Saturday, November 06, 2004

Holy War

So you guys really do care, eh? This comes from regular participant ABT:
A day and a half of no Blog?! That's got to be a record. Time to put away the tissue box and start addressing your felow Bloggers about what went wrong. Just a suggestion. We'll make it through together utilizing the power Blog. This hurts for me too.
Cathy writes in the day after the election:
As Americans we are part of a truly great society. I like to think of America as a work in progress always changing and evolving; some changes we agree with and some we don’t. What defines us most as Americans is our ability to band together in times of tragedy and the ability to put our differences aside for the good of our country. Whether we are democrat or republican we need to put the election in the past and work together to build a stronger country.
In his concession, Kerry showed grace and dignity and I for one was proud to say I voted for him. His speech today showed his integrity and character and I found myself wishing he showed this side of himself more often during the campaign. My 12 year old daughter is beside herself with grief. She came home from school, told me she was moving to Canada until her 16th birthday and preceded to dress in black and play sad tunes on her clarinet. In trying to console her, I pointed out that we have the duty to keep a close watch on President Bush and find a way to speak up when we don’t like his policies. Make calls to your Senators and Congressman, call the White house directly, but don’t sit back for the next 4 years complaining.
And Cathy follows up a couple of days later:
I noticed you haven't written nything on your blog since Tuesday and I was wondering why? Please don't tell me it's because Bush won the election; as you told me many weeks ago that would be a cop out! Your blog says its about foreign policy, the election and there was something else that escapes me at the moment.
Anyway, I have a few other thoughts for you(like it or not). This is from the Record on Wednesday in regards to the daily interruptions into the lives of New Yorkers since September 11th. Security didn't matter as much (in the election) to people in N.Y., Pa., and Washington, D.C. They didn't vote their fears, maybe because they get it, that the new reality means you never know and the White House doesn't either (when the next attack will occur). The experts get to work and do their jobs and the rest of us keep on going. This from Tom Freidman's column on Thursday- The Democrats have ceded to Republicans a monopoly on the moral and spiritual sources of American politics. They will never recover as a party until they again have candidates who can speak to those moral and spiritual yerning- but turn them to progressive purposes in domestic policy and foreign affairs. The Democrats must make a comeback because they have nominated a candidate who can win with a positive message that connects with the American heartland.
Unfortunately for the rest of us, I believe the Democrats had such a person in John Kerry, they however didn't allow him to run the campaign the way it should have been run. They tried to play the Republican game and that just doesn't work for the Democrats. In his concession speech on Wednesday, I saw something in John Kerry that I didn't see when he was campaigning; there was an honesty and a sincerity that somehow didn't come across.
We need to move past the election now, nothing is going to change the results. But we can keep a close watch on President Bush and his administration. I don't think one voice will make a difference but if many voices speak up perhaps we can. So, you can continue to be in mourning but I choose to move forward.

Be well,
Well, yes, I confess, mourning is not too strong a word. But I have also been trying to collect my thoughts and see if I have something intelligent to add to the conversation that is going on across the country right now. I do have a few things to say, but let me first guide readers to some excellent articles I have come across. The Times has had several great op-eds over the past few days. See:

Two Nations Under God

Published: November 4, 2004

No Surrender

Published: November 5, 2004

The Red Zone
Published: November 4, 2004
There will be a battle within the Democratic Party over how to respond. Richard Kearney in his welcome new blog, Future's So Bright has some thoughts written on election night (perhaps written in the heat of impending doom) where he essentially declares himself to be fed up with the party. Digby argues, in this typically insightful and acerbic style, much the opposite in a series of posts over the last few days -- he says that the Dems have to get better at showbiz while not giving up their core beliefs (which, he hastens to add, they DO have).

Another interesting front will be what happens to the Republican party. Fiscal conservatives and international realists have been chafing under the Bush/Rove leadership. Will they continue to be so smitten by the ability to win power that they further eviscerate their own principles? Will someone like William Safire return to his lifelong commitment to civil liberties? Will David Brooks ... ah, forget David Brooks, he has made his career out of thin and facile pop psychologizing; he chose conservatism because he correctly discerned that was where he could gain celebrity.

On election night I was watching ABC and their commentator Fareed Zakaria (a man whose analysis and opinion I always respect and value, though most often disagree with) mentioned that because we are so overstretched in Iraq, Bush and Co. will have to become more realistic about international diplomacy, etc. Peter Jennings replied that he was not so sure, but that is a conversation for another day. I am inclined to agree with Jennings here, and Bush's claim to have earned "political capital" from the election seems to confirm that view. But pay attention to the people who leave and those who come into the new administration. The new appointments will signal very clearly which direction the country will be going.

A couple of other articles I want to make special mention of -- Thomas Frank convincingly continues his argument from his book What's the Matter With Kansas in Why They Won.

And Garry Wills, an eminent historian and brilliant thinker spells out the larger view of what the election means. He describes a trend I have been noticing over the past several years that I find very frightening and that Neil Postman wrote an excellent book about a few years back called Building a Bridge to the Eighteenth century. Here is the full Wills article followed by my brief comments:
November 4, 2004
The Day the Enlightenment Went Out

Evanston, Ill.

This election confirms the brilliance of Karl Rove as a political strategist. He calculated that the religious conservatives, if they could be turned out, would be the deciding factor. The success of the plan was registered not only in the presidential results but also in all 11 of the state votes to ban same-sex marriage. Mr. Rove understands what surveys have shown, that many more Americans believe in the Virgin Birth than in Darwin's theory of evolution.

This might be called Bryan's revenge for the Scopes trial of 1925, in which William Jennings Bryan's fundamentalist assault on the concept of evolution was discredited. Disillusionment with that decision led many evangelicals to withdraw from direct engagement in politics. But they came roaring back into the arena out of anger at other court decisions - on prayer in school, abortion, protection of the flag and, now, gay marriage. Mr. Rove felt that the appeal to this large bloc was worth getting President Bush to endorse a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage (though he had opposed it earlier).

The results bring to mind a visit the Dalai Lama made to Chicago not long ago. I was one of the people deputized to ask him questions on the stage at the Field Museum. He met with the interrogators beforehand and asked us to give him challenging questions, since he is too often greeted with deference or flattery.

The only one I could think of was: "If you could return to your country, what would you do to change it?" He said that he would disestablish his religion, since "America is the proper model." I later asked him if a pluralist society were possible without the Enlightenment. "Ah," he said. "That's the problem." He seemed to envy America its Enlightenment heritage.

Which raises the question: Can a people that believes more fervently in the Virgin Birth than in evolution still be called an Enlightened nation?

America, the first real democracy in history, was a product of Enlightenment values - critical intelligence, tolerance, respect for evidence, a regard for the secular sciences. Though the founders differed on many things, they shared these values of what was then modernity. They addressed "a candid world," as they wrote in the Declaration of Independence, out of "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind." Respect for evidence seems not to pertain any more, when a poll taken just before the elections showed that 75 percent of Mr. Bush's supporters believe Iraq either worked closely with Al Qaeda or was directly involved in the attacks of 9/11.

The secular states of modern Europe do not understand the fundamentalism of the American electorate. It is not what they had experienced from this country in the past. In fact, we now resemble those nations less than we do our putative enemies.

Where else do we find fundamentalist zeal, a rage at secularity, religious intolerance, fear of and hatred for modernity? Not in France or Britain or Germany or Italy or Spain. We find it in the Muslim world, in Al Qaeda, in Saddam Hussein's Sunni loyalists. Americans wonder that the rest of the world thinks us so dangerous, so single-minded, so impervious to international appeals. They fear jihad, no matter whose zeal is being expressed.

It is often observed that enemies come to resemble each other. We torture the torturers, we call our God better than theirs - as one American general put it, in words that the president has not repudiated.

President Bush promised in 2000 that he would lead a humble country, be a uniter not a divider, that he would make conservatism compassionate. He did not need to make such false promises this time. He was re-elected precisely by being a divider, pitting the reddest aspects of the red states against the blue nearly half of the nation. In this, he is very far from Ronald Reagan, who was amiably and ecumenically pious. He could address more secular audiences, here and abroad, with real respect.

In his victory speech yesterday, President Bush indicated that he would "reach out to the whole nation," including those who voted for John Kerry. But even if he wanted to be more conciliatory now, the constituency to which he owes his victory is not a yielding one. He must give them what they want on things like judicial appointments. His helpers are also his keepers.

The moral zealots will, I predict, give some cause for dismay even to nonfundamentalist Republicans. Jihads are scary things. It is not too early to start yearning back toward the Enlightenment.

Garry Wills, an adjunct professor of history at Northwestern University, is the author of "St. Augustine's Conversion."
So are we in the midst of a Holy War, both within our nation and against the Muslim world? And what can we predict for the next four years? Goodbye Roe v. Wade. Hello Patriot Act II, III, and IV. Is it too early to raise the dreaded F-word, the one I have so far avoided because it is bandied about too easily. No not that F-word, the scary one -- fascism.


Anonymous said...

Take a good look at this post and those articles, because they are the very reason the Democrats lost. Why did they lose the election? To many Democrats it’s simple; everyone was too stupid to know that Democrats know how to run their lives. I don't think the Democratic Party or most Democrats live in the same world anymore. They lost because they're detached from most Americans, to the point where they can’t even communicate. Most Americans are religious and I know if you're Democrats religion has become a horrible disease and I am sure one day we'll have a cure for it but until then you have to convince those people to vote for you. Calling them ignorant and insulting their beliefs translates into a lost presidential campaign, a Republican house, a Republican senate, and your own minority leader ousted. These articles just reinforce that, comparing religious Americans to Muslim fanatics, replacing keystone Democratic class warfare with religious warfare. If you really believe these articles look forward to many more years of Republican control because you don't have the slightest idea why you lost or why you'll never win like this.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with Cathy and Kerry that America needs to unite to face the next four effectivly. I think that would be BAD. If Bush bashers did unite with supporters it would be like saying Bush is tolerable. He's not. Bush has screwed up too offen and in capacities too great. Nothing he does or says can make me see otherwise or forgive him. If anything we should continue bashing him left and right and in an ideal world, convict him of war crimes. Let's interegate Bush like the Republicans did to Clinton and see how he likes it. At least the trial would be legitimate. Or even better, let's all invite Uncle Tecumseh to make a personal visit with Mr. Bush! That'll solve the problem of the administration's monsterous figure head. Hey, it's a start.