|Land of the Bland
6 November 2002
Yesterday - election day here in the U.S. of A. - the News Hour broadcast an interview with New York Times Columnist Tom Friedman, who has covered an international beat for many years. He noted that never before had he seen such pervasive and virulent anti-Americanism in Germany. France, of course, has been on that wavelength for some time. Now, with most of Europe in a state of appalled shock, even the loyal Mr. Blair, acting out his country's fifth decade of gratitude to its plucky "saviors" during World War II, may find himself swamped by an EU-wide wave of Anti-Americanism.
I have spent a lot of time in Western Europe, Scandanavia, and England over the past two years. I find that the general opinion of George W. Bush in these parts of the world is somewhere between the Village Idiot and Atilla the Hun. Why the American people are so fond of him I cannot fathom.
Well, of course I can. I come from Indiana, after all. As my Hoosier stepfather says, "there's no recession for people who still have a job." The typically wealthier Republican contingent in Indiana is doing just fine, thank you. There are few layoffs in insurance, pharmaceuticals, auto manufacturing, or in the management level of agribusiness (immigrant workers come and go - when I was a kid they came to harvest tomatoes for Del Monte. They had a fair at the end of the season before returning home to Mexico. My grandmother called them gypsies and disallowed any of the kids from going to the fair on grounds that gypsies were well-known to be thieves of children).
Here's what Americans got for their Republican votes: free money. Tax breaks. A free lunch. Whoopee, land of the free. Here's what American's lost for their Republican votes. Social security. Universal healthcare. The fundamental right to a decent public education. Elections free of influence by big business. The integrity of the environment. Get used to drinking more arsenic and getting more skin cancer. Because these things are the cost of progress, and the Public Good was what those taxes you used to pay were supposed to be used for, and now that they're not, well, you've got a few more bucks to spend on ESPN or that Disneyland vacation. And you'll be helping the economy - whatever "recovery" has happened so far has been due almost entirely to consumer spending. You can replace your Expedition with a Lexus SUV. Why, if you feel good enough about it all, you'll get a few more credit cards and achieve a truly impressive level of personal debt.
Now that the Republicans hold all the cards you can be assured of more and better entertainment. A war beats a football game any day. And hey, with the Supreme Court almost certain to strike down McCain Feingold, you'll be sure to have more fun political advertising plastered on every available surface. You'll have your TV shows, too, and if you don't like Bush there's always West Wing. After all, it's only spectacle anyway. Bread and circuses - consumerism and war. Hell of a way to run a society. My heart cries.
Stupid, short-sighted, greedy. Yep, that's America. Definitely not what I signed up for.
And one more thing. No more Democrats are getting my votes. If they weren't such fraidy-cat look-alikes, we might get some thinking done in this country. Creativity does not arise out of dominance and fulfillment of greed, and certainly not from the low level of effort it takes big business and their political symbiotes to swindle the pathetically stupid American public out of being the generous, hopeful, humanistic nation we used to be. No, creativity comes from friction - from the effort to fill the space between different points.
Yesterday I gave up voting to win and started voting to change the playing field. When the Republicrats rule the world and Microsoft doesn't pay a dime of taxes, it's time to stake out a point of difference. I voted straight Green. Yeah, I believe deeply in renewable energy, sustainable business and commerce, and social justice. But my personal goal is to abrade, to annoy, to nag, to remind, to cause dialog to happen, to split the Siamese twins apart. There are a whole lot of us liberals out there who don't like what's going down. It's time to stop pretending that casting a vote for the one-two party of your choice makes any difference whatsoever. It's time to create a new attractor to the left, with the hope of getting the Democrats' off their centrist Prozac and get back to work on an America we can be proud of.