This was written on the day following the general election on November 2, 2004. I had intended to post it here, but the vagarities of email technology lost my copy of the original draft. Fortunately none of my relatives ever “trim” their reply messages and most of the original text is quoted.
Ergo – thanks to my sister – I did not lose my modest essay.
In pondering the election results and listening to all that surround me I come to the inescapable conclusion:
This wasn’t an election between parties or between candidates. It really was a referendum on world views. Like so many have commented in the emails you have so kindly included me the cc list, the appeal of George W Bush (Jr) is that he embodies and affirms to those who wish to cling to the idea that the United States is a country apart, one whose destiny and prosperity can be defined separate from the remainder of the world community. Kerry was the candidate of choice for anyone, regardless of other political bent, who sees the United States as being inextricably intertwined with the destiny and prosperity of the world community.
The Bush appeal is, for one who struggles to reconcile the cognitive dissonance created by the post-9-11 world, that he offers all the old
rhetoric of an earlier age of “making the world safe for democracy”, and that what we have always done will still work. Therefore, no change in world view is needed, no adjustment in thinking about current times is required, no
anxiety need be expended on difficult and complex world issues. In listening to many different kinds of Bush supporters talk about the
election results, it is not so specifically a religious fundamentalism, but a fundamentalism of desiring easily compartimentalized answers to life.
In my circle of friends and family, I know only kind, tolerant, and caring people. However, they all were scared to death of Kerry as president. It was due to the success of the
Bush campaign to activate their underlying anxiety of change, and promise to the the paternalistic type leader who will take care of
it all for you. I also believe, that his candidacy was a success with otherwise rational and
tolerant people, is that like Ronald Reagan, he offers a “rose-glasses” view of America in the world that requires no adjustment in ones’ deep view of life.
It is whether or not one is able to make the courageous leap to the 21st century and abandon the premises of what used guaranteed
safety and security, or the illusion of it, in the 20th century. That entire period of history in
world affairs is the collisions of the “America as a world apart” view with the realities of the
ever shrinking boundaries of a world centered, versus nation-centered society. For both World Wars, our country adhered first to our idea that we were so separate from the world community elsewhere, that their conflicts were not necessarily our conflict. In 1940 it was entirely practicable for the United States to survive and thrive without becoming actively engaged in
stopping either Japanese Imperial expansionism in Asia or Nazism in Europe.
Long before 9-11-2001, that reality had evaporated in any practicable economic or political sense. The great irony is that the act of destruction of the Trade Towers is the
event that marks the inextricable inclusion of the United States in the world community while our overall political reaction has been, it seems to deny this reality by clinging even stronger to an outdated world view. I was entirely motivated in working in the election, not
because I was excited at all by Kerry as a candidate or any of his platform. It was for me that the only justification of surviving 9-11 is to pursue a national policy at home and abroad that would ensure no other families would have
to endure what I have these last three years. I lost friends, and one of my immediate family
was one of tens of thousands “near victims”, although not in the Towers that day, should have been, and have been living lives seriously affected by that knowledge. My near and dear not yet anywhere near back to normal yet.
However, it is seems irrefutable to me that continuation of the Bush policy is a guarantee that my family is only one of the first in many more to come. But this realization was only possible if I accept the idea that the US is
now inextricably part of the world community – and acceptance of a cause- effect relationship of what we do in Iraq and elsewhere.
I do not agree with the idea that all who came out to support Bush in droves are bigoted narrow-minded people. I think the vast majority are scared people who don’t want to give up the idea that America is somehow separate from the rest of the world. It is the simple halcyon late 19th century view –
that foreign policy does not really come back and haunt you in your own backyard, and your President can send the Marines from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, and neither the level of complexity of your daily life, nor your peaceful sense of self will be challenged.
And it is the oddity of cognitive dissonance that some will choose to resolve it by believing an untruth in the premise of their life rather than accept that change is necessary, or than accept that one of their fundamental beliefs requires modification.
My husband is right that the level of cognitive dissonance is so high concerning issues of
terrorism, national security and Iraq that ultimately we could have conflict
on our own soil, increasing disaster abroad, and many would refuse to consider any error in the premise that got us there in the first place. Cognitive dissonance often behaves only to increase the emotional attachment to maintaining the untruth.
This may sound like I am very depressed at the moment. Nothing could be farther from the truth. For some reason, although experiencing a certain level of dejection and despair, my reflection on my activities engaged in true grassroots politics affirms that I am a center of a
power of one. I may not be able to articulate, or even identify, how to apply my power of one in the realities of the post-2004 election world.
However, I am deeply affirmed
and energized by this knowledge. I discovered the power of a gentle disarming manner and a star-spangled Beanie Buddy teddy bear yesterday. Folks would open the door who might not have otherwise. Once the door was
open they could discover my true intention – and listen.
Yours in working for world peace –
ps the irony is not lost on me that the level of
considerate thought required in even penning this message is far greater than most want to apply to living, and as Will Shakespeare said” And therin lies the rub”