I suppose that the ultimate outcome of this election shouldn't have been a surprise, but the qualifications for Bush's victory have left me--and I suspect many in the nation and perhaps world--wounded. Despite Bush's numerous failures and precious few successes, the grand narrative that Bush, our common man President, a simple boy from down south, would handily defeat an extremist, had been woven by the media and the government months before the election. But no one saw the frightening Truth that was unveiled yesterday.
Bush was given a mandate by record voter turnout. Droves upon droves of people, I would imagine a huge number of evangelical Christians, voted for Bush because of "moral" issues. Not that sending 1124 young soldiers to their deaths in a fruitless war, a grim reflection on Vietnam is moral. Not that bankrupting the country with reckless economic policy is moral. Not that destroying the environment is moral. But they aren't "our" morals, the morals of a Christian Right: the sin of homosexuality; the sin of infanticide in the form of abortion; the greatest sin, of atheism--the separation of church and state. The stark reality of these issues is that, to the public at large, Christian religion is morality.
The horror I saw in those fundamentalist Muslims chanting Allah Akhbar, I now see in our national chant: Let Freedom Ring. Not that I equate their barbarism with our nation's actions, but because both chants have been emptied. When we forget that words and phrases are merely symbols, we run the risk of taking those slogans as ahistoric truth. Freedom has become part of the Good, and any ends justify its means. The Neoconservatives and the fundamentalist evangelicals seeing their own hands in the coming of The Rapture (a funny word: coming from the Latin raptus--a rape or seizure) have fortified their positions and now, I fear for my country.
I can't forgive my countrymen, but I should, for they know not what they do. They have taken stories as Truth and have failed to see the greater Truth that comes from the telling. They have learned to see the world with an uncritical eye, and as a consequence, we live with consequences of our national actions. I hope that Bush will get through the next four years without harm to our country. I fear that he won't.
It's a little past 11/3, but the following events and thoughts took place then. This election is soul-crushing. Although I made allusions above, I'll be more clear here: I think that American theocracy is dangerously close. Depending on the mid-term elections, we'll know if the American public is willing to trust a Republican government to execute (in every sense) God's will. Why would I make such a wild statement? I was listening to NPR on my drive to school and was amazed to hear a woman, a Bush supporter, make a completely oblivious statement about the divine right of kings. If this quality of thought is indicative of the intellectual climate surrounding Bush's election, I am terrified for my country and for the world.
Speaking of school, the climate was upsetting. A material presence of dread lingered in the air. The beautiful weather we had been having over the weekend has now collapsed into torrential rains (starting 11/2) and a plunge in temperature. If I believed it were a "sign" of disapproval, I would be rejoicing at Bush's victory. On the human level, my professors seemed more afraid than angry. That very fact frightens me just slightly more than the aforementioned NPR caller. These people have complex political views, driven more by reason than ideology or faith (in my opinion), yet they understand this election as catastrophe. Whether their reaction is as overstated or understated or accurate as mine, I can't say right now. I lack the perspective.
As a final note, my mother is extremely upset about the election. She feels that my state, Illinois, has betrayed her by voting for John Kerry. I get the feeling that her sense of being wounded is nearly as great as mine. Hers is the Republican outrage at the losers, at the underdogs for daring to challenge their throne. Hers is a belief that God has appointed King Bush II, a warrior-priest-prophet. The right's anger is a righteous indignation for which I will never forgive nor forget. The right has a blind faith that it is right, a faith for which it would forsake God and profane His name.
I explained my vision of the country's direction to her, pointing out our joint blindness concerning Iraq as an anecdote of our country's deterioration. She feebly fell back upon the Bush talking points then refused to speak any more about the election. Though this writeup is full of fear, her response sinks my heart the most, but not because of my personal relationship with her. The willful ignorance, the appropriation of human responsibility unto God, those traits which I fear is the growing ideology: they destroy my faith in America. They empty our nation's symbols. They make the eagle a raptor, a brutal hunter. They make the flag a burial cloth. They make freedom ring hollow.