That this election was even close is all the evidence you need that America has lost its mind, and has become a nation of knee-jerk reactionaries more interested in suppressing civil liberties and puffing out its chest than in quality of life and justice.
George Bush appeals to the machismo and hunger for power that nearly took over during the Reagan era but has been mostly dormant in Americans until now. It seems a majority of Americans want a President who tells them, There is one set of rules for us, and another set of rules for the rest of the world: we can do what we want, and be held accountable to no one.
Our military crusades upset entire regions? Who cares. 9/11. We killed 15,000 or maybe 100,000 innocent people? Who cares. 9/11. Our soldiers tortured your citizens? Who cares. 9/11. Our pollution is causing problems in the rest of the world? Who cares. Business. AIDS is wiping out a generation of Africans? Who cares. They shouldn't be having sex anyway. We're doing God's work over here, don't forget.
America has been willfully duped by a president who uses fear and jingoistic moralizing to divide a country and turn it on itself, a President who correctly calculated that more Americans support his power-tripping brand of nationalism than support the idea of actually doing something to improve the life of a fellow citizen.
Bush's demagoguery is an insult to American ideals of freedom and justice, and an insult to Christianity, a religion he uses in defense of his policies. In fact, his policies are in direct opposition to nearly every tenet of Christianity, and yet he has fooled a compliant America into believing he represents its core values. Christianity is about sacrificing everything to help those who need your help and treating the rest of mankind with kindness and respect. But Bush's Christianity, instead, focuses on creating hatred between people and urging them to act on that hatred. Hate Muslims? Let's kill 'em all. Hate gays? Let's restrict their rights. Hate abortion? Let's outlaw it but not support alternatives.
America has looked at the terrible results of these policies, and accepted them without question, maybe because not accepting them is to admit something so awful it would destroy our sense of national identity: America is perpetrating evil in the world.
For his one-time supporters, to vote against Bush is to admit that you were tricked by him, that you made a mistake, and that America is engaged in an unjustifiable slaughter of innocents. It's so much easier to tell yourself that we're doing the right thing, and to exercise that belief by voting for Bush, who tells you, with religious fervor, that by killing people, we are being good Americans and good servants of the Lord.
Ironically, however, Christianity should be entirely irrelevant in American politics. Decisions based on things like the Bible should have no place in our legal or political systems, and yet Bush thrust his interpretation of religion and its influence on his policy to the forefront of his campaign at every opportunity. Utterly missing from American political discourse is the importance of seeking justice and well-being for people irrespective of religion and God. We should treat people well because it is right and just and necessary, not because God told us to. This concept is entirely lost on Bush and his supporters, it seems.
But through the use of religion, Bush has encouraged America to believe that the culture of death he has promulgated is actually a culture of life. He has told us that war is peace, that injustice is justice, and that lies are truth. And America, unwilling to see the reality of the situation, has gleefully flocked to the polls and validated his twisted view of the world, our country, and their own religion.
In the past, probably for several generations, many liberals have encountered a President they fiercely disliked and talked about leaving America. When Bush "won" the first election, I casually entertained these thoughts. But what the weeks leading up to this election have taught me is that leaving America is not something you do because you hate the President. It's something you do because you feel that so many of your fellow citizens have beliefs that are so deeply contrary to your own that is illogical for you to consider yourself a member of their nation any longer. Maybe it's possible for you to still love America, but what does that matter when a significant majority of citizens has betrayed and abandoned the values you've used to construct your identity as an American? Can you still, in good conscience, identify yourself as an American?
I realize that various websites and newspapers will be filled with similar polemics this morning, many of which will appear maudlin and desperate, but I don't think the quantity or exaggerated mood of pieces like this one should overshadow the central truth of the matter:
The country and the world will change in terrible ways over the next few years, and not all the damage will be reparable. Lives will be ruined, suffering will spread, and hatred will consume many of us. Unfortunately, we deserve it.