I’m writing this in the early morning.
In the dark...
I'm not actually depressed, but I was, as I recall, the day that Bush took office. Just the prospect of four years spent listening to a second rate thinker was daunting. Gore was a stiff, sure, but he was able to string a sentence together, and actually come up with a concept of his own now and then.
It's odd that being smart can be a disadvantage in this society. The egghead stigma. I suppose that it's the impracticality of many intellectuals that stimulates this attitude. Or maybe the jealousy of those less blessed.
Even so, the good ol' boy wins over the thinker almost every time.
And now, laboring through the Bush administration, about three years and several 9/11's later, there is still that feeling of oppression, of a real second rate, inflexible guy at the top. It's an embarrassment, really, to know that, right now, an unsophisticated average or below guy is out there representing our country.
But nothing is so dark as the thought that, due to a confused opposition, and an unimaginative populace, we may have another 4 years of this guy.
Still, raising the dialogue out of the dark, we have to lay blame where it belongs. What blame, you say? The blame for the fact that an event like Sept. 11 was a weighing in the balance, in which were found wanting. You probably don't remember that the last time that happened (in Babylon, in the Book of Daniel, chapter 5, verse 27), the next verse said "Thy kingdom is divided and given to the Medes And Persians."
I don't know who the Medes are but I have a good idea who the Persians are, since any guy from Iran you meet will say he's Persian.
The blame then, is on us.
It's not George Bush who is to blame. It's us, all the Americans, who are so fear and pride driven that we felt that we had to RETALIATE for September 11, rather than apologize.
Why apologize? Because somewhere, somehow, we became someone's enemy.
Not our fault, you say. Maybe so, maybe so. After all, we can't control the thinking of every hide-bound fundamentalist in the world. As a matter of fact, we can't even soften the leathered thinking of our own fundamentalists.
Still, was a slug in the face like Sept. 11 a moment for us to reel around and look for places to bomb, places to attack? Or was it a moment to self-reflect, to ask what we may have been doing to attract this sort of thing.
But no, we have the war on terrorism.
What a joke. What a pathetic joke.
Excuse me, I would really like not to have an attitude about whoever thought that one up, but the idea that whoever did had only two neurons firing at the time is very tempting.
People may think that being a poet has no practical benefit.
It does, however, give one a hypersensitivity to the use of language.
Every word in a poem has to add value. When you are used to spending words like money, your writing, in a poem, tends to weigh each word carefully.
So when a poet sees a phrase like "War on terrorism," she tends to weigh it carefully. War. On terrorism.
Right. The last time I checked, war was just a large, publicly acceptable form of terror.
In other words war IS terrorism. More war invites more terrorism, and creates more terrorists. Just ask Israel.
If you are big and someone else is small and you say "do what I want because I'm big," (Google the Melian Dialogue on that one) the small person either has to comply, or find some way to fight you indirectly.
Maybe September 11 was a wake-up call that in some way were being oppressive, culturally insensitive, pursuing our agendas rather than the true interests of other cultures around the world. What a surprise! Unfortunately, that doesn’t sound far-fetched That’s because it was fetched locally: we were attacked outright because we are big, powerful, insensitive, uninformed, jingoistic, ethnocentric, egocentric, and politically simplistic.
Maybe 9/11 was a chance for self-reflection, self-examination, self-improvement. But no, we called out the Guard.
A nation with an army wants to use that army to defend itself. But you can't use an army against terrorism. You can only attack big things, like other countries. You can’t attack six guys with box cutters (who, by the way, were already dead and non-attackable).
Fortunately for George and company, they found some other countries to attack, so they can APPEAR to be doing something about terrorism. But they are not actually addressing the cause, just the symptoms.
What we have done since Sept. 11 has only portrayed us as the exact thing that the terrorists were attacking.
Don't get me wrong, I think that fundamentalist jihad-driven Islam is about as ugly as people can get. I know, because I also know fundamentalist Christians, and some of those guys are a sad lot, too. I grew up in that world, and can't ever fit back in such a tiny place. When I was 12, it made sense, and I believe that the sophistication of a 12 year old would be sufficient to grasp the full range of the thinking promulgated by either sect.
Still, at one time, I really believed that we were the good guys. That we were interested in freedom and justice when I was very young, and that the country had acquired additional sophistication as I did. When I learned in college about other cultures and other languages, I assumed that the country had somehow gained maturity and perspective as well. I thought that the country learned something from Viet Nam, just as I did. I thought that some day we could look at Europe not as cultural superiors (as in the first half of the twentieth century), and not as economic and military protectorates, (as in the second half), but as equal but different, fascinating cultures with their own integrities and priorities.
In other words, a sophisticated U.S. would not be superior to any country, just a rather large cousin in the family of nations. Not a country bumpkin cousin. Not a wealthy and imposing bully. Just an equal guest at the family reunion.
But we are so far away physically from most other countries. It’s easy to become absorbed in our way of doing things. The American way is just that, the American way. But the instant we try to export it, it becomes cultural imperialism, an insensitive, all thumbs approach.
Is it any surprise that other national governments don't necessarily want their policies dictated by the lowest common denominator guy to get elected in the U.S.?
The civil war burst out just a few months after Lincoln took office. The people in the South knew that with Lincoln in office they were being voted down in a couuntry that did not support their world view. Electing Lincoln guaranteed the advent of war.
Now this analogy is backwards in some ways, because I don't want to equate Lincoln with Bush (though there ARE parallels... Lincoln wasn't considered the brightest guy out there by his contemporaries, either... Yet the railsplitter surprised people with his political perspicacity and wisdom), but in some ways it sort of seems like Sept. 11 happened partially BECAUSE Bush was elected.
Electing Bush said to the world, "No, we are not flexible, we are tough. No, we are not imaginative, we are going our own way and don't much care about yours."
I'm not going to say that Sept. 11 wouldn't have happened with Gore in office, though that IS a possibility. Even so, the thought of what Gore might have done in the same situation is a fascinating one. It's hard to believe that the knee jerk reactions of George and company would have been repeated.
And yet, here we are, with George in office as the incumbent–a guy who had zero international policy experience when he got in, and who has completely bungled foreign policy while he was in office, not to mention sending thousands of soldiers to their deaths while making the U.S the grim joke of the rest of the world. "Joke" because of the inflexible, uninformed, bullying U.S. policies masquerading as a war against terror. "Grim" because of the deadly results.
An idiot with a gun is funny because he doesn’t know the first thing about how to hold it and what it’s for, and as he waves it around, who knows what might happen? On the other hand, an idiot with a gun is serious, because he might hurt someone.
Putting Bush in office has hurt everyone. Our national reputation. Thousands of soldiers on both sides in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I think that even George is aging rapidly.
But the hurt will be extended much, much longer if he gains office again. Getting him in the first time has proven to us all what he’s made of. I don't think people really wanted Bush. I just think they wanted a change from the Clinton scandals and Gore was a cold fish with a business and wealth-unfriendly old-style democratic platform. They voted aganst Gore, not really for the obviously ungifted Bush.
We had no idea that we would face such a crisis with a handicap at the top. His presidency reflects poorly on his ability to truly represent the best of what we are about. Electing him again reflects poorly on us.
I wish I could stop it. But don’t know for sure.
But Bush is not the problem. We are. If we don’t move away from fear-based living, into a more loving, enlightened space, if we don’t stop the war in our own hearts and minds, we will continue to live in the dark, locked in the basement of the world’s opinion, with a dim bulb at the top of the stair.
The sun has come up. Hopefully the U.S. will shine again. If not, New Zealand is looking better and better.
Again, I've discussed the problems.
Here's the cure:
Saturday, December 06, 2003
I’m writing this in the early morning.