WE STAND ON THE BRINK

Today, millions of Americans will head to the voting booths to choose their next President. If the US were some faraway and insignificant country, I would not care if they were on the verge of re-electing an incompetent man to lead their nation. As we all know, however, the US is not an insignificant nation. One could argue that the decisions of the US have some impact on nearly every single person in the developed world. The US wields the most power and influence of any country on this planet. This advantage has been there for decades and I don’t see it diminishing in the near future. Led by a thoughtful, intelligent, and genuinely compassionate leader, the US could do so much for the world, fostering alliances and encouraging the spirit of global cooperation. In the last few months, I cannot help but think about the leaders of nations during the last great and just war, World War II. While I don’t think their tenures were completely mistake free, I do believe people like Roosevelt and Churchill led their nations with more grace, respect, and dignity than the current US President. The challenges they faced were far greater and only underlined their abilities as a leader as they met each challenge. The US, however, now lumbers around awkwardly on the world stage, much like a child that doesn’t know its own strength. The raw power still exists, but without artful and intelligent control, it only serves to hurt others.

In a fair and logical world, I should be facing this day with the hope and optimism that a change for the better lies ahead. That the world will steer away from more certain calamity. That a new man will take control of the US and bring sensibility, thoughtfulness, and moderation back to collective consciousness of its citizens. I am sad to say, however, I am not full of hope nor optimism today. Like so many millions of other non-US people, I am steeling myself for the re-election of the George W. Bush as the President of the United States.

For months now, I’ve wondered why the polls were so close. How could there remain so many supporters for a man who made so many mistakes and who made it so clear he is not fit to lead a nation? This question dogged me so because it simply made no sense, it did not seem to follow logic.

In the last month or so, the answer began to come to me in pieces. Well, at least this was my interpretation of an answer. The pieces collectively account for the reason why incredulously, Bush will win re-election. These pieces maybe hard to swallow when I describe them, but the last four years have been hard to take in general. In no particular order, these are the pieces to the answer:

The Truth No Longer Matters – Up until very recently, I believed you could support your arguments and change people’s minds by telling the truth. If you present the facts, I believed people had to listen to them. If your facts were reasonable and documented, then you stood a good chance of having people see things from your point of view (even if they didn’t agree with them). What I just wrote no longer applies to people in the US. Because of political spin and the ridiculous loss of all logic and sense in the American public, I believe it’s possible for the Bush administration to tell its citizens the sky was purple and most people would agree with them. Time and again, the Bush administration has come up with false pretenses followed up with outright lies. These are reported by the media and brought up by the Democrats. Nonetheless, it does not seems to matter. Support for Bush never seemed to waver no matter what mistakes are revealed. After some talking points here and hand-waving there, the public just loses focus on what’s important.

The Democrats Tried Telling the Truth – Unbeknownst to them, the Democrats thought that if they just pointed out the major gaffes and outright lies of the Bush administration, the US public would see the light and vote for Kerry. They were wrong. I don’t think for a minute the Democrats planned for the mass idiocy that took over most US citizens. You can plan for smear campaigns and TV ads, but how do you plan for dropping into the bizarro universe?

A Large Percentage of Americans are Blinded by 9/11 and Iraq – There are significant numbers of American people who believe that the attacks of 9/11 are related to what is going on in Iraq. These people believe Saddam Hussein helped bin Laden, gave him support, aided in the 9/11 attacks, had weapons of mass destruction, and wanted to develop more. Everything I just wrote in the last sentence is not true. Yet, these people believe it to be true. So in their minds, everything George W. Bush has done has been right. They view the war as just and correct. They believe the experts believe the war is just and correct. They believe the rest of the world believes the war is just and correct. So, to them, when they think about changing the course and changing leadership, they are against it.

For Some Reason, Voters Want A Simple Man – I saw a clip of former NASCAR driver, Darrell Waltrip stumping for Bush on CNN. I am paraphrasing, but he had this to say, “President Bush is a guy who’ll look ya in the eye… Kerry has a mansion… Bush has a ranch and farm in Crawford, Texas… I’m not an issues type of guy.” This is symptomatic of what many Americans want in a leader these days, a simple and common man who is more like them. Bush plays up this desire by portraying himself as a folksy, plain-speaking man who just has an important job. Everytime he misspeaks, I believe it just reinforces people’s beliefs that he in fact is what they are looking for. In truth, both Kerry and Bush are Yale graduates, whose family fortunes exceed what any common man would accumulate in several lifetimes. I wonder what happened to the desire to have a leader whose intelligence outweighed the common man. For my country, I would want a leader who knew more than me and who could handle issues much more complex than I could. It is not necessary for a world leader to be a common man, only for them to be able to relate to the common man. Sadly, this important distinction has been lost to most US citizens.

Still Not Enough Votes from Young People – I read somewhere that in the last US election, only 10 million young voters (out of nearly 300 million citizens) participated. It seems that in more socialist countries, young people are more aware of the voting process and are more keen to get involved. I believe that even if half the number of eligible young voters participated in the 2000 election, I wouldn’t be writing this post right now. This time around, there has been genuine efforts to get more young people to vote. I don’t think it has been enough. Young voters in the US seem just as disaffected with the electoral process as they were in 2000. Without a real life or death issue for them to latch onto, like a military draft, their numbers will remain insignificant during the counting process.

Voting Irregularities – I cannot understand why the US relies on dubious voting procedures like chads, on-line voting, and punch cards. There is nothing more simple and reliable than a pencil mark on a piece of paper. I have voted this way in Canada for my entire life and not once have I read or heard about voting irregularities. Along the same lines is voting intimidation. The ripping up of voter registration forms, misdirection at polling stations, missing ballots, and the turning away of certain ethnic groups all smacks of a Third World nation going through its first free elections. Most often that not, the Democrats get the short end of the stick on these matters.

So there you have, a list of what I believe will lead us to another four years of madness with George W. Bush as President of the United States. You may call me a pessimist for predicting such a dire outcome when the polls call it a dead heat. A dead heat, however, is another way of saying it’s 50-50. In my experience, 50-50 odds aren’t so great when disaster lies on one side and hope on the other.

Tonight, I will watch the returns with others and see what happens. Though I think I already know what the outcome will be. May we gather the strength, courage, and resiliency to face the next four years together.

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