizens incarcerated – well, no drastic change here.
Welcome to the era of Fascism Lite.