Thursday, November 04, 2004

Election Reflections, by Lizzie Goodfriend.

I've been mulling over the results of the recent elections and trying to figure out what, if anything, to write about it. Then I got an email from Lizzie, which I've excerpted below. My sentiments exactly, Goodfriend.

I took off yesterday from work--partly because I wasn't feeling well, physically, but also because I wasn't feeling anything at all, emotionally. The results of Tuesday's elections left me floating so far adrift in sea of dullness, disbelief, and disconnect that I couldn't bear the thought of interacting with the outside world. I had sat glued to the television set until 2a.m. Tuesday night, watching with horror as my country made the most unnerving collective political mistake of the past century (a statement I make with confidence that it's true). I went to bed heartsick and shell-shocked, unable to emerge from the haze of alienated confusion until I finally made it to work this morning.

Once at work, I reconnected with the media. I read the news; I started seeing the pictures; I began hearing the headlines, and the reality of November 2nd's democratic decision finally struck me. I was crushed by a wave of anger so heavy that for a second I literally couldn't breathe. I was so livid that tears welled in the corners of my eyes. And now I sit here at my desk, writing this, and I am seething. I am furious. Enraged.

What's worse, I feel myself in mourning. It's not so much a pre-emptive mourning for the havoc that's no doubt to come (though there's some of that too), as it is a mourning for the country I had thought existed, but apparently does not. There have been numerous times in my life when I have defended America to foreigners and fellow Americans alike. I've rejected the mindset that America's population is primarily composed of bible-thumping, gun-toting, self-centered over-eaters. I've argued for a faith in the time-honored American characteristics of creative innovation, exuberant idealism, and human respect. I've admired what seemed to me an inspired rejection of tradition-imposed limits and I'vevalued my freedom of movement, thought, and speech. I've defended against accusations of economic corpulence and moral misguidance, pointing out that the government does not equal the people and that the sum of political values is not always equal to the sum of cultural beliefs. Today I am disillusioned.

I am disillusioned because, by all accounts, the presidential race was not won based on voter opinions concerning divergent political policies. I could have handled that, disappointed though I would have been. Instead, the G.O.P. galvanized an army of "value voters," and made this a race about morality. In a country founded on the principle that the separation of church and state is necessary for a functioning democracy, we've re-elected a president whose political rhetoric is so infused with religious ideology that it's hard to tell if America remains a secular state. Bush's administration is trying to alter the constitution with amendments motivated by religious fervor. He has professed that thisabsurd war on terror will be won because of, and if for no other reason than, the fact (?) that God is on our side. Who's god? Which side?

If the right-to-lifers value human life above all else, then how can they conscientiously support a man who is killing tens of thousands of civilians in the Middle East? If the anti-gay-marriagers believe in old-time traditional values, how can they support a posse of Neo-cons hell-bent on increasing the federal (militaristic) government at the expense of a balanced budget? If the whole right-wing mentality is that of America-First, how can conservative voters look at the state of domestic politics (jobs down, inflation up, educational funding down,prison spending up) and believe that they have America's interest at heart when they cast that republican vote?

It makes no sense.

I feel so alienated from 50% of my country's population that it's hard to accept we co-exist within the same geopolitical borders. I am so flabbergasted and disgusted by the sentiments of the majority populous that I'm not sure what conclusions to draw. Must I concede that the people of the so-called "heartland" are really just stupid? Must I infer that people from differing religious doctrines really just can't get along? How can I stay true to my principles of tolerance when it means being tolerant of intolerance?

In a country whose political center has been drifting further and further to the right, I thought the Kerry/Edwards ticket was the Democrats last best hope for wresting control of the government from the lunatics currently residing in Washington. Obviously I was wrong. Is the solution someone who's even further right? Or is it someone with a clearly defined leftist platform? Could a more radical agenda successful draw enough of the far left and the middle left into itsorbit to be effecttive? Or would it only anger and increase in size that insipid army of value voters? Is revolution our only hope? I don't know the answers to these questions, but I do know that something needs to happen.

America is economically positioned to benefit so much of the world, yet it is currently poised to do so much damage. It breaks my heart. With our world reputation deteriorating dramatically, our strategies in the Middle East failing rapidly, and our domestic well-being faltering heavily, the outlook is grim. I'm inclined to throw my hands up in disgust, shout theatrically "I can't work with these people," and take off for the romanticized ex-pat life in some country at least an ocean away.

But that would mean letting Bush and his hawkish ideologues win. Because, despite any comments to the contrary, what they want is to divide this country so severely that those of us who are against them will be so overwhelmed by a mentality we can't understand that we will shut-up, turn tail, and get out of their way. I will not let my anger feed into their plan. With any luck, we, the Enraged, will use our anger as a tool of motivation, rather than allow it to be a harbinger of defeat. Perhaps this election will be a catalyst for change...?

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