While struggling to find the words that could express my incredulity and frustration with the results of the 2004 presidential election, I ran across a wonderful quote by H.L. Mencken and an editorial by Brian Reade published in the November 5 edition of the Daily Mirror. Though certainly not moderate, and definitely painful to read for Americans, it is nevertheless the article that came closest to describing the outrage I felt as I watched the results come in. Another four years of a faith-based fundamentalist government that looks more and more like a Christian version of the Taliban, another four years of reckless fiscal policies the consequences of which will be all the harder to fix, another four years of fear instead of hope, faith instead of reason, greed instead of compassion, another four years of being ashamed rather than proud to be American. How could the party of Lincoln become what the Republican Party is today? How could the best marketing convince so many voters that Robin Hood in reverse (taking from the poor to give to the rich) is compatible with anything that even comes close to deserving the label "Christian"? It's going to be a long four years... But first, the quote:
"When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental -- men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack, or count himself lost. His one aim is to disarm suspicion, to arouse confidence in his orthodoxy, to avoid challenge. If he is a man of convictions, of enthusiasm, or self-respect, it is cruelly hard...
The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even a mob with him by the force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second or third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically the most devious and mediocre -- the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.
The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their hearts desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."
H.L. Mencken, The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920
We came close before, but 84 years after Mencken wrote these lines, the "great and glorious day" is finally upon us.
On November 7, I emailed the Daily Mirror for permission to post this editorial on my web site, but as of today, exactly one week later, I have not received a reply. Since the piece has been published on other sites, I have decided to go ahead without permission. However, the article below will be removed if author or newspaper object to its appearance in this space.
God Help America
November 5, 2004
The People Have Spoken
They say that in life you get what you deserve. Well, today America has deservedly got a lawless cowboy to lead them further into carnage and isolation and the unreserved contempt of most of the rest of the world. This once-great country has pulled up its drawbridge for another four years and stuck a finger up to the billions of us forced to share the same air. And in doing so, it has shown itself to be a fearful, backward-looking and very small nation.
This should have been the day when Americans finally answered their critics by raising their eyes from their own sidewalks and looking outward towards the rest of humanity. And for a few hours early yesterday, when the exit polls predicted a John Kerry victory, it seemed they had. But then the horrible, inevitable truth hit home. They had somehow managed to re-elect the most devious, blinkered and reckless leader ever put before them. The Yellow Rogue of Texas.
A self-serving, dim-witted, draft-dodging, gung-ho little rich boy, whose idea of courage is to yell: "I feel good," as he unleashes an awesome fury which slaughters 100,000 innocents for no other reason than greed and vanity. A dangerous chameleon, his charming exterior provides cover for a power-crazed clique of Doctor Strangeloves whose goal is to increase America's grip on the world's economies and natural resources. And in foolishly backing him, Americans have given the go-ahead for more unilateral pre-emptive strikes, more world instability and most probably another 9/11. Why else do you think bin Laden was so happy to scare them to the polls, then made no attempt to scupper the outcome? There's only one headline in town today, folks: "It Was Osama Wot Won It." And soon he'll expect pay-back. Well, he can't allow Bush to have his folks whoopin' and a-hollerin' without his own getting a share of the fun, can he?
Heck, guys, I hope you're feeling proud today.
To the tens of millions who voted for John Kerry, my commiserations. To the overwhelming majority of you who didn't, I simply ask: Have you learnt nothing? Do you despise your own image that much? Do you care so little about the world beyond your shores? How could you do this to yourselves? How appalling must one man's record at home and abroad be for you to reject him?
Kerry wasn't the best presidential candidate the Democrats have ever fielded (and he did deserve a kicking for that "reporting for doo-dee" moment), but at least he understood the complexity of the world outside America, and domestic disgraces like the 45 million of his fellow citizens without health cover. He would have done something to make that country fairer and re-connected it with the wider world. Instead America chose a man without morals or vision. An economic incompetent who inherited a $2billion surplus from Clinton, gave it in tax cuts to the rich and turned the US into the world's largest debtor nation. A man who sneers at the rights of other nations. Who has withdrawn from international treaties on the environment and chemical weapons. A man who flattens sovereign states then hands the rebuilding contracts to his own billionaire party backers. A man who promotes trade protectionism and backs an Israeli government which continually flouts UN resolutions. America has chosen a menacingly immature buffoon who likened the pursuit of the 9/11 terrorists to a Wild West, Wanted Dead or Alive man-hunt and, during the Afghanistan war, kept a baseball scorecard in his drawer, notching up hits when news came through of enemy deaths.
A radical Christian fanatic who decided the world was made up of the forces of good and evil, who invented a war on terror, and thus as author of it, believed he had the right to set the rules of engagement. Which translates to telling his troops to do what the hell they want to the bad guys. As he has at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and countless towns across Iraq. You have to feel sorry for the millions of Yanks in the big cities like New York, Washington, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco who voted to kick him out. These are the sophisticated side of the electorate who recognise a gibbon when they see one.
As for the ones who put him in, across the Bible Belt and the South, us outsiders can only feel pity. Were I a Kerry voter, though, I'd feel deep anger, not only at them returning Bush to power, but for allowing the outside world to lump us all into the same category of moronic muppets. The self-righteous, gun-totin', military lovin', sister marryin', abortion-hatin', gay-loathin', foreigner-despisin', non-passport ownin' red-necks, who believe God gave America the biggest dick in the world so it could urinate on the rest of us and make their land "free and strong".
You probably won't be surprised to learn of would-be Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn who, on Tuesday, promised to ban abortion and execute any doctors who carried them out. He also told voters that lesbianism is so rampant in the state's schools that girls were being sent to toilets on their own. Not that any principal could be found to back him up. These are the people who hijack the word patriot and liken compassion to child-molesting. And they are unknowingly bin Laden's chief recruiting officers. Al-Qaeda's existence is fuelled by the outpourings of America's Christian right. Bush is its commander-in-chief. And he and bin Laden need each other to survive. Both need to play Lex Luther to each others' Superman with their own fanatical people. Maybe that's why the mightiest military machine ever assembled has failed to catch the world's most wanted man. Or is the reason simply that America is incompetent? That behind the bluff they are frightened and clueless, which is why they've stayed with the devil they know.
Visitors from another planet watching this election would surely not credit the amateurism. The queues for hours to register a tick; the 17,000 lawyers needed to ensure there was no cheating; the $1.2bn wasted by parties trying to discredit the enemy; the allegations of fraud, intimidation and dirty tricks; the exit polls which were so wildly inaccurate; an Electoral College voting system that makes the Eurovision Song Contest look like a beacon of democracy and efficiency; and the delays and the legal wrangles in announcing the victor. Yet America would have us believe theirs is the finest democracy in the world. Well, that fine democracy has got the man it deserved. George W Bush.
But is America safer today without Kerry in charge? A man who overnight would have given back to the UN some credibility and authority. Who would have worked out the best way to undo the Iraq mess without fear of losing face. Instead, the questions facing America today are - how many more thousands of their sons will die as Iraq descends into a new Vietnam? And how many more Vietnams are on the horizon now they have given Bush the mandate to go after Iran, Syria, North Korea or Cuba...? Today is a sad day for the world, but it's even sadder for the millions of intelligent Americans embarrassed by a gung-ho leader and backed by a banal electorate, half of whom still believe Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11.
Yanks had the chance to show the world a better way this week, instead they made a thuggish cowboy ride off into the sunset bathed in glory. And in doing so it brought Armageddon that little bit closer and re-christened their beloved nation The Home Of The Knave and the Land Of The Freak.
God Help America.
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