by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 07 November 2006)
I do not speak on American politics very much in this column at all. I may touch on the topic from time to time with a couple sentences that jab at the flagrant arrogance of the current administration, but the focus of this column has always been Guyanese politics – which provides plenty on which to speak.
However, since the people in the U.S. will go to the polls today for their midterm elections, I decided it would be appropriate to lend today’s column to my analysis of the development of American governance since George W. Bush took office in 2000, or more specifically, since the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
Since that fateful day over five years ago, there has been a tug-of-war in America between those who do not mind giving up certain elements of their freedom if it means they will feel more secure and those who are not willing to sacrifice their freedoms for promises of a safer nation.
I fall in the latter category and have watched carefully from the very beginning as the Bush administration has systematically infringed on the freedoms of the American citizens, but we were told it was for our own good.
Immediately after the tragic events of 9/11, there was a surge of patriotism in America. People expressed this patriotism in various ways. American flags could be spotted from almost every house and car in the country. Blood and money donations were in ample supply to help the families of the victims and those who survived the attacks.
Race and class distinction briefly fell away as a selfish nation put aside its hunger for money and gain long enough to care about the victims of this horrid attack. However, after a few months, the feel-good emotions of patriotism seemed to slowly fade as the nation went back to business as usual.
Americans trusted their government to have the best interests of the nation at heart, so the people stepped back to allow their elected officials to do their jobs. At the request of the president, the country went back to “life as usual,” and in turn, the government was entrusted to protect the freedom of the nation.
However, instead of protecting the freedoms of the people, at the request of the President, Congress passed legislation that violated and decimated those freedoms. This is when true patriotism stepped onto the stage and some citizens started to cry foul and question the government's need to invade their private lives.
Those patriots again took notice when the president decided it was time to drag the nation to war against the better judgment of the United Nations and most of the world. Anti-war protests, which included tens of thousands of people, sprang up throughout the nation. However, when this voice of American dissent was raised, the loyalty of these patriots was called into question.
It seems the President believed it was unity - not morality - that would keep the nation together. However, patriotism should never assume the position of naiveté. So in true patriotic colour, Americans are finally doing exactly what Americans have always done - putting their freedom of speech to good use and questioning their government.
They are questioning the President’s motives for starting an unprovoked war with false information. They are questioning the shift of focus from the leader of the known terrorist organisation that caused the 9/11 attacks to a leader of a country that had no ties to the attacks that could be substantiated.
Americans are questioning the tapped phone lines and the infringement on private records without the proper legal privilege. On and on the questions are finally flowing and now many Americans are allowing themselves to see the gravity of the situation.
Since Bush took office, the focus of American politics has shifted from diplomacy to pre-emptive strikes and from developing a relationship with North Korea to freezing that nation out of talks until it took drastic measures to get America’s attention.
Before Bush, the U.S. was focused on developing meaningful relationships with its geographic neighbours, now it barely cares about anything except guarding its borders. The U.S. has even changed its policy on how it interprets the Geneva Convention and the treatment of prisoners of war. In short, America’s foreign relationships are in shambles thanks to its cowboy president.
Not many were keen on questioning the judgement of the President after the 9/11 crisis, and some were willing to unconditionally trust this shifty administration with their precious freedoms and the all important role of developing good relationships with other countries.
Even the American media backed down from the Bush administration’s bullying tactics. However, the winds are changing and a nation that was blind for so long has opened its eyes once more.
I have a difficult time swallowing all of the atrocities committed by this current American administration. Some of these are acts of commission, like the war in Iraq, and some are acts of omission, like the total disregard meted out to nations in need. Likewise, I despise the fact that it was done under the pretence of spreading democracy.
Even now, some of those who are changing their minds about Bush and his administration are not doing so because they see the wickedness of these actions, but because the war is taking an economic and emotional toll on the nation.
Some are even being swayed away from their dogmatic support of Bush and his cronies by reasons altogether unrelated to the war or their freedoms, like sex scandals in Congress.
At this point, I do not care about the reasons for their change of heart, all I want is to see Americans finally wake up from their slumber and see what is really going on in the world. U.S. citizens can be so ignorant of the role they play in America’s relationships with other countries.
Indeed, some Americans do not care at all about such things as the economic development of Latin America or whether civil war will eventually destroy Iraq because their President did not have the foresight to develop a comprehensive post-war plan.
Moreover, many Americans do not care how other countries view the U.S. as long as their semi-charmed lives are not interrupted by the inconvenience of poverty in Africa or the plight of the Russians since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Today will determine the future course of American politics, which will impact millions upon millions of people worldwide. Let’s hope it doesn’t rain – or some of my fellow citizens might choose to stay in their warm, dry homes instead of doing their part to help the world.
Sometimes I truly believe decadent Rome had nothing on America.