I'm home in bed with a cold & a nagging headache, and would probably be better off shutting this laptop down and going back to sleep. In a little while. Meanwhile, I scan the tracking polls and see the race for the White House essentially even. This is interesting in itself - whoever wins cannot (although I suspect they will) pretend to lead a united country. There is too much bad feeling, and altogether too much fear, for people to happily shrug their shoulders and return to normality. At least that is what I judge. Whoever wins is also going to have to cope with the whirlwind of misfortune that has been stirred up over the past four years, and that will be an overwhelming task.
But at heart I remain optimistic. I view what has happened to America over the past three years as a necessary peeling away of a mentality of smugly cocooned superiority. The initial reactions have been very much in that vein - overwhelming force used to crush 3rd world countries. But the results have shown once again that overwhelming force is meaningless unless you win the hearts of those you oppose and conquer. That lesson has yet to be learned, but it will be. As others have said, you cannot impose freedom - and you most certainly cannot impose a Christian evangelist & materialist culture upon a society rooted in a fundamental religion as powerful, and as opposed to Christianity, as Islam.
It's America's insularity - and that insularity is built into the current Republican administration, but is really nationwide and beyond party - that is both its strength and weakness. It confers a formidable self-confidence that allows simple-minded thinking to flourish and even seem wise. Under some circumstances, it is even wise in reality. But the same insularity ill prepares the country for blows against it. Instead of seeing things for what they are, events lose proportion and take mythological aspects. Hence the frequent equation of the World Trade Center attack with Pearl Harbor - the isolated and probably unrepeatable fluke assault of a few suicidal and dedicated individuals is inflated to the same level of importance of the first single instance of a widespread and formidable attack by an entire nation. It is obvious that they are of vastly different degrees of importance and significance, yet today we are fighting a 'war' that has led to the overthrow of two sovereign governments, coincidently in two countries that are renowned throughout the history of civilization as two of the most resilient to occupation, with absolutely no way of knowing whether the actual perpetrators of the World Trade crime have been destroyed. Meanwhile, the nihilist ideals of the World Trade bombers are free to circulate among a vastly larger and more receptive pool of recruits than would have existed without the invasion of Iraq.
So I anticipate that there will be further attacks on the American homeland, probably of far less overall destructiveness - whoever wins this election - and they will lead to further societal upheaval, polarization and hostility. Then, with time and with the understanding that reality brings, those negative forces will moderate and America will finally begin to realize that is no longer a privileged stone castle built safely on a tor rising above the rest of the world, and will come down with the same crash that has brought down all prior dominant cultures. It will be a rocky ride.
Friday, October 08, 2004
Friday, October 01, 2004
I have been feeling notably happier since the debate, more so than I expected. Seeking to understand why, I think the crucial element was witnessing Bush being pummeled for the results of his own actions. Too often, I have sensed a terrible 'with-us or against-us' mentality developing in this country. A mentality that has stifled free speech, allowed authoritarian elements to gain ground, and placed free-thinkers in a difficult position. But seeing Kerry hammer Bush in a nationwide-broadcast forum gave me a sense that it is OK to disagree with him, and not feel a social outcast for doing so. In other words, I am not alone! If Kerry achieves no more than that, he has already done good by me.
Well Kerry did well. It is refreshing to hear a person in a position of power - and seeking more - bluntly confront Bush with his own record of error, stubborness and deception. Whether it will change anyone's mind is another matter, but at least I can feel a breath of clean air.