Why is George Bush still in the White House? Electronic voting shenanigans in Ohio and other places in 2000/2004 aside, why was it even a close election?
The easy answer is to say that Karl Rove and the Republican Noise Machine fought dirty, and there wasn't an equally strong hitback from John Kerry and the Democrats; or that the political consultants providing advice to the candidates were/are divorced from reality. But is that really the reason that George Bush was inaugurated twice as a United States President?
I don't think so. My view on the reason can be summed up with one blunt word: Lazy.
Not the type of laziness that describes a populace that spends most of its time in front of a television watching American Idol or America's Next Top Model, because we all know that that type of behavior isn't prevalent, but rather the type of slothful existence that allows propaganda to seep through our pores faster than the monsoon rain in the cracked tierra of the sonoran desert. It is a soundbyte existence that relies on bundles of information packed neatly into 35 minute segments at the end of a long, hard day of work.
It is a laziness that stops the people from calling bullshit on their leaders when it is clearly warranted. When 9/11 happened, the U.S. was faced with a moment of truth that was clearly pivotal to the current situation we're facing now. I recall seeing commercials/propaganda pieces fanning the sentiments of revenge under the guise of patriotism and thinking, "hmmm, that can't possible be leading us to a good situation."
No kidding. As the events since that autumn Tuesday have unfolded over the past five'ish years, I've watched in horror as other moments of truths have been reached and the actions ensuing from them become increasingly appalling.
First the bombs fell in Afghanistan and I lamented the fact that my casual remark to a cousin that George would usher in World War III was being set in motion. Then the bombs fell in Baghdad and I fell ill with unease that the peace movement in the streets of the U.S. and the world protesting that egregious mistake were futile. We were/are not dealing with leadership that is willing to listen to dissent, it would be considered a dictatorship of the majority under any other guise. But wait, there's a new celebrity union on the horizon that requires my undivided attention! Sound familiar? It should, because it is me when I choose to descend into the coma-like state when the outrage meter breaks into the red zone. The problem is that many of my fellow Americans are perpetually in the grasp of the cooing trance of Entertainment Weekly.
But perhaps I've had enough of the newsfluff from the National Enquirer and need something tangible. Gay People! Bah, those evil homosexuals, I need to spend every waking moment of my time gathering petitions to stop them from getting married. I don't want a world where they might make more of them! Oooooh, wait. My aunt is a lesbian. Hmmmm. Illegals! Now that's a group of America-hating infiltrators. Build the walls! Call in the troops! Don't you know they're trying to increase my spanish comprehension?!?! Bah, I say Bah. [this is snark, for the uninformed]
Too many people are distracted by the shiny objects del dia/du jour/of the day that are usually in the form of an Other. Funny how that works in a supposedly tolerant and diverse nation. By remaining silent and apathetic, more lives and livelihood are destroyed.
Hurricane Katrina struck days before I celebrated a quarter century on this earth. At my "party", many of my friends and family could not understand why I was consumed with such forlorn emotions. I explained that I couldn't get the images of death from New Orleans out of my head. "You let too much bother you, you're going to drive yourself crazy" were the type of responses I received. Sure there were a few nods of agreement and expressions of disgust at the incompetence of the disaster response teams and governmental infrastructure, but that was quickly forgotten when the bottle of Sauza Hornitos was passed around to toast my milestone.
America the Beautiful is really America the Disconnected. I would also add a second verse of America the Misguided. There is a poll out that shows that 56% of Americans now support the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. I think those results are great because it will ultimately lead to it happening sooner rather than later, but I will also point out that that number has been reached because things have not gone well in Iraq. Americans don't like to lose. And we're losing. Badly. I believe that is why the numbers are at those levels, not because a slim majority of my countryfolk now grasp the utter stupidity and immorality of invading another sovereign nation.
It is not our place to decide unilaterally, like a dictator, what is best for the world. That viewpoint is not the prevailing wind of the country, people are willing to pull out of Iraq because they're pissed off that BushCo "let us lose", and to think otherwise requires a lot more observation on the streets and diner counters across this country.
The bubble of positive regard for the idealized United States ingrained from childhood burst a long time ago. Too many bombs, tortured prisoners, hungry children, and insurance-less infirm human beings have led to far too many empty streets of protest and razor thin elections between neocon warmongers and liberal human rights activists for me to feel differently.
I wish it were not so, and as the next moment of truth approaches this fall during the coming election season, we will know whether or not the American population is truly disgusted with the direction our country is currently stumbling down. If they are, there will be a landslide of support for a platform of humanity.
Finally, it should be noted that although I may be white-hot appalled and angry, I am not at a point of paralysis; rather there is a growing sense of empowerment that the only way to break the dam is to flood my friends, family and co-workers with the message of peace and human rights that guides my life hoping that it starts to seep in the same way as the latest choice for talking head on Good Morning America (only I'll have much less to say about baby Branjelina, trust me).
It's like lighting a room of candles at a peace protest from a single flame. Rather than the fire being diminished when the wick touches another, the candle remains burning strong and ignites others to do the same with a growing vibrancy. Eventually you are filled with the visage of glowing faces of others who have had enough of death and war, with eyes sparkling of hope, ready to move forward as human beings. Together. A progressive movement. Another name for true liberalism.
Sure there will always be a need and a time for frivolity and escapism, but when that becomes the central theme of our existence instead of the hard work of citizenship engagement, then clearly there is much work to do. That is what the next moment of truth will decide for the United States, and the world by extension. What'll it be, my fellow Americans? What'll it be?
Crossposted from Human Beams