When a semblance of democracy returned to America this past week I was about as far away from my country as it had become from its principles. I did my celebrating the return of Congress to the control of the Democrats after twelve years of ruinous political corruption by dancing a jig in my cabin on a cruise ship in the Bass Strait between Australia and Tasmania. The people had spoken, and some of them were people who I had come to believe had pretty much surrendered their thinking to the knee-jerk approval of the jerk who has (probably illegally, if not immorally) occupied the Oval Office for the past six years.
I was a fellow passenger of mostly senior people from several of the countries of the erstwhile British Empire, who were sailing to and from countries where the harshness of the days of British imperialism seems faded and anachronistic. In Cape Town, where I began this month-long journey the language is English (and some Afrikaans) and there is an ugly history that is only a couple of decades past. At the other end, at the bottom of Australia, is an island where the Aboriginals were extinguished by the English who hunted them for sport. Neither the passengers from Africa nor Australia brought up the subject of contemporary American imperialism, either out of the shame of their nations, or, I like to think, just courtesy.
So it was I, who had become almost accustomed to answering the question “are you American?” with the response “Not necessarily,” who mostly raised the subject that has made us personae universae non grata. I reflexively distanced myself from the sins of the Bush Administration like a drunk testifying at an AA meeting. “Hi, I’m Jim, I’m an American and I hate Bush’s guts, too.” Not many of the passengers were aware, or said anything, of the impending mid-term election. Maybe, like me, they figured there would be another corrupted process that the Republicans, with their gerrymandering, judicial appointees, and strategically-placed electoral officials, would just pull off another plebiscite worthy of a banana republic.
There was a segment if the trip—eight consecutive days at sea just prior to the election—that cut out access even to the ubiquitous CNN. It seems that the lower Indian Ocean is a place of such vacuity, that there are holes in communications satellite coverage. Not a single other ship was, not a plane overhead, not even a whale, was sighted the entire time from Mauritius to Freemantle; a great time and locus for reading and writing. So what impelled me to the on board Bible study class? It wasn’t an urging to spiritual companionship, of that I am certain. The only explanation was that I was looking for some action, the sort of action that people from that part of the Republican base of “useful idiots” can provide. I was looking for the sort of action that intelligent design, abortion, gay marriage, and stem cells can provide. I wanted to kick some Christian Fundamentalist Evangelist butt. Here was a chance to leave politics well in my wake and I was looking for a good ole normative squall to sail into. I was looking for Bushies.
Things in the Bible study turned out quite different, but that’s a story I will leave to chapters I will be posting in these pages in the following days. It is a story that, as things turned out, did have a sort of spirituality, a sort that I least expected. So I will leave it for now as just as “tease.”
When I returned to America a couple of days ago there was a bit of the feeling of coming into a Third World country. There on the wall at Passport Control were the snarly pictures of Bush and Cheney (no doubt to scare any “Islamo-fascists” back to their homelands) and there were just three—three!—customs officials manning the thirty or so desks, while we returning citizens grumbled that this is what you get when you pour a half-trillion bucks into the Iraqi sand. An hour later, I was standing in my socks at security, with my belongings scattered among four trays going through the X-ray, when the woman behind me said, “Look at this filthy floor! It’s like we’ve come back to a Third World country and our government is making us clean it with our socks!” She was right, it was filthy, and the staff were tired and surly. We had to throw away our bottles of water and cans of soda, and other liquids, divesting ourselves of essentials as though we were entering a death camp. We were made to walk back and forth through the metal detector and hold our hands out and be frisked. That wasn’t their fault, but at least our own country should try to do it was some consideration for our dignity.
Perhaps that lady was like the swing voters who finally said, “Enough, already, with the corruption, the lies and the stealing.” Or, like, surprisingly, the Red-staters and Christian fundamentalists who woke up and recognized that they were, in fact, acting like “useful idiots” in ratifying the policies of this corrupt administration that regards them as such. Maybe America is waking up from the self-terrorizing that the fear-mongering Rove, and the neo-cons, put into them. Maybe now they could see the un-manned customs booths and the filthy floors of the Third World country Bush has created while his friends have enriched themselves. Maybe, the lies about WMD, Katrina, Abramoff, the Shiaivo affair, the sexual predations of bible-spouting Republicans, etc. etc., just got to be too much for them, and they got their ballot, or in front of their touch screens and screamed, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to suffer these bastards any more!”
We shall see just how much of the erstwhile government of the people that was usurped by the government of the scumbags has been restored to them. But a majority Democratic Congress is a good place to start. Some of my faith in democracy as been restored. The people have kicked butt. That jerk still resides in the Oval Office, but maybe he has been served a political pretzel. The people have said “enough, already!” Now, we must hope they have the patience to wait for a restoration of the damage that has been done to them while they were soooo afraid.
©2006, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 11.11.2006)