It is now three days since a slim majority re-elected Bush, despite what I and many others believe to be serious and misguided policies. While Foodgoat’s anger has loosened his blogging tongue, my sadness and confusion has stifled mine. I have been trying to blog, trying to put in words my questions, my convictions about this President, and my fears over a Republican-controlled government. But especially, I’ve been trying to come to grips with the turn of the American people so far to the right. It is this reactionary political and cultural climate, more than the details of either candidate or their campaigns that concern me. What is it that Americans want?
Over and over again in the past few days, what I have heard is that what we want, it seems, is “security,” “strength,” and “values.”
I’m still struggling to understand what these mean, because they don’t seem to refer to specific policies, but to a broader, overarching feeling, more visceral than any one issue. It only seems like these are only code words for a generalized desire for certainty, any kind of certainty, in an unstable world. While it is politically correct for everyone to give lip service to racial, ethnic and cultural, religious, and sexual diversity, I suspect that at the heart we find difference and plurality to be troubling things. We fear they introduce uncertainty, and that they signal weakness. The freedom of choice we have in so many things may be liberating or it may be paralyzing. When the industrial and manufacturing jobs abandon the cities they built for foreign soils, when the family farms sell out to multinational agribusinesses, the freedom of rebuilding new economies may leave us with nostalgia for apple pie and Mayberry. When the common enemy that bound us together for over half a century collapses under the weight of economic overspending, we may wonder, like a new divorcee after a contentious but stable marriage, where we go from here. When women want to marry women, when two men adopt children, we may wonder what ever happened to the Cleavers.
Every generation of the modern era, as technologies and the accompanying practices become obsolete with ever-increasing frequency, has felt the burdens of facing brave new worlds. In such times security may mean not only missile defense systems but also familiarity. Strength may not only be unwillingness to concede misjudgment but also a façade of stability. And morals and values may be but a flickering, powerful memory of when men were men, and America was great.
The trouble is that you can’t go back. The world no longer looks as it does on the board of Risk or on Axis and Allies, if indeed it ever did. And in a world where it is the multinational CEOs and IMF economists that increasingly determine the status of our jobs, where the euro is fast rising over the dollar, where the implications of worldwide environmental exploitation are hitting closer and closer to home, where we can recognize the injustices of earlier times, I don’t believe we should even try.
And yet that’s what I see happening.