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Sadly, little coming from America’s politics can fire my enthusiasm. During my lifetime, America has busied itself with the task of burying liberalism, reminding one of October’s frenetic squirrels hunting and burying acorns.
The nation is pretty much at ease with ugly imperial government. Liberalism, and I mean liberalism in the broadest, richest sense of the word, is a topic of bathroom humor.
We read and hear a great deal about the Democrats’ sizable victory in mid-term elections, and I suppose after six years of Bush’s near-insanity, people have a right to a little excitement, although one is sobered by the recollection that the same people returned him to office just two years ago. At least, the world can be grateful that Bush has been hobbled for his last two years.
The Democratic Party has been all but dead for years as a meaningful national alternative. The party has no recognized national leader. It has no cause, no fire in the belly. It has been largely silent for six years while Bush rampaged through the world and literally peed on American liberties like a grotesquely-smirking, small-town sheriff. No President in history has shown so little respect for human rights, and with so little excuse, yet all the would-be defenders of the Republic, whether Congressmen or the Don’t-Tread-on-Me crowd, have been no where to be seen. And Democrats like Lieberman or Kerry can hardly be distinguished from Republicans.
The Democrats have been elected because Americans are now sick of Iraq. Their enthusiasms die quickly. American expectations for the wars they start are perfectly captured by the image of Bush landing on an aircraft carrier with a big banner behind him saying Mission Accomplished. It’s a blockbuster version of the Homecoming Game with guys in uniforms and cheerleaders and flags, and there is no hint of death or decay. Anything beyond that kind of performance is welcomed like the kid who couldn’t make the team.
I doubt there is widespread concern that Iraqis still huddle in homes with no reliable electricity or clean water, no jobs, and fearful to step into murderous streets. I doubt there is much guilt over having killed half a million of them. I doubt there is guilt about running a secret gulag and torturing helpless captives. I doubt there is guilt about blood-spattered holes like Abu Ghraib. Because if there were such guilt, there would have been a revolt against Bush’s criminal government.
The American tendency to quickly tire of things is mightily reinforced by the depressing consciousness of having lost. Americans are conditioned in the great booming engine of Social Darwinism they call society that there is no substitute for winning, and winning in a chest-thumping way. Losing is for losers, and loser is a favorite American expression of contempt for others. They hate losing, and yet the simple fact is that many of the conflicts into which they thoughtlessly are led end up lost.
I am sure Americans are tired of images and commentary about Iraq on television, tame as they have been deliberately kept. They’re tired of knowing that cute little Steve and Susie graduating high school this year can’t just join up to have their college paid and be heroes in uniform without risking their health.
The greatest horror Bush has inflicted on humanity, the suppurating body of Iraq, is unlikely to be attended by Democrats. They want the White House in two years, and they do not want to be left holding Bush’s “tarbaby.” Instead, they will scrutinize and highlight every twist and turn of Bush’s bumbling, murderous efforts as he struggles to leave Iraq. American politics are just that brutal. No wonder there are so many wars.
JOHN CHUCKMAN lives in Ontario.