Yesterday in one of my English 101 classes I was writing the assignment for the next class on the board, and I realized the next class was Tuesday, November 2, which is election day. And for a moment I was just overwhelmed, thinking, "My God, it's almost here." I've already voted, so for me it's a matter of waiting to see who won, but there's so much more to it than that.
I've been trying to think of a time in history that is comparable to this election, and there's no time since I've been alive, but I think the event that most parallels this one, the event that would have evoked the same feelings in me had I been alive, is the first moon landing.
That might seem like a strange comparison. Those of us who did not live to see it look back on it as this huge triumph; an American triumph, but also a triumph for humanity. And rightfully so. But what we sometimes take for granted (at least I know I do) is that the outcome was by no means certain. Those people left watching the moon landing...they had no idea what was going to happen. I remember I had a teacher who said she was certain that Neil Armstrong was going to sink right into the surface of the moon and never be seen again. What we also tend to forget is that the Space Race was also part of the Cold War, and that Americans lived in fear of being annihilated by the Soviet Union. If the moon landing had not been a success, it would have meant more than the loss of a few lives, more than getting some international egg on our face.
So that is why I relate this election to the moon landing. I have hope, I have confidence, I have it from good authorities that Kerry is going to win, and when I look at it from that angle I am happy and excited. But then I remember that nothing is certain; even those authorities have said as much. Anything can happen; anything is possible, and this is one of those times when that is not a comforting thought. And it's also true that, regardless of who wins, the other side is not likely to graciously concede. Rather than being the end of it, the election could just be the beginning. And that scares me, not only because that at the end of all that Bush could emerge the victor, but because there is so much tension now, things are so polarized, emotions are running so high that I fear that the anger and the frustration might be too much for some people and that there will be riots and violence, and...I don't even want to say it. I don't want to think it.
So I hope this will be a triumph for America instead of another embarrassing tragedy.
So, I was just reading on Yahoo! news that there's a new Osama bin Laden tape floating around out there. And I feel a deep sense of anger that he is still out there. We were told they were going to get him. We were told that we weren't going to rest until we caught the people responsible for the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks and brought them to justice. Why is he not caught? Why is he not brought to justice? Why are we wasting time in Iraq? Why is Dick Cheney going around touting all the "success" we've had in the war on terror? What success? By what criteria does he measure success?
As I was reading the article, I also felt very afraid. Not afraid of another attack, but afraid because Osama bin Laden's words started making sense to me.
Not the part where he justified the attacks. Nothing can make sense of senseless violence. Not the part where he seemingly told the American people to rise up and overthrow our government. No, the part where Osama bin Laden started making sense was the part where he "compared the Bush administration to repressive Arab regimes 'in that half of them are ruled by the military and the other half are ruled by the sons of kings and presidents.
"'He [Bush the Elder] passed on tyranny and oppression to his son, and they called it the Patriot Act, under the pretext of fighting terror. Bush the father did well in placing his sons as governors and did not forget to pass on the expertise in fraud from the leaders of the (Mideast) region to Florida to use it in critical moments.'"
That scares me when the words of a diabolical madman start making sense to me, more sense than anything I've heard come out of Bush's mouth in the past two and a half years. So, to break the spell I went to view again Jon Stewart's first Daily Show monologue following Sept. 11, 2001 (video and transcript).
And as I watched this, I wept, as I always do. Not just because he himself was moved to tears, not just because his words were so heartfelt and eloquent. I wept because I know what has happened since then. George W. Bush had an opportunity to be one of the best presidents there has ever been, and he blew it. He had an opportunity to raise us up from the ashes as a new country, a country that proves we are better than terrorists, a country that doesn't stoop to the level of blind violence, and he pissed it away on a blood feud in Iraq. The courage and nobility that Jon Stewart spoke of is gone, transmuted into an ugly, petty, crusade for vengence. Jon Stewart said of the terrorists, "They live in chaos and chaos…it can't sustain itself. It never could. It's too easy and it's too unsatisfying." But when the words of Osama bin Laden make more sense then the words of my president...that scares me, because I am afraid that it's a sign that we are descending into that same chaos.
Jon Stewart said, "I wanted to tell you why I grieve, but why I don’t despair." I don't want to despair. I feel it growing up around my heart, threatening to take over, but I will fight it with every ounce of strength that I have. I will not give into despair, because that is when the terrorists win. But I grieve when I read his words. I grieve for what was lost on September 11th, 2001, and I grieve for everything that we have lost since then. I grieve for the loss of a nation I have loved and the loss of freedoms that I have held dear. I grieve for the loss of lives in Iraq, both American and Iraqi, and I grieve that there was no one who stood up to the President and said, "No, you can't attack Iraq; it's not right," in a way that could have made him pay attention.
And when I read Jon Stewart's words, knowing that he didn't know what I know, I also feel cynicism welling up inside of me and threatening to consume me. But I do not allow it. As I will not give in to despair, neither will I give in to cynicism. I refuse. There are people out there, people who consider themselves intellectuals, who will try to tell you that it is foolish at best and irresponsible at worst NOT to feel cynicism. I disagree wholeheartedly. Cynicism, like despair, is the enemy of hope. I believe, though it is not always a comfort to me, that anything is possible, and in a world--a universe--where anything is possible there is no place for cynicism. Indeed, in such a world it is cynicism that is irresponsible.
I made this a "friends only" post because I am tired of fighting. I've been fighting what I consider the good fight for over a year now, with or without results. I need a break. I don't need some goody-Bush-two-shoes waltzing in here and trying to convince me that war in Iraq was necessary. I hear it enough from the people around me. I'm sick of it. I'm sick of being called names. Depending on the outcome of the election next week I may have to go back to it, which I will do without hesitation, but for right now I'm tired, and I need to release these feelings, "drain whatever abscess" is in my heart, as Jon Stewart says.