From Socialist Voice, January 2005

International

A letter from America

Since the appointment of George W. Bush to the White House in 2000 there has been a lot of talk about the legitimacy of US democracy. As a US citizen, I, like many others, was reluctant to go so far as to denounce the entire electoral process, and I kept my fingers crossed for 2004. “Dubya” was the face of a blatant ultra-conservative coup, and his sloppy presidency gave American progressives and the left all the ammunition we needed to beat the Republicans in the 2004 election. But something went terribly wrong . . .
     Of all the candidates who emerged, somehow John Kerry became our only hope. Begrudgingly, I supported him on the grounds that he wasn’t George W. Bush; and although I didn’t think Kerry would ever make any sweeping reforms, I figured that he couldn’t be any worse. Besides, as everyone knows, no third party stands a chance in the US.
     As the campaigns dragged on and the election drew near, the polls showed Bush and Kerry neck and neck. At this time I was living in Dublin, and every European I spoke to, from students to taxi drivers, said to me, “How can they be so close in the polls?” Well, my bewildered Irish friends, the sad fact is that they were competing for the same “middle-of-the-road” votes. The left was assured to Kerry; the right was assured to Bush. It was the people in the middle who would decide the presidency.
     As this phenomenon began to sink in, a question occurred to me. “How can anyone be undecided in this election?” Then a friend of mine from Derry reminded me of a quote from Winston Churchill that seemed particularly relevant. “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” At first I argued with my friend and retorted with some old leftist pro-democracy arguments. After living in Europe for the last few years I began to believe that even under capitalism, democracy could actually work sometimes. Then I came back home to Oklahoma just after the election, and as much as I hated to admit it, I realised that old Winston was dead-on this time—at least with regard to America, where democracy has degenerated into something strange and sad but, most of all, dangerous.
     Decades of poor education and hard-right religious fundamentalism used as a means of controlling angry and impoverished people have stirred a fervour in the US that seems to be as dangerous as any militant Islamist organisation, if not more so. Throughout the South and the Mid-West there are churches built in bunkers. Evangelical Protestant paramilitary organisations or “militias” are legally allowed to march in fatigues with military weapons. Their rhetoric is similar: just replace Allah with Jesus and the Koran with the Bible, and while the images are perhaps a bit more palatable to Westerners, the core of these ideologies is the same. Other groups that make up Bush’s “faith-based” coalition are less extreme, but they all believe that God has entrusted them (and Dubya) to force their brand of radical Christianity upon the world, even if the result is mutual global destruction. Because, after all, if you die for God you go to Heaven.
     This brings me back to the issue at hand. What determines a “legitimate democracy”? In Oklahoma, approximately 7 out of 10 voters endorsed a Senatorial candidate by the name of Tom Coburn who maintains that blacks are genetically inferior to whites and therefore should not be equally entitled to health-care benefits. He has also co-authored legislation that would enforce the death penalty on mothers who have had abortions and the doctors who perform them. Now consider that his election was entirely legal; in fact he won by a landslide.
     You heard right: people who believe that a mother who has an abortion should be executed will be enforcing their will on the globe.
     It is high time that the people of the world recognised the current American government, and religious fundamentalism in all its forms, for what it truly is and have the courage and confidence to stand up to its representatives, even those in the Bush Administration. These people and the powers behind them are nothing less than traitors. When Irish politicians allowed these murderers to use Irish airports for their war on Iraq, because they can’t afford to upset American investments in Ireland, they defied Irish democracy and effectively became Bush’s representatives in Ireland, and should share the guilt.
     Don’t let them fool you into believing your contempt for their trashing of the Irish constitution is somehow “anti-American.” I am an American and I am with you, and I know that most in Ireland are with us. Of course I am proud of the accomplishments of my nation. Indeed I am a firm believer in the principles that patriotic Americans like Thomas Paine stood for when they rose up against the British Empire; but no, just because a politician shrouds his lies in my country’s flag doesn’t mean I’ll buy them, and neither should anyone in Ireland.
     It’s time for people everywhere to re-evaluate our democracies and extend them in order to determine a new course for the world community: but we cannot make these changes alone. In the US, and especially in the Mid-West and rural South, we are a minority, just as the American Revolutionaries were in the 1760s and the Irish rebels were for hundreds of years. If any of our hopes for change are to become of any consequence, our nations must co-ordinate our work, and together we can bring an end to imperialism.
[JD]

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