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Place of the US in the World Community - Nov 04 Forum

In response to the events of 11 September 2001, Serendip established an on-line forum for the sharing of thoughts and perspectives about those events and their meaning for our individual and collective lives. A second Serendip on-line forum was established in the fall of 2002 as the likelihood of an invasion of Iraq increased. The American elections of 2 November 2004 seem perhaps to be another point at which it is important to share thoughts and perspectives

We need to hear each others' stories, so that we can better tell and retell our own and, in doing, contribute our own pieces to the continually evolving human story. And we need not only to feel but also to reflect and think, to find the new and still better ways to make sense of the world we find ourselves in ... and to remake it anew.

Please join in the sharing of stories about the election and your reactions to it, as they bears on you, on the United States as a community, and on the role of the United States in the world community: what it has been, might become, should be.

September 11, 2006: This forum has been extended to include thoughts and reflections five years after September 11, 2001.

Comments are posted in the order in which they are received, with earlier postings appearing first below on this page. To see the latest postings, click on "Go to last comment" below.

Go to last comment

my thoughts ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2004-11-04 15:41:10
Link to this Comment: 11356

I was depressed and scared by Tuesday’s election results. So … some "thinking" about what it meant, to me and perhaps to others. And some thoughts about how to respond to the election, for myself and anyone else who might find them useful.

The vote yesterday (not only the presidential vote but the votes for Congress and for various gay rights related initiatives) represents an important set of observations, about our country and our population. The election offered what was probably the clearest and most meaningful set of choices that the American electorate has been offered in decades. And, it seems to me, there are two important conclusions that can be drawn from the observations

The frightening irony is that in response to a perceived threat from one sort of fundamentalism half of our fellow citizens have expressed a different form of fundamentalism. And they have done so despite an historical record which shows, beyond question, that clashes between different forms of fundamentalism are a recurrent pattern in human history and have invariably been associated with the most painful and sickening tragedies we as humans are capable of inflicting on ourselves.

Is there a way out? The United States has been slipping badly relative to other countries as a world representative of "liberal democracy" for some time now, and it may in the long run prove to be the case that other nations take over leadership in this regard (cf. T.R. Reid, The United States of Europe). But the nearly 50% of us who voted for change are not a small population in the United States, and the world would still welcome continuing commitment to liberal democracy in the United States. Perhaps we have lessons to learn from the election that would allow us to become more effective participants in national (and world) discourse in the future.

Perhaps we failed to recognize or pay adequate attention to the phenomena that result in fundamentalism, not only abroad but here at home as well. Maybe we need to take more seriously the experiences and concerns of people different from ourselves, to stop congratulating ourselves for our commitments to liberal democracy and start trying to understand why others in the world (including 50% of our fellow citizens) don’t find it appealing. And then do something about that.

Liberal democracy isn’t knowing what the world should be like and how people (oneself and others) should behave. Liberal democracy is a commitment to the idea that one is always learning what the world is like and how people can best get along together. And to the related ideas that all humans are involved in the same process, that all humans are equally valuable in that process, and that we all learn as much from our differences as from our similarities.

When people oppose liberal democracy (whether by “terrorist acts” or by voting for fundamentalism) they do so because they do not see it as a form of social/political organization that serves their own interests. Liberal democracy depends on populations of humans who understand the underlying process of individual and social evolution, are comfortable engaging in it, and who see in it the most promising route to their own satisfaction and that of others around them. It depends on people feeling that they are participants in and contributors to a process that in turn returns things to them that they find valuable. Is it possible that, in one way or another, we who are so pleased with and comfortable in our commitment to liberal democracy have neglected actions that might make it appealing to others? Perhaps we have even done things that might discourage others from feeling they are welcome and valued participants in a process from which they too can draw benefits.

I, like others, was struck by the segregation of red and blue states that characterized our national map in Tuesday night’s election coverage, a segregation that perhaps parallels patterns of segregation between liberal democrats and fundamentalists on a more global scale. Perhaps there is a hint there of where we need to go and what we need to do if we are genuinely serious about our belief in a process that regards all humans as equally valuable and which depends for its vibrancy as much on differences as on similarities.

From the liberal democratic perspective, it was a mistake for the United States to respond to fundamentalism of one kind with fundamentalism of a different kind. It would be an equally serious mistake for those of us who espouse the liberal democratic perspective to respond to fundamentalism in our midst with our own version of fundamentalism, one that demonizes our fellow citizens who don’t share the liberal democratic perspective. The need instead is to break the patterns of segregation that we have (consciously or unconsciously, deliberately or inadvertently) fallen into.

We need to find ways to make common cause with those whose perspectives are different from our own, to live in ways that are more fully engaged with them. It is along this path, and perhaps only along this path, that we can come to better understand why the liberal democratic perspective is not as appealing to them as it is to us. And it is along this path that we may be able, together, to make liberal democracy more appealing to all humans. Regardless, there is no other path to take if we are serious ourselves about our commitment to liberal democracy.

Liberal democracy is not the outcome of a particular election nor even particular commitments to particular social or political stands on particular issues. Liberal democracy is a commitment to a process. It can be defeated only when those of us believe in that process fail to understand and follow through fully on our commitments. That the election was a setback for liberal democracy in the United States (and the world of which it is part) is sad, and a little frightening, but needs to be faced for what it means. The appropriate response is not to abandon liberal democracy as an ideal but to recognize what we may have failed to do in its pursuit, not to ourselves yield to our own brand of fundamentalism but to more fully and completely embrace the kind of belief in pluralism that is at the core of liberal democracy.

The election was not a mandate for fundamentalism. Nearly fifty percent of us voted for liberal democracy. That slightly more than 50% didn’t defines the challenge we need to meet in the future, and the path we need to take to meet that challenge.

Revising the Story
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2004-11-04 22:49:17
Link to this Comment: 11365

I, like others, was struck by the segregation of red and blue states.

Not me. I was struck by secret lives of those maps, the many ways in which they were both reductions of what they claimed to represent, and distortions of what they did not. Those maps covered over a lot, such as a divisions w/in each state, w/in each part of each state, w/in each neighborhood, w/in each family, w/in each self--such as the contradictory desires within each of us for both security and for exploration.

The former is figured for me by the rural South, the latter by the urban North; I live in both and am myself inhabited by both. I was raised as/to be a Republican in a segregated rural area in one of those red states, and have not lost, in my long trip North (and left!) --w/ length measured in terms of psychological and ideological distance-- my ties to a group of cussed individualists, Republicans for the classic reason that they don't want big government interfering in their individual story writing, conservatives in the radical sense that they view the world in terms of a VERY long time line (think: millenial).

I was scared, too, by the election; I was more sad and scared, the day after, to hear people like my family dismissed as "stupid," to learn about a web page (deliberately NOT linked to from here) which calibrated "red" and "blue" w/ "average" IQ scores for each state. The Republicans I know are not dumb; they are thoughtful agents, living lives w/ very different frameworks than those which govern academics: their world has a longer time span than that of the secular, a greater sense of completeness, a smaller sense of individual importance, a more humble attitude towards what humans cannot control.

But I also found myself very glad this morning to be a college teacher, to wake up and know that I would be going into one class which was exploring our rich fund of tacit knowledge--AND the possibility that we could revise "what we don't know we know"; and into another where we've been interrogating our collective desire to "get @ the truth" by searching for "an origin story," for something fundamental/foundational/defining about what it means to be human. And those courses were bookmarked by two talks, lively conversations w/ colleagues, one early in the morning about the long-standing exploration of possible forms of material organization, another late in the evening about where meanings come from.

It was in the former that I regained a longer view on this election (and our desire to quickly make a story about it), and in the latter that I learned (again) about the ways in which a search for certainty leads to violence. I'd been trying to bridge a gap between literary theorists and linguists--and seemed instead to have reified it. No matter (or, good thing): because I re-learned something important in the process, about the certain consequences of violence and the violent consequences of certainty.

Turns out that the classic sentences used by linguists to illustrate sentence structure are often violent ones, because such examples provide clear distinctions in "theta roles," clear divisions between subject and object (i.e. "John beat his wife"; "John doesn't beat his wife because he loves her"). That the well-formedness of a sentence is best illustrated by violent examples makes me think of Chris Hedges' book, War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning: there are very deep shadows, here, of the great satisfaction we take in having a clear opponent over whom a decisive victory can be won.

Em J evoked, in a nearby space, last semester's Symposium on Beauty, where I discovered (among other things) that beauty is a relation, something that occurs in an encounter between a perceiver and the world. So, too, I'd say to Em, can morality arise: not from a script we can follow, but as an interaction where we get to say: here's my story, here I stand, for now.

Tell me yours.

I'll listen.

And I'll revise.

soul-searching for courage
Name: Sharon Burgmayer
Date: 2004-11-04 23:34:27
Link to this Comment: 11367

Untitled Document

I like Paul's good words above and, taking them to heart, I first had to deal with some guilt. It's true, I didn't make the effort to listen long enough to a fundamentalist sister (in OHIO!) to make a difference in how she might see the world and the state of it we find ourselves therein. I routinely deleted pro-Bush emails from my mother (in FLORIDA!) without responding, asking why, listening, and patiently offering another perspective. Could it have made a difference? the difference? Who knows, and in any case, it's too late.

But it's never too late to begin making a difference, in a process that probably will require us to venture outside our comfort zone. So now I'm soul-searching for courage to do that in the future. And for that process, I like very much what Mari said in another forum: " It's important for both sides to see that there is that common ground that exists between everyone, if you're willing to work to look for it.". I agree with her: this is a good place to start listening and building relationships that revise our stories. The same wisdom is beautifully expressed on another site:

so explore whatever interests we share

because everything that
we cannot share

will eventually
pull us apart



Same Sex Marriage Issue turned this election
Name: Ann Dixon
Date: 2004-11-05 10:13:39
Link to this Comment: 11368

It's important for the 48% to realize that it was the vote to ban same sex marriage in 11 states that brought out the big Bush turnout -- not the war, not the economy. In 8 of the 11 states, the law also bans civil unions. In Ohio, Catholic bishops as well as black and evangelical church leaders voiced strong support for the measure, which won by a margin of 24 percent -- Christian Science Monitor. Earlier this fall, my home state of Louisiana passed a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage with 78% of the voters supporting the ban.

Sharon referenced Mari's message in another forum which is important in this context too: If you really don't want to discuss it, the easiest thing to do is to agree to disagree and move on. I've had to do this with several uber-conservative friends because I really like them as people, I just can't stand their politics/religion. We've heard the "really like them as people" before, or I have, in the South, usually said by one white person to another white person about another white person who is a racist.

It can't be written off as "just politics" or "just religion" as some small facet of a person and their likeability when they are persecuting *you*. When your group is the target, when your friends are talking about moving to Europe, when you wonder how far they would go to take away your rights (would they ban gay parents?) by stacking the Supreme Court with like-minded people, it's very personal and frightening. Two of the new US senators believe that gay and/or unwed mother teachers should be banned.

We're making donations to a nonprofit called Lambda Legal which litigates for the GLBT community. I urge you to support them. I urge you to pay more attention to the state legislatures where they will be debating basic civil rights taken for granted by the majority. And, please, talk to people outside of the box. It shouldn't be up to the gay community to persuade people by ourselves.

On a Serendipish note, there is a timely Serendip exhibit that addresses questions of why people live in segregated communities. Look at if you haven't before, or look at it again in the context of the red states and the blue states, the fundamentalists and the liberal democrats. Do we really want to live in a neighborhood where there are Republicans, Socialists, gays, religious right, all on our block? and talk with each other? Again, I think the answer is different if one group is actively persecuting another.

collaboration vs. absolutism
Date: 2004-11-05 10:47:29
Link to this Comment: 11369

Hi all,
I appreciate your thoughts here. For now, I'll just amplify your idea, Paul, that liberal democracy isn't knowing how the world should be but working with others on how it might be. A fundamentalist stance is certain, closed, and in this sense anti-collaborative. A collaborative stance calls for negotiation, revision, and compromise. Considering the prospect of change I am hopeful because I believe that humans deeply crave collaboration, but I am fearful because absolutism -- whether in the form of an enraged child, craziness (cf Hong Kingston's claim in The Woman Warrior that craziness is having only one story to tell), or dictatorship -- is an incredibly potent force in human life, and very difficult to engage dialogically.

-- Alice

The future of government
Name: Lucy Kerma
Date: 2004-11-05 11:42:49
Link to this Comment: 11370

I personally don’t think we should romanticize either Republicans or Democrats, and I would be cautious about thinking in such generalized (binary) terms as Republicans vs academics, with Republicans (or ANY single identifiable group, including “academics”) having greater spirituality, greater “completeness,” “less individualism,” more historical/millennial perspective, or more humility. Nor do I feel comfortable dividing the process of education and learning into the simple dichotomies of “spiritual” vs “formal” – which seems to imply a Christian orientation or value, and, at least for me, over-simplifies and diminishes both education and thinking.

I think it is important to take the election seriously as a political act, and think about the very serious civic conversation we need to have about the role of government in our society. For me, the election revealed two different perspectives on the role of government. It is not the difference between those who don’t want “big government interfering in their individual story writing” and those who do – but rather those who want big government interfering in our moral and personal lives vs those who want big government interfering in our economic and civic lives. One of the most telling graphics for me was the one showing the dominance of “moral issues” for the Bush supporters and the comparable importance of “jobs” and “health care’ for the Kerry supporters.

What is the role of government? Is it, as many conservatives (of either party) insist, to legislate moral and personal behavior? Or is it to provide legislation for economic, civil, and other quality of life issues? In this election, I think the idea of moral government won out. And, I fear, the equation of morality with religion and specifically Christianity also won out. Importantly, the mandate for moral government comes at a time when Bush and at least some in the Republican party intend to dismantle the welfare state and get the government OUT of the business it’s been in since the New Deal: that of providing an economic and health safety net for its citizens. So the choice becomes even more stark. It’s a question of WHERE big government will interfere: does it interfere to control our personal “stories” or to support and protect the material quality of our lives?

The majority of people in this country clearly agree that government should also be in the business of providing safety and security (national security, not personal security). The difference in this election was between those who see an equation between terrorism and Iraq and those who see them as separable. While this is an important difference, it seems to me less troubling than the question of the role of government in our daily, private lives.

A final thought. I think it is striking that the Democratic party has not been able to find a way to talk to a great number of working Americans to make common cause. They (we) have not found a way to make a convincing argument that, whatever one’s moral values, the purpose of government is not to define a standard for morality but to act in areas of civil life that (for me at least) are properly the business of government. It is sobering, I think, that people would care more about an anonymous woman having an abortion in an anonymous town than about whether they have jobs or health care or clean air to breathe (particularly when many of those same people choose not to support the unborn fetus into life, opposing federally-funded nutrition, health and prenatal programs for low-income women and children, and choosing instead to spend federal dollars on war, ie on killing those fetuses when they grow up.)

We need to take that red and blue map of America seriously and find a way to talk – not, I think, about morality or humanity or meaning, or even about difference, but about government, and why and where we come together as a society. If we really believe in difference, we should construct a government that protects difference, and that is one that understands its role in very different terms. And a great part of the burden of this conversation lies with those of us who are educated and comfortable.

I wasn’t scared by the election. I was furious.

Name: maria
Date: 2004-11-05 12:29:17
Link to this Comment: 11371

I was thinking about where I go from this point, how I navigate not only the next four years, but the next four days/hours/four minutes and I as thought about how I’ve been making my way through this situation (not only the couple of days since the election, but the two weeks or so leading up to it) I grew increasingly horrified at the extent to which the entire process had brought out in me the set of traits that I like the least. I’m currently trying to figure out where between rage at the "swift boat veterans for truth" and the anger about Iraq and the disgust at the media and so on I became this combative, over-bearing nightmare of a human being DESPITE the fact that I know better...That was, for me personally, the most troubling part of this election, the way it allowed me to become/think/interact in a way that recently has made my contribution to most political discussions basically a negative or destructive one. I am so concerned that instead of the “rhetorical presidency” which was described by Tulis as “the possibility and danger that presidents might come themselves to think in the terms initially designed to persuade those not capable of fully understanding policy itself…the rhetorical presidency comes to reconstitute the president’s political understanding” that I’ve become the “rhetorical constituent”. I actually don’t even know what the hell is going on anymore…I know all the stuff about the essence of America being the conflict and struggle between a variety of voices and opinions and that RFK said that “wisdom can only emerge from the clash of contending views, the passionate expression of deep and hostile beliefs” and that Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said that “We should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe” and I agree but they’re wise and dead and I’m not and alive and I just feel so disappointed in my own reaction to the situation and feel like such a hypocrite when I try to be reasonable because I’m not reasonable right now and I just hate this whole thing. I hate that for the last two weeks I’ve had two modes of operation: totally fragile or totally manic and as a result I can pretty well classify everyone I know into two camps: those who have offended me (when fragile) and those I have offended (when manic) and I just want to get some distance from the whole damn thing. I turn twenty in two days. Growing up, when I looked at the world and didn't see any place for me in it I just assumed that I was wrong, or missing it, but this election has brought that back for me, that sense that I don't see a place for the life I want in the story America is telling for itself and while not deterred I am daunted by the prospect of having to fight this particular fight for the rest of my life.

Name: em
Date: 2004-11-05 14:20:31
Link to this Comment: 11372

what i want to know is, just what is this mandate we're talking about? i know that mandates are an order given by a political body to its representative, but i don't think the american people are sending any kind of clear mandate to anybody right now. my body can't even send a clear mandate to my legs, and i stumble over words, and i keep having these weird dreams where i sit in some giant political assembly and listen to the roar of a crowd and feel...alien.
i'm wondering if it's not time to extend the idea of "culture as disability" to "politics as disability." we've essentially (and who do i mean by "we," she wonders as she types) created these constructs to keep ourselves apart. who's making websites linking IQ numbers and who you voted for? who's making websites that show pictures of doctors who perform abortions with rifle scopes superimposed upon them? some hours i want to get on my high horse and yell "stop hiding behind the internet! stop hiding behind politics!" politics keeps us from talking to each other. politics shuts down dialogue. yet there is dialogue here--why is this? i don't know. i want to know. i want to know so that i can extend this to other people in real life, in real time.

Impossible to be abstract
Name: Sharon Ull
Date: 2004-11-05 14:57:37
Link to this Comment: 11373

Hi all,

Thanks for putting this up. I'm afraid that I can't join the complex thoughtful analysis of how we can or cannot make common cause with those who voted to put Bush and the Religious Right agenda into power. I was too busy spending the last couple night checking out Canada job sites.

I don't think straight people of good will - on either side - get how scared the queer community is right now. An election was decided on our back. We were used as scapegoats and it worked. This is all I see. It's all I can see. I'm a lesbian. Hatred of me and fury that I dare to see myself as equal to a heterosexual was openly expressed by this electorate. That makes this election personal.

My being a historian does NOT make this easier for me. To the contrary, it reminds me that despised subgroups are turned on and scapegoated all the time - and as recently as today in Darfur; ten years ago in Rwanda; etc,etc. Can't happen here? Of course it can. And these are the people to do it. The Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage is #1 on their list. And they will pass it this time with cowed,spineless Democrat senators joining in. Enshrining limitations on rights for homosexuals in the founding document of the nation will not be their final action against queers - it will be their first.

I don't care whether people who voted for Bush are smart or dumb; onto some deeper truth or deluded; caring or cruel. I care that they either hate me or simply don't care what happens to me at the hands of those who do. The rest I leave to you political scientists. As for me - I have bags to pack.


Date: 2004-11-05 15:25:18
Link to this Comment: 11374

Hi all, Here's an op-ed I just sent out for publication. Comments are welcomed.

By Sanford F. Schram

Many have extolled George Bush’s reelection as a paean to just how beautiful our democracy is. Increased voter turnout, civilty at the polls, patience in the face of long lines to vote all seem to have made Bush's victory to be vindication that the travesty of the 2000 election is behind us.

I would argue that the 2004 election is actually an indication of the sad state of our democracy is in. On the one hand, it underscores the success of the fundamentally anti-democratic approach to power that Karl Rove and other key Bush advisors have emphasized as part of their take-no-hostages, win-at-any-cost approach to capturing the White House. On the other hand, it suggests, just as troubling, the willful ignorance of a substantial portion of the voting public in tolerating that philosophy based on the misleading assumption that they will then get a government that protects them, their values, and their pocketbooks.

First, there is the problem of Bush’s relationship to democracy. From stealing the 2000 election, to bankrupting the government to reward wealthy supporters, to willfully ignoring the growing economic misery that the government’s policies are inflicting on the working classes, to consciously misleading the public to wage a trumped-up war in Iraq, Bush has shown his disrespect for democracy. Contrary to most politicians, he does not simply try to sway the public; he actively seeks to systematically manipulate the people’s role in public affairs so he can pursue his own agenda.

Bush’s approach to democracy makes him a practitioner of what others have called “authoritarian populism.” While authoritarian populism has a long lineage in U.S. politics, I would argue that it has never been so firmly ensconced in the Presidency as it has with George Bush and his advisors.

It is true that American democracy has always been less than perfect and those in power have always had opportunities to manipulate public opinion in ways that undermine democracy. Authoritarian populism is traditionally associated with making it seem that you have mass support for anti-democratic agenda by systematically misleading the public, squelching dissent, or restricting political participation. The authoritarian populism of the Bush administration engages in all three with unmatched alacrity.

Authoritarian populism operates as the overriding philosophy for the Bush administration. It mediates every significant action the administration takes, including responses to 9/11. Undoubtedly the current state of emergency since 9/11 helps create a context where those in power feel they are authorized to abrogate basic civil liberties in order to protect the homeland. Yet, the brazen attempt to undermine democracy in 2000 preceded 9/11; and the bankrupting of the government to reward the wealthy and undermine the welfare state also began before 9/11, even if it continues right up to the corporate tax giveaways of the past week. Instead, the tragedy of 9/11 becomes in part a pretext for implementing a much broader agenda. The current state of emergency may be enacted in the name of homeland security but in practice it is working as part of a larger project to assert the administration’s power over the citizenry.

It might well be that without 9/11 the larger agenda would have stalled but 9/11 happened and the larger project is now full speed ahead.

Two noteworthy practices associated with the Bush administration’s anti-democratic approach to power are the use of a corporate-controlled mass media to narrow political discourse and the courting of religious fundamentalists to cultivate support for overriding public debate and acting in the name of God.

The Bush administration has benefited greatly from the remarkable development of a supportive press that helps squelch dissent. Fox News and Sinclair Broadcasting are the most noteworthy examples of mass media that uncritically champion the President’s positions on policy while vilifying dissenters. Further, the corporate-dominated media in general have grown reluctant to criticize the undemocratic practices of the Bush administration in the name of seeking to maintain a reputation for balanced reporting. As a result, they make it seem that the Bush approach to undermining democracy is a legitimate counter to the opposition’s approach to expand it. Intimidating voters is just the other side of enrolling new ones. Balanced reporting makes it seem that these are just partisan differences in a democracy, when in fact it is the difference between being in favor of the people having a say and being against it.

Bush has a keen interest in developing the support of religious fundamentalists in part because they help rationalize his approach to power. Religious fundamentalism justifies acting in the name of God irrespective of what the people have chosen to do about any number of issues from abortion, to marriage, to the war on terrorism. Fundamentalists are a special source of support for the President’s dogmatic approach to fighting the war in Iraq. This approach sets a course and never looks back no matter how many mistakes it makes. Bush exhibits an astonishingly high degree of willingness to simply dismiss public concerns and fall back on his base of support among non-questioning true believers, many of whom are fundamentalists. Many fundamentalists are reassured by Bush’s continual references to his gut instincts about God to tell him how to conduct the war on terrorism. That approach may raise doubts for others and for them the President uses misinformation to try to defuse opposition. Both approaches insulate the President from the public and their concerns and serve to reinforce his anti-democratic approach to power.

Yet, Bush’s approach to power is only one dimension of this issue. The public’s participation in a growing culture of complicity compounds the problem. In spite of all that he has done, Bush is still not seen by many people as fundamentally anti-democratic. Part of the reason is that given the current state of emergency people are being exhorted to put their doubts aside and support Bush as a strong leader who will do whatever is necessary to fight terrorism. Doubts about Bush’s ability to be a democratic leader are countered by the idea that real faith is demonstrated by doing what God wants even when you doubt it is right. In other words, people are exhorted to support the President even though they think he is acting in an undemocratic fashion. It is in such calls that the power of authoritarian populism is at its most insidious.

As a result, authoritarian populism has found mass support for the idea that the ends justify the means, that we must allow those in power to undermine democracy in order to save it, that their recourse to a higher law justifies abrogating democratic law. The exception is the rule in the world of authoritarian populism. We live in a permanent state of emergency where it has become the norm that those in power should feel authorized to override democratic principles in order to realize their agenda. Now a majority of those voting have affirmed this approach to leading the country in the current period.

People’s complicity in accepting the upside-down world of authoritarian populism desperately needs to be examined. How did we become such a country? When Dwight D. Eisenhower left office he warned the country of the “military-industrial complex,” which he took to mean a matrix of power relations between the state and major corporations but which could also have meant a psychological complex that Americans had about how the Cold War necessitated we trim our democratic aspirations in terms of what was best for our side in the struggle with Soviet Communism. Who will be our Eisenhower when it comes to the matrix of power associated with the authoritarian populism of the Bush administration and will he or she highlight how this “military-religious-media complex” involves a culture of complicity as well as a network of institutional relations that work to undermine democracy?

Name: Claudia
Date: 2004-11-05 15:48:47
Link to this Comment: 11375

I opened up the page and saw the last post (Sharon's) first, and I was startled at how closely it mirrored my own thoughts. I've even used the same language -- not just "scapegoating," but "won on my back." Once I saw the first poll indicating that "moral issues" were cited as the basis for deciding on a presidential candidate for 22 percent of the electorate, I turned off the news for about 36 hours. Of course, moral issues played an emormous role in my decision, too -- for instance, I think that a moral society cares enough for all of its members to ensure that they don't die for preventable reasons because they can't afford health care -- but we all know that in the context of this election, "moral issues" means same-sex marriage. I guess maybe it means abortion, too. That's what passes for consolation right now. It was hard enough to face the fact that the loss of this election means that we're going to continue the same catastrophically arrogant and self-defeating foreign policy we've been following for the past four years. But hearing that "moral issues" stat was even worse. I thought, "a majority of the electorate *agrees* that the country is going in the wrong direction, thinks the economy is in bad shape and doesn't believe Bush's tax cuts made much difference, is worried about the deficit and the future of Social Security -- but voted for Bush anyway because *that's how much they hate me and my ilk*." That is truly dispiriting.


rage and action?
Name: Janet Scan
Date: 2004-11-05 16:29:28
Link to this Comment: 11376

Thank you Sharon for articulating my feelings. I am just stunned that Ohio, which has fewer millionaires and more unemployed folks than many other "Bush" states, was brought to the "red" side by its anti-gay marriage initiative. An initiative, by the way, which explicitly says that no 'sub-division' of the state can allow civil unions.

I've been wearing black & blue since the election. I can't get over the fact that my choice (or whatever) to love a woman is so threatening as to supercede folks' self-interest about jobs, health care and social security. Yes, an election was decided on our backs and it hurts.

However, I'm also a very spiritual and religious person (granted, I'm a Unitarian). I remember about 15 years ago hearing about a gathering of pro-choice Unitarians with pro-life Christians (of various denominations) to try to find some common ground. They found that they all believed in education and in protecting their young people. And they worked together over the period of a year on some common initiatives. Many minds were opened and much hate was dispelled. It was truly a "progressive" activity.

At the time I couldn't imagine trying to find common ground with "those people". And, at the moment, I can't imagine trying to find common ground with the (to be kind) "traditionalists", but I think I need to try. I've started talking with my church colleagues on how to take a more activist approach to our country's healing -- two church communities at a time.

In reading these posts, I'm wondering what role our colleges & universities can & should play in this endeavour and how it will play out. Are we headed into another 60's where college students will play a strong, activist role in defining morality and its connection to the political arena? Will the importance of the moral debate be able to complete with the oppressive message of materialism and the goal of individual prosperity?

I will try to channel my rage into action and will "keep on moving forward." And will hope for partners... of all persuasions.... to join in the action.


scratch a postmodernist: you'll find a fundamental
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2004-11-05 17:51:26
Link to this Comment: 11377

I'm picking up here on Em's query--and Paul's response to it--about the possibility of finding "morality without fixity," as well as Janet's question about what role our colleges & universities can & should play in this endeavour. What I've been hearing all 'round me the past two days is a search, by academics, for a "scorecard," an external standard against which to measure what is right and denounce what is wrong. In the Emergent Working Group, this took on the taste of queries about the "editing of possibility space"--and a claim that the range of choices are defined for us by the external world. In the Language series last night, it took on the color of claims about the science of linguistics, which operates as a sort of "philosophy with a benchmark," one that is faithful to the data of the outside world, not just the imaginative play of the inside one.

And yet, and yet--I need to believe (and think I have some data for doing so!) that we are not defined by what happens "outside." For instance: in the report from South Africa, delivered in the Making Sense of Diversity series this afternoon, there was testimony given about young South Africans who are "knowledgeable about the global community and their place in it," who "know that the future of their country depends on them," and "believe that they can shape the world." In a country with such a troubled past, with so many obstacles in the present--wherefrom that hope? Where does that sense of agency come from? How to recapture it here? (I doubt it's by digging deeper for fundaments--)

Leaping to Conclusions
Name: Rachel
Date: 2004-11-05 19:09:33
Link to this Comment: 11379

Calling people with opposing political views “stupid” is not only childish, but also ignorant. I am ashamed that my peers, my teachers, or anyone on this campus would speak in such a way. And I am ashamed that this even has to be pointed out.

Part of our amazing Honor Code here at Bryn Mawr College is respecting each other, no matter what our differences are in race, color, sexual orientation, religion, culture, ... and (*gasp*) even politics. I sometimes feel as though this last aspect is not always respected and the posts on this forum shocked me.

The point of my entry is not to discuss where I stand politically, but to discuss respect and not getting sucked into stereotypes. It is immensely important to understand that there are no boxes. There is not a box labeled "Republican" with a square opening that every registered republican fits into. I feel that oftentimes when a democrat finds out someone else is a republican, that first person automatically puts that second person in the same box as Rush Limbaugh, Arlen Specter, and George Bush.

As some of you may or may not know (and may or may not have guessed by now), I am a republican. I believe in and am willing to protect my right to bear arms (yes, I’m a member of the NRA), I don't believe abortions are right, and I believe that the protection of small businesses is vital. (I'm not saying these are the only reasons I am republican; they are just a few examples.) But you know what else? I believe that abortion should be a legal option in specific cases, such as rape and if the pregnancy will endanger the mother or child. I have friends who are homosexual, friends who are bisexual, and friends who don't know what they are, but I don't know if I think homosexual couples should or should not be allowed to marry. Or if I have any right to make a decision about someone else’s life.

It may sound like I'm just rambling on about nothing, but I do have a point and I hope you all understand at least part of it.

One of my strongest beliefs about life is that things aren't just black and white -- and I'm not just talking about shades of gray, either. I'm talking about reds and oranges, blues and purples, browns and yellows, sea greens and chartreuses and tans and maroons, and the innumerable shades of each color.

Just because someone is part of a different political party than you doesn't make them evil, or even wrong.

A lot of our opinions of people of specific political parties -- or religions, or anything really -- come from what we hear from or about the people of that party who are the loudest. Don't think that every republican is like George Bush or Rush Limbaugh -- they're just the people we hear a lot. Don't think every member of the NRA is like Charlton Heston, or that everyone who enjoys target shooting is a criminal-in-waiting. I think most people are somewhere in the middle and that the loudest people are often far left or right, so our perceptions of the left or right are thrown off by these loud extremes.

You don't have to agree with what anyone else says or believes, but you do have to respect their right to speak or believe differently than you. We should each respect Mr. X even though he's part of the Y political party. If we can't respect him as a Y, then we should at least respect him as a fellow human being.

For those of you who took the time to read this, thank you. I didn't write this to convert you to my own beliefs or to say, "You're wrong and I'm right!" or anything like that (even though it appears to me that’s all that’s being said on this forum). The idea was to point out that we all have different ideas and beliefs, that we sometimes forget that fact, and that we should try to remember it and be considerate of each other.

a superpower's democracy
Name: Shubha
Date: 2004-11-05 19:23:41
Link to this Comment: 11380

As an international student, I was both moved and impressed by the level of political activism on campus and across this nation. I began to believe in the power of democracy, something that you have learnt to treat with scepticism when you grew up in a country where politics, even at the lowest level, are often steeped in corruption.

The results of this election have indeed convinced me of the power of democracy. That a president, after attacking a developing country with the main objective of exploiting its resources; after using a tragedy like 9/11 to fabricate an excuse for the attack, can still be re-elected by a majority that believes in his MORAL VALUES.

I wished I could vote in this election as a citizen of the world because America affects global politics in a way that no other country's administration does. I don't believe that the majority of American voters realise this; that their vote not only harbours the power to change the fate of their own country, but that of the world. And the fact that these voters make their decisions based on issues of sexuality and a woman's right to chose is just as ludicrous as it is frightening. The power of a superpower's democracy - now that's a new message of terror.

Name: cynthia bi
Date: 2004-11-05 19:57:02
Link to this Comment: 11381

I am furious and I am heart broken. All that I have been fighting for over these past forty years is being repudiated by this election.

The values of the left are not clearly stated, but they are real and they are meaningful. They have to do with the social morality including such things as social justice and the alleviation of oppression. Our concerns are with behaviors that create the public life and impact on the public sphere -- the welfare of the collective. We need to shape the discourse to one of caring and attention to human well-being, the society's welfare not the morality of individuals.

This is still my country and although I am having trouble finding hope, I am not quite ready to give it over to fascism without further struggle.

Cynthia Bisman

Elections woes -- what's next
Name: Vijaya Tha
Date: 2004-11-05 21:23:43
Link to this Comment: 11383

I don't know how I got through that night. I really don't -- everything seemed so dark and hopeless. All I could think of were the losses we're going to suffer in the next 4 years -- our civil liberties, our schools, our environment, our civil rights, our soldiers -- it seemed all that I could do was shake with anger and weep with sorrow.

But you know what? They're worth fighting for, fighting until there aren't any of us left to fight. The only thing that seems left for us to do is to lobby the hell -- and I mean the living hell -- out of our senators and congresspersons. I mean, what else is there? The Republican's haven't got the 60 they need to break fillabuster, and we've still got our most progressive allies: Dick Durbane, Fiengold, Cynthia did a comeback in Georgia, Barack Obama is in from IL, 50 other House members and 20 senators. When you're starting a lobbyist org, those are the numbers you want! Furthermore, we've got two lawyers from Sierra Club, lobbyists from the Union of Concerned Scientists and NOW -- all willing to give us the help we need.

I've started the Student Union to combine all our of liberals together (and I'm helping several other campuses in important states) so we can mobilize to make the democrats a true party of Opposition instead of the mind-numbing accomodation we saw after the 2002 election. Come join us in our first meeting on Monday at 8 in Taylor D to strategize.

The only thing we have left now are our voices -- let's use it to take back our country from Karl Rove and Norquist.

a response to "leaping to conclusions"
Name: Maria
Date: 2004-11-05 22:40:30
Link to this Comment: 11385

Am fascinated by the idea that after reading the opinions voiced here, that someone would suggest that "You're wrong and I'm right!" is "all that’s being said on this forum." What I've taken away from this forum is...

- Well, first of all, I think that everyone on this forum thus far would agree with you that calling someone's view's "stupid" is "childish"...and I'm wondering where you got the idea that anyone here felt otherwise? The only time the word is mentioned is in conjunction with Anne Dalke expressing her distaste for such comments.

I've heard people lamenting that as a country we've"created these constructs to keep ourselves apart"

I've heard that"We need to take that red and blue map of America seriously and find a way to talk – not, I think, about morality or humanity or meaning, or even about difference, but about government, and why and where we come together as a society. If we really believe in difference, we should construct a government that protects difference"

I've heard many people wishing that they had engaged in more dialogues, talked more, shared more, and so this makes me wonder if you were "shocked" at the anger expressed in posting by members of our community who identify as lesbians? If that's the case, I've gotta ask you: are you really shocked? what sort of response do you want? Two people love each other, they want to marry, and the party our country just re-elected not only won't let them marry but thinks that if such marriages were to occur that it would demean the institution. That may not be every republicans belief, but it is the STATED belief of George Bush. At what level is that response shocking? I'm not saying that you have to support gay marriage, but I think that it's unreasonable not to recognize the legitimate pain, fear and anger that the re-election of a president who doesn't think homosexuals have a right to marry is bound to cause in people who would like to marry someone of their own sex. Quite frankly, I don't think that the more emphatic or emotional or negative postings on this forum are about republicans, I think they are about members of our community voicing their hurt and distress that who they are and what they want are considered "unconstitutional" by the president elect and so far as being a member of the Bryn Mawr community goes, I would have thought that the first reaction would be one of compassion for another member of our community who is in pain. They are members of OUR community who were just slapped in the face by 59,459,765 of their fellow Americans who were willing to at least overlook the Republican Candidate's position on that issue. Your point on not putting republicans in boxes is well taken, and I think it's important to keep in mind, especially on a liberal campus to be respectful, but I think on this issue the fact that not "every republican is like George Bush" doesn't really matter, because he his views on this issue are not abstract, they have immediate legislative ramifications that are very very real. While I share your belief that it "is immensely important to understand that there are no boxes" I think it's also immensely important to realize that the leader of the Republican party has put ALL homosexuals in a box, slapped the label “gay” on the side and doesn’t want to let them in the marriage club as though it were his right, or my right, or ANY straight person's right to assume that "we" as members of the straight community have some sort of claim on the institution. I'm a straight woman and this scares me, even though it's not my demographic that takes the hit this time, it is a scary scary thing to me that we have elected a president who is willing to place his personal moral code above the right of a citizen to marry the person they want. That's a pretty big roadblock in exercising one's right to "the pursuit of happiness" again, I'm not saying you have to agree, but I was shocked at what I perceived to be an incredibly dismissive attitude regarding what BIG deal that is to those who identify as members of the gay community. I agree that "the idea was to point out that we all have different ideas and beliefs, that we sometimes forget that fact, and that we should try to remember it and be considerate of each other" but I think that if you identify as gay it's hard to do when the leader of the republican party thinks that who are is against the law.

The pain and promise of pluralism
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2004-11-06 10:43:05
Link to this Comment: 11390

I, for one, am encouraged by the range of concerns, ideas, and perspectives represented in this forum already, and very much hope it will continue to expand in the days to come. What we are about here (I hope) is nothing more and nothing less than trying to find "ways to tell our collective human story in a way from which no one feels estranged". And this means, among other things, talking/listening to one another in ways that can lead to productive and continuing revisions of our own stories, our local community's story, our national story, and the story of the place of the United States in the world community.

This is not an easy thing to do, for any of us. It means, for all of us, being willing to say things about ourselves that we might have in the past have been reluctant to say out loud (perhaps even reluctant to say to ourselves). And it means, for all of us, learning how to hear things that others say out loud as essential contributions to the conversation, and learning how to respond to them in ways that advance rather than inhibit further conversation. We will all be "shocked" in the process, and we all need to learn to think of that not as a justification to draw a line in the sand or otherwise withdraw from the conversation but rather as an indication that the conversation is a live, healthy, and productive one, with promise for all of us.

"We are a human community, and among our greatest strengths is the differences among us." That's a hard thing to fully get one's head around, and a harder thing still to incorporate as a fundamental element in how we conceive ourselves and relate to those around us. Inherent in it is a recognition that we are each distinctive, each evolving ourselves, and each a valuable part of larger evolving communities. The richest and most satisfying stories, for all of us, are not the ones that any of us (or any combination of us) have today but the ones to come, the ones we individually and collectively evolve from talking and listening to one another.

There has never been and will never be any short cut to "liberal democracy". We will, all of us feel, at one or another time, shocked/frightened/appalled by the differences between our own story and those told by others around us. Perhaps though we can learn to accept that, even value it, as part of a process to which we are all committed because of what it makes possible - an escape from recurrent patterns in human history of humans inflicting tragedy on one another and a promise of still richer stories to come, of ourselves, of our communities, and of humanity itself.

it's personal
Name: Ann Dixon
Date: 2004-11-06 11:11:36
Link to this Comment: 11391

Thank you, Sharon, and others, for your comments. Although I've always enjoyed a good abstract discussion (BMC '83), this can't be one of those times. This election was a personal attack on my life, and I don't feel that gays have the luxury of talking abstractly about the future of government, storytelling, etc.

The fallout is starting to happen. The anti-gay marriage Ohio vote is now being used to argue for denying same sex partners benefits, eg health insurance, in the public sector. Health textbook publishers have caved in to demands from Texas that "marriage partners" be revised to "husbands and wives".

How important is health insurance benefits? It can literally be worth thousands of dollars a year for people who are sick (or pregnant!). Right now, even with health insurance benefits, discrimination in the federal tax code requires gay people to pay taxes on their partner's insurance while straight people do not have to pay those taxes. That costs over a thousand dollars a year!

Would those of you who get the thousand dollar benefit by virtue of being straight be willing to donate $1K to a gay rights organization? Is it moral to benefit from a discriminatory government? Perhaps you're thinking, "I can't afford to donate a thousand dollars to anybody!" But in fact, gays don't have the luxury of saying that they can't afford the gay tax on health insurance. (p.s. That's an annual donation.)

How important is language in a middle school textbook? I wouldn't think I would have to spell out that value in an educational community, but consider that language revision is only the beginning. It then goes on to banning gay teachers, banning conversations about gays in schools, banning gay-straight alliance clubs for students, and tacitly approving bullying and gay bashing on campus and off. Matthew Shepherd died because of that environment. And believe me, it's only worse for transgendered people who are beaten mercilessly on a regular basis.

If you have questions about gay marriage, there is a pamphlet for downloading that will explain why it's important and why civil unions are no substitute.

In the meantime, your gay friends are or may be considering in the future whether they might need to leave their homes, families and friends.

A Canadian Perspective
Name: Emily McGi
Date: 2004-11-06 14:58:01
Link to this Comment: 11395

I apologize in advance for the incoherent and disorganized nature of this post...!

I am posting at the request of my best friend, Maria S-W, who suggested that as a Canadian student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia (I lived in NJ for 12 years) I might have a perspective to share.

Well, I am not so sure about my own perspective, but I am more than happy to share the opinions voiced by Canadian classmates over the last few days.

I'd also like to offer an interesting tidbit of info: according to, 64% of the traffic on Canada's immigration web page on re-election day was from U.S. citizens. That's 115,016 Americans. In one day. Which is no surprise considering that yesterday morning, Saskatchewan's first same sex marriage license was granted to 2 women (a little Canadian spitefulness coming out? I think so). It's the seventh province to legalize gay marriage and end marriage discrimination (others include Ontario, Manitoba, British Columbia, the Yukon, Quebec and Nova Scotia). Just yesterday another same sex couple in Newfoundland challenged their provincial government on the basis that prohibiting gay marriage was a violation of their constitutional rights. (Granted, Canadians still have our fair share of opposition and claims that gay marriage undermines the institution of marriage. But so far the legislation stands as is and hasn't been overruled by the federal government). If you didn't know, Saskatchewan is one of the provinces where such legislation would be considered one of the last places to be passed. But there you have it. Proof that it can happen - that the right to marry cannot be denied forever to individuals in love with another human who happens to be of the same sex.

On to Canadian opinions about the election:
Since getting back to Halifax (from Toronto)in September, I have been surrounded by people and posters and voices on the radio urging all American citizens residing in Halifax to get their absentee ballots. People had booths set up at any student function they could get into. There have been chain letters and notices all over the city, rallies, you name it.

The biggest radio station in Halifax (ok ok I know we're not the big, but stay with me here people) held a contest each week which selected one person who would be flown to Florida to "rock the vote" for change - the publicity and marketing for the entire thing was huge, and the response was positive.

But despite all this, it appears some people just didn't get the message - didn't understand how important this election was to Canadians as well. (Hell, we had election parties in any pub that would let us). One girl in my international development studies lamented that although she has 6 American roommates, only ONE of them voted. She was angry because, she explained, her roommates are politically active, with strong opinions and ideas. They are informed and intelligent people. And yet, when it came time to vote, they just didn't get round to it. She was infuriated by their 'apathy', and declared that she couldn't understand people who didn't use that voice which she would have considered such a privilege.

And that's the problem, stated one girl from Calgary: in the last election, Canadians empathized with the American people. They were, from all appearances, stuck with a government they hadn't elected. But now, said this girl, Canadians don't feel bad - now they blame the American people for the outcome. In fact, many are angry at the Americans. Because we know just as well as you do that Americans turned out to the polls in record numbers. And this time, Bush was VOTED in.

Another student complained that the U.S. had failed to acknowledge their role in the global community (his argument was very similar to one posted earlier in this forum). Students here in Halifax are frightened by the American version of "democracy" and its imposition on other countries.

There are definitely Bush advocates in Canada. But the fact that we have a website devoted to "marry an American" (they promise that "no good American will be left behind")is indicative of the sympathy for our liberal counterparts south of the border. They say:

"Now that George W. Bush has been officially elected, single, sexy, American liberals - already a threatened species - will be desperate to escape.

These lonely, afraid (did we mention really hot?) progressives will need a safe haven.

You can help. Open your heart, and your home. Marry an American.

We envision a movement where everyone wins: Freedom of expression and a politically convenient marriage with love and igloos for all.

Canadian singles, tired of the dating scene, are willing to act for love or just plain pity. Let's drop our borders/inhibitions/commitment issues, set a date, pick out our china patterns and wed a sexy American liberal."

Funny yes, but only when it's not your country.

Overall, I think the most popular comment I've been hearing from people in my classes was that they were "disappointed but not surprised". They point to the U.S.' increasing conservatism - the reaction to Janet Jackson's nipple (which my American foreign policy class concluded would NEVER have elicited such a strong response several years ago), the problems with gay marriage rights, the president's religious background, the return to 'family values' - as indicators. They point out that if Kerry couldn't get elected now he never will; he had every anti-Bushite behind him. People weren't voting for Kerry (who people here are accusing of lacking a clear message) or the democratic party (who they accuse of lacking vision) but for an anti-Bush party. So the fact that Bush still succeeded is beyond discouraging and scary for Canadians.

I am sure there may be Canadians who vehemently disagree with some of the views I put forth. But the basic idea I hope to impart is that American democrats are far from unsupported in their struggle to maintain their basic civil liberties. It is just as important to Canadians as to Americans that Democrats continue to make noise and fight for those principles for which they stand. You are not speaking just for your nation but for a global community.

Date: 2004-11-06 16:27:59
Link to this Comment: 11397

i've heard people say in the past few days that though they desperatly disaggree with Bush's agenda they guess that since he WAS elected, that he WON by popular vote than he SHOULD be in office. i don't think that i am "smarter" than those who voted for Bush, that i have a higher IQ. but, I don't care how many people voted for the man and his agenda there is something inside me that KNOWS that his agenda is wrong. i know it viscerally, morally, intellectually. am i arguing against (our style of) "democracy" ? i guess so. it's absolutly ridiculous that i am saying that he shouldn't be in office bc of a FEELING.

But if someone i love is drafted into this god-awful war then my FEELINGS are going to errupt and bleed themselves deep into the farthest chambers of our bleached and vaccuumed government.

the united states has not had a president who has been worse for the environment than George W Bush. what are the implications of this ? scary shit, i think. really really scary. when, in who knows how many years, we start getting sick for unknown reasons, maybe because of the air we are breathing, maybe because of the water we're drinking ... but, we won't know why ... which means that we won't have any hard evidence to convict anyone ... we'll just have a gut awful feeling that George W had some detached, far-away connection to our sick bodies. ((that's a creepy connection, eh?)) but, when we're sick and angry, wanting someone, let alone someTHING to blame, we'll only have hard (though vague) emotions ........ and those don't work in courts.

I'm NOT suggesting a revised system; the system that i am implying is an obviously too dangerous (i.e. giving a certain elite the right to chose the leader of the people FOR the people ... yes, very dangerous and impossible) ... i'm just at a LOSS, a BLANK ... what is going on ? what happens when the majority of people support something that you KNOW to be immoral? what happens when the majority of people support something that violently resticts another's life ?

Maybe i am suggesting that the problem is that people have forgotten how to think objectively. or, people have stoped valeing objective thought. of course pure objectiving, thinking outside of one's own brain is impossible. but, people have stoped trying. we value thought towards actions that will benefit the self. who are the geniouses of the consumer world? rich people. competition has breeded itself deep deep deep into our very natures. We exist in the vaccuum of our individual minds. and, i guess, consumerism and competion has made it impossible to support something that may give The Other an advantage. What are the reprocusions of this? what happens when we are blinded to everything outside of the individual self? we support the american ideal of being able to build our own fortune, a rhetoric of individualism, the individual's oppertunity, and yet, we end up supporting a system that hurts most individuals in this country.

we've seen this phenomena in history before. different conditions, different reprocusions. we must remember what happened in history when governments have implemented violent immorality into the constitution of a nation. when govenments use rhetoric that convinced the people that restiction of civil liberties is the BENEFIT of the people. that the resstriction of civil liberties gaurds us from "The Enemy Within."

I don't even really know what i'm saying ... maybe i'm making inappropriote connections and suggestions ... i don't know ... i'm just scared and lost.

Name: Rebecca Bu
Date: 2004-11-06 18:11:14
Link to this Comment: 11399

I've seen numerous comments about how horrifying this election is, and I am somewhat at a loss as to how to express my own views. I also feel some trepidation at expressing my views, since I know I am in the minority on campus, and feelings run high and willingness to truly listen and understand is low at this point.

1. Voting for Bush does not indicate ~anything~ about a person's character or mentality or how open or closed their mind is. In my years at Bryn Mawr, I've learned that the hallmark of closed-mindedness is dismissing the other viewpoint out-of-hand, for whatever reason. I voted for Bush, for a variety of reasons. I think he has the right idea about the nature of the enemy we face, and he is pursuing the correct course. Regarding WMDs, I didn't give a snap about them - Saddam had been in violation of a treaty for 11 years - that means the state of war still existed. I do not expect flawless execution of this current war because I know that people are human and they make mistakes, despite their best intentions, and regardless of how high the stakes are. Mistakes are made, and some are worse than others, but each person can only do what s/he thinks is right and best. I've studied this president a lot, and he is neither a moron nor evil. He is not corrupt. He is a good man, who is very humble, his faith is sincere and uplifting, not repressive, and has behaved like a gentlemen, even under extraordinary duress and even when encouraged to villify his opponants and critics. Bush has faced many extraordinary circumstances during his first term in office, and has done as well as ~anyone~ could have done, and better than most. Perfect? No; but I do not expect perfection, not from anyone, and certainly not from politicians.

2. I have no idea what any posters here mean about "fundamentalists" in America. The term is too broad, far too broad, and is as condemning and insulting as "nigger", for it presents all conservative and religious people as a characature, a grotesque creature composed of hatred, bigotry, fanatacism, and willful blind arrogance. So far as the issue of gay rights, gay marriage - I accept that each person has the right and responsibility to choose for themselves what they believe, and how they will live. But there are some actions and choices that carry extensive consequences, ones that are not often readily apparent. Marriage is about the community's recognition of a certain relationship, and to upend thousands of centuries of human experience and tradition is extremely radical and demanding. Marriage has never been a right, but a responsibility and an opportunity. Marriage is not about feelings, but duties, about promises to act. The insistant focus on feelings as the primary reason for marriage is at the root of so many broken homes in the past century. Feelings change.

Marriage benefits men and women, but is especially crucial for children. Children have the right to be born into a family where the mother and father are married, and where they maintain their commitment to one another and the family as a unit. The current issue of same-sex marriage is not about what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own home - it is about the foundation of society - the family - and how it is constituted. We recognize as families a variety of different forms - single parent, extended, etc. - but that is because life is imperfect and situations do not always work as first planned. It is not a flaw with marriage itself, but with people. Tax laws are besides the point, and there are other ways to remedy that than to radically redefine marriage. In every culture, in every time, marriage has had the same basic rules: one man to one woman, with certain restrictions regarding age, closeness of blood relationship, and consent on both parts. (Plural marriage is one man having made marriage contracts with each individual woman he is married to; the women are not married to each other.)

3. In response to an earlier comment about whether democracy works when half the people don't get what they want.... That is exactly what democracy IS. It is voicing your views, working to persuade others of their correctness, and then accepting the fact that you won't always get your way. The day before this election, I settled within myself that I could accept and support the election results, should Kerry win. (I did NOT want Kerry to win.) I wouldn't like it, but I would accept it, not be in a state of dumbfounded amazement ("How could rational people DO this???") or appalled shock ("Armageddon is near!!!!"). Ultimately, after researching and debating and arguing and voting - at the time of decision, it often means accepting outcomes one does not fully agree with or like. That is democracy. It is hoping your views prevail, while continuing to live and work and accept the fact that the other side will just as often prevail. How do you think supporters of Ralph Nader feel when they see him lose year after year? They are voting for what they truly want, but you don't see them making plans to emigrate when their candidate loses. Democracy means that your own side does not always win, and you move on and keep living. Period.

4. As far as the fears expressed about Bush overthrowing the Constitution and imposing a Taliban-esque existance on the U.S. and then the world.... It's not gonna happen. Bush has no desires that way, and such a plan would be opposed on most every side - including among those 'fundamentalists' as you call them. Why? Because this election was not about 'imposing' a world view on everyone else - it's about those conflicting views of government and people mentioned earlier. Conservatives largely want government out of the way of individual opportunity and belief - except in areas where there is an overarching human impact, such as abortion or marriage or euthanasia, for example. And the philosophy and thinking behind these beliefs are rather deep, and complex, and too lengthy to explain here in this post. So, I'd recommend sitting down and talking openly and non-combatively with people you know who are conservative, Christian, traditionalist, Republican, whatever. Or visiting and reading the pieces by the syndicated columnists - and reading many many many of them. There is no one representative article, and each writer has his/her own views, personality, style, and focus. I guarantee you will find some obnoxious - I think they choose that style on purpose - but many more you will find quite reasonable and intelligent and rational. And after reading various of these articles over a span of several months, you will begin to understand why conservatives believe and think the way they do.

5. I've heard it said often of late that this recent election was about the triumph of fear over hope, of hate over tolerance. Absolutely not. I am not kept awake nights fearful of terrorists. Nor do I have any worries about my civil liberties or my opportunities of exercising my rights freely. I do not hate anyone, and I do not vote to spite other people - and I don't know any conservative who would. And I know a lot of people - hundreds - and more of them are liberal than conservative, so I'm not living in some cocoon somewhere where "no one I know voted for Kerry". I have heard many hate-filled, condemning, spiteful, vituperative, terrified, histrionic speeches directed against Bush, his administration, Republicans, and anyone who supports him. He's been accused of treason, of anti-American activities, of corruption so heinous you would expect horns to grow out of his head; of being a modern Hitler. If this election was about fear rather than hope, it was more often expressed by those who were opposed to Bush than those who supported him. I don't know why so many liberals are so fearful - I didn't like Clinton at all, but I didn't lay awake nights terrified for the future of my country. I'm concerned about trends - some of them quite worrisome - but I'm not in the state of nervous panic that seems to be common among many on campus and in the media. ... BUSH is not the enemy. He has different views - is that not what diversity is about? Accepting those who believe differently than we do, tolerating them, learning to live with them and to communicate and interact effectively? Not condemning or vilifying them, but tolerating them in truth?

It's a long post, and I tried to keep it contained - there's just so much to say, so much that is misunderstood and seemingly reflexively hated, and I daresay I'll be attacked and harassed for expressing 'hate-filled' and 'bigoted' opinions that 'have no place in the Bryn Mawr community.' But anyone who knows me, will know that such pejoratives have no application to me, and so I'll trust that I shall be met with a more open reaction than I might anticipate.

Rebecca Budd

NY Times and truth
Name: Lisa Kolon
Date: 2004-11-07 10:22:31
Link to this Comment: 11402

All concerned citizens should read the NY Times and Washington Post, as they are among the only media to criticize the current administration. You can download articles from the web by simply registering to do so online (it's free).

The time has come for all individuals to become MORE educated and MORE involved in local and global politics, and not expect those with "more power" to do it for us. We must have more of a say in who is put forth to represent the Democratic party in the future. Otherwise, four years from now, we may be facing yet another losing situation for all free thinkers. Can you say President JEB???

Name: Anneliese
Date: 2004-11-07 12:23:54
Link to this Comment: 11408

Hello all,

I am moved by the passion expressed in all of these postings, the fear, the anger, the grief, but also by the pleas for moderation--that is, the caution against falling prey to the kind of fundamentalism we decry, against overgeneralization and demonization of individuals and groups whose views differ from ours. I find that the latter response resonates more with my own.

Perhaps we need to express these passions first, but then I feel we need to take a step back and try to assess the situation with an eye toward particulars. Is it not a distortion to say that over half the American population voted for the winning candidate? What of those who did not vote? I guess I don't read the numbers as evidence that Americans are moving toward the worldview espoused by Bush, but rather as the outcome of the Bush campaign's all too successful campaign tactics.

I am grateful to those of you who have spoken to the diversity within the two dominant social/political categories. I see no utility in writing off those who disagree with me, and I do not believe that anyone is so attached, or chained, to a particular set of beliefs and assumptions that they cannot learn or change. The barriers to such growth may be more formidable in some cases than in others, but I still do not believe that they are insurmountable.

However, I also realize that I speak from a relatively safe position. I am not a direct target of discrimination, and I thank those of you who are/feel yourselves to be at imminent risk for helping to make that risk more tangible. I still wonder, is it true/accurate to say that the issue of gay marriage was the deciding factor in the election? Someone close to me expressed regret about the movement's timing, implying that Bush might not have won had it not been for the marriage issue. I'm skepical about that, but even if it WAS the deciding factor, I would not share the sense of regret. When it comes to controversial social issues, the timing is never right.

On a related note, I point you to an article in the NY Times (which I would caution you NOT to idealize), about the stance of San Francisco's mayor upon being criticized for his actions on this very issue:

We need to be both idealistic and pragmatic. From the little I know, social change requires a certain degree of "fit" or resonance between a strong movement and the dominant discourses at any given historical moment. Lately I've been wondering about the role of theory, and theorists, in this struggle; specifically, I question the relevance of all the knowledge produced, if it does not reach, or move, a powerful audience. This comes down to story-telling--we can strive to get the story "right" (or at least continually less wrong), but what difference does it make if others do not listen or want to hear it? What's missing from the production of knowledge, from the making of stories, is an element of strategy and political shrewdness--an appreciation for the negotiated nature of language, symbols, and collective stories. More to the point, maybe we need to theorize/tell stories with an ear toward the dominant discourses at play, and find ways of engaging those discourses productively. This means being willing to engage with those whose views terrify/disgust/sadden/alienate us.

I fear I have gone off in too abstract a direction and potentially angered at least some of you who have more immediate, pressing concerns. This was not my intent, and my heart goes out to you. Just as following September 11 I did not share the panic of those around me, I find myself similarly saddened but calm in the face of these most recent events. I hope this calmness does not offend but rather offers some degree of stability in this (appropriately) volatile conversation.


Name: Henry Butl
Date: 2004-11-07 15:01:17
Link to this Comment: 11415

"This, too, shall pass away." Fear not.

Times have been worse:

In 1960 the election was tainted by suspiciously late ballots on behalf of the...winner.

In 1962 we nearly went to war with the Soviet Union.

In 1964 ( the president lied to us about the Gulf of Tonkin and we allowed our Congress to vote us into war.

In 1968 we enjoyed a police riot hosted by Chicago's Democrat mayor, and then we promptly elected Nixon to continue the war in Vietnam while (secretly?) bombing Cambodia with Kissinger, subsequently the Nobel Prize Winning Strangelove of our national life. We had to 'destroy the village in order to save it,' and we did.

We allowed Ford to pardon Nixon.

Last Tuesday, didn't 60% of eligible voters vote? Not bad for a country in which ~20% of those graduating high school are not literate. Does this illiteracy's importation of poverty somehow benefit the remaining 80% of the population?

And, what about the ~20% of our population without medical insurance? Does this year's election matter when the nation's longevity and infant mortality rate are far below what expenditures would predict?
Can we claim to have the 'best' system when the numbers say otherwise?

In the last 100 years, our planet's population has risen from ~1 billion to ~6 billion, of which ~4 billion live in poverty. This is enough biological success for any species. That's ~66% poverty, more than the American voting percentage, and at least as important.

I would suggest (Star Wars: "Let the Wookie win.") a different strategy: Take over the two mediocre parties that so painfully resemble each other: Join them as Nader Democrats and Nader Republicans to out-vote the opposition. I have voted for McCarthy, McGovern, Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton, Dole, Nader, and Kerry over the last few years (for Dole, to protest Hillary Clinton's secret attempts to take over my profession, rather than against socialized medicine per se; for Nader, to protest Clinton's marital perfidy). There is nothing to stop each of us from reforming our two large parties:

1. Instant Runoff voting for party offices and then for Congress
2. Proportional representation (as proposed in Colorado this year) to replace the unit rule in the Electoral College
3. Exemptions from unemployment tax for companies retaining all workers during a recession
4. Prohibition of unfunded mandates
5. Incentive pay plans for public employees, especially teachers
6. Use of the legislative initiative in those 25 states which have it
7. Use of the internet to gather signatures for initiatives.

Churchill asked, "What kind of a people do they think we are?" We must ask ourselves that question. Shall we defend our civil liberties, and protect our libraries from revealing our...reading habits? Shall we insist that everyone experiences due process of law, and is innocent until proven guilty by an impartial jury of peers? Why should we accept anything less than "Equal Justice Under Law", as inscribed on the Supreme Court? Military justice is to Justice as military music is to Music. We owe it to ourselves to conduct fair trials for those we fear, or hate, the most--not because of who they are, but because of who we aspire to be. We can lose this country to our own Domestic Enemies' terror easily enough. We can come to tolerate torture, just as we overlook the overwhelming force that killed children at Ruby Ridge and at Waco. Our tax dollars at work: Remember Pogo (1).

(1) "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

Long-term vs short-term views
Name: Wil Frankl
Date: 2004-11-08 08:58:42
Link to this Comment: 11437

Hello Anne, In the new serendip forum (above) you wrote:

"their [Republicans] world has a longer time span than that of the secular, a greater sense of completeness, a smaller sense of individual importance, a more humble attitude towards what humans cannot control."

This is exactly the opposite of what I see, although I may not be the typical secular example. What I see in my intelligent republican friends and family is an extreme case of myopia. A long term view of national security would take into account the health of our natural resources. Without clean air, clean water etc, we put ourselves in dangerous conflicts, not to mention directly jeopardizing our own health and hence safety. A long term view of economics would take into account that you cannot grow indefinitely, that sustainable practices must be instituted. A long term view of "completeness" would take into account the connectedness of all humanity and would reach out to bridge the gap between white/black, poor/rich, homosexual/hetero and christian/muslim/jew/atheist.

Am I defining these issues too narrowly, too short-sightedly? Could you elaborate.

children are the most compelling reason for marria
Name: Ann Dixon
Date: 2004-11-08 10:26:01
Link to this Comment: 11439

I agree with Rebecca when she says: Marriage benefits men and women, but is especially crucial for children.

Marriage for gays is about children, and about economic fairness to families with gay parents.

According to the last census,

  1. 1 in 3 lesbian couples are raising children. 1 in 5 gay male couples are raising children. These percentages are only slightly lower than our straight counterparts (where it's still less than 1 in 2).
  2. Somewhere between 1 and 9 million children are being raised by gay parents.
  3. At least one same sex couple is raising children in 96% of the counties in the country.

Our children are being denied these rights that children of straight parents take for granted:

The right to civil marriage is about fairness and economic equality for every citizen of this country, especially the children.

Name: Carolyn
Date: 2004-11-08 15:58:47
Link to this Comment: 11444

I don't want the morals of the Bush administration or his supporters... I want the right to chose my own morals. If freedom is supposed to be the foundation of America, why did so many people cast their votes to impose their moral beliefs on others? Experiencing the election has raised so many questions. Why are the 'north' and 'south' politically split? Why did urban areas vote democratic? Why is the nation so closly split (51% to 48%)? Why, for some people, did the election boil down to morals? and why, with all these signs that the system isn't working, that something is not right (look back at the 2000 election and Florida), why isn't something being done? Why aren't we demanding a better system, why aren't we insisting on admission of bias in the media, why do we allow corruption in our politics? Why aren't WE doing anything? What CAN WE do?
Sitting here in the 'bi-co bubble', I feel both safe and exposed. I admire the political activism on campus and the willingness of both faculty, students, and staff to work through these tough issues, but I fear that this enthusiasm and passion is naive and that it does not exsist outside of this community. I feel like America is stuck in a positive feedback loop, that we are getting further and further away from homeostasis... I worry that we have passed the point of no return, that there is no what to stop this departure from a balanced society. I feel like control is a facade, and I am afraid... what will happen when all pretensions of control are dropped?

I apologise if this is inflammatory... I am still working through my emotions about this election and this seemed like a good (if, perhaps, not appropriate) place to vent. I hope you all don't mind... I just need a space to work through my frustration. Reading through your comments has forced me to reflect on how I feel... I am in the middle of that process.

the election didn't scare me; but this does
Name: Carl Marcu
Date: 2004-11-08 19:01:08
Link to this Comment: 11448

I wasn't as disturbed by the election results as much as I was disturbed by this article about the election, entitled "The Ultimate Felony Against Democracy" which is at
It gives an all-too plausible argument with sensible backup that the election was stolen by tampering with the computerized voting machines. I am not an alarmist, but I used to work in business and also with computers, and what he describes is possible.

My initial knee-jerk reaction
Name: Annabella
Date: 2004-11-09 07:39:04
Link to this Comment: 11461

The following is my thoughts written down as I tried to sort through them. Though I currently feel that they are perhaps extremist, I also feel that many of the warning flags are real, and the possibilities put forth here remain.

November 3, 2004
The day after the general election
By Annabella Wood

I am writing today because the Democrats got whipped in the election last night,not in numbers but in numbers of issues and seats lost. We lost the entire Executive branch, and so the Judicial branch will soon go, too. I have tremendous fear regarding this situation. I am afraid our civil rights are on their way out, specifically gay rights, women’s rights and black rights.
But what really gets me is that Bush won by a large margin the popular vote. I have to question, what have we become that we would endorse a president who has so alienated our country from the rest of the world, and so derisively split our countrymen one from another? And how far will the majority, Bush supporters, go before they see the path he is leading them down? My worst fears are that we are headed toward behavior likened to Hitler’s Germany where multitudes of common, decent people were coerced into doing hideous things without questioning what they were doing. They may have questioned it, but not enough to not do them. Is it possible that the American people could do it now? I must think so, or I wouldn’t be so afraid.
I think it has already started. I just have to hope that enough of us will not follow that our country will not be able to replicate the heinous events of WWII. But I at this point have little hope of this.
Current day America is much like the pre-war Germany with its popular leader, Adolph Hitler. Hitler had done things to ingratiate the populace, and when he began suggesting the unmentionable, they continued to follow him. Will we do that? I don’t know. Will Bush ask us to? I don’t know.
But if we are attacked again as on 9/11, he may, and we would as a majority follow him into genocide of the middle easterners, I have no doubt.
During the campaigning, I saw little interest on the part of the voters to investigate claims made by either side. We listened to the rhetoric, chose sides, and then defended our positions against all evidence.
In an ad that ran on local TV, one of our local PA candidates was slandered as to have connections with Al-Queda and the Taliban and even to support rapists and criminals. When I was at a friend’s house in NJ, I heard the very same ad run with a NJ candidate’s name inserted. Nothing else was changed in the ad but the candidate’s name. It drove home to me the point that these slanderous ads had nothing to do with fact, and the ones who ran them didn’t care about being found out. Veracity was simply not a factor.
The republicans took Kerry’s Viet Nam record and made it a negative. Apparently when he got home from his second tour of duty, with decorations, he spoke to congress and told them that we shouldn’t be in the war, it was not ours, we were not winning, and it was time to get out. I consider this an act of great courage, fortitude, and integrity. But the republicans successfully used it against him calling it an unpatriotic act, and people bought it.
Among the highest reasons cited for voting for Bush was moral values. How did the republican spin doctors take the immoral way Bush has led this country, and make it appear more moral than Kerry’s record?
It occurred to me that Kerry had a record, which Bush has little of other than his disastrous four years, and perhaps that gave the democrats not much to work with, but this doesn’t ring true. How is it that the dem’s couldn’t tarnish Bush’s reputation by simply holding up the truth about his conduct in office without slander? How can my countrymen support a president who has stripped us of jobs, health care, education? How can my countrymen support a president who has ruled with fear and derision? He has successfully used the divide and conquer idea to secure his own job for the next four years, and ensure further degradation of the quality of life for the common countryman.
I think last night’s vote was a vote of fear. We have been tormented by our fear of terrorism by this administration. Since 9/11 we have had terrorism alerts and the terrorism warning system which has not gone below yellow since that day. We are believing we are in a very unsafe world, and believe that aggression is the way to make it safe. I think this is why Bush won. He is clearly more eager to go to war than Kerry was.
But this is also what makes me think we could follow Bush to commit genocide if he told us it was to make us safer.
Do I think we would do it? Yes. In our current state of mind, I do.

My predictions:
1) Within the next four years this county will experience being declared in a “State of Emergency” during which all of our civil and individual rights as citizens will be suspended.
2) We will have a draft going at least two of the four years, and those who run will be severely dealt with, and probably their families too.
3) The constitutional rights of minority groups will be severely threatened, with many being stripped away and parts of the constitution will apply to only some of our citizens rather than all. The constitution will be used as a tool to divide us even more than we already are.
4) Roe v. Wade will become history, as will stem cell research and many other scientific research programs that don’t happen to coincide with Biblical doctrine.
5) Individuals will lose their ability to hold corporations responsible for their actions, i.e. lawsuits will be severely limited in scope with a low ceiling of reparations corporations can pay.
6) Separation of church and state will no longer exist in practice, though it will stay on the books.
7) A feeling of “be like us or leave” will prevail among my countrymen and it will be followed by a mass exodus of people of variety as we leave our beloved homeland in fear for our lives.

I believe that America is heading into a major crisis in our near future. The civil strife of the 60’s will pale in comparison to the mayhem we will be seeing on our streets in the 00’s. I can only hope this is so. I haven’t included it in the official predictions because it is in my dream category.

If you are reading this paper, please, please, please take part in proving my predictions wrong. I hope that anyone who reads this, discards it as rubbish and impossible fantasy, then goes about their business to see to it that none of this takes place.
Right now the majority is blindly following a misguided leader simply for the feeling of comradeship and safety. I can only hope that we wake up and stand up in our own knowledge of what is right and wrong and re-examine what our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution truly mean, then live our lives to bring about their manifestation in our country once more.
True safety lies in our including all of the peoples of this world into our lives and our considerations. This is the only way to truly end terrorism and to feel safe in our homeland once again.

Name: Flicka Mic
Date: 2004-11-09 14:47:40
Link to this Comment: 11467

First, I want to say how impressed I am by the intelligent comments written in this forum. I also want to say that although I voted for Kerry, I respect voted for Bush; I just don’t understand it. People have made some very thought-provoking remarks in this forum as to how and why the election turned out the way it did, and although I wish I could contribute something as stimulating, right now I just need to vent.

I, like many others, was shocked when I found out that Bush had won the election. Not only had I become very politically active in the past few months, I spent loads of time reading papers and education myself on all of the main issues surrounding it. Personally, I don't think it was difficult decision. I think Bush has made numerous mistakes during his presidency and there was no way I would ever vote for him. However, what really upset me was that after the election, reporters said Bush won due to "Moral Values". Moral values??? You have to be kidding me! How is Bush moral? Just because he wears his religion on his sleeve doesn't mean he's more moral than Kerry. If you are truly religious, you should use your religion as a way to make you a better person; you don’t need to parade it around like a medal. Just b/c Bush is more open about his religion doesn't mean that Bush is more religious or more moral than Kerry. Kerry is a Catholic; he goes to Church and he prays. Kerry said something very striking at the Democratic Convention. He said (something like), "Some people are trying to claim that God is on their side, but I just pray everyday that WE are on GOD'S side." It really makes you think about how Bush is using his Christian beliefs to win over Christian voters. Over the summer, I once asked a woman who was pro- Bush why she was voting for him and she said, "Because he is a good Christian." Well you know what?! I'm a Christian and I voted for John Kerry! And since when did this country require a Christian president??? I thought there was supposed to be a separation of Church and State in America, but apparently I'm mistaken.

Onto other issues like the war. I’m sorry, someone please explain to me: How is it “moral” to lie to the American people (and Congress for that matter) about how Iraq has weapons of mass destruction , say that they are linked to Al Qaeda, convince people that if we don’t attack Iraq they will attack us, then find out that none of that is true, but say that it is the US’s “duty” to spread democracy in the world, call the Iraqi war a “War on Terror”, but claim that we are really doing the Iraqis a favor by creating terrorism in their country, and then claim “Mission Accomplished” when hundreds of American and Iraqi soldiers are dying every day?!?! How is that moral? Because I really don’t understand it. Yes, Saddam Hussein is an awful person and dictator, and yes everyone is glad he’s out of power, but let me tell you something: The end does not justify the means! You can’t just claim that even though you lied to create an unnecessary war, the Iraqis are better off for it. Ask them if they are better off! The war on terror has created terror in their nation b/c of what we did. Yet, Bush can justify his actions by saying that the spread of democracy is a necessity and an American duty. Republicans try to make excuses for Bush: “well, how was he supposed to know there were not weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Anyone could have made that mistake.” That’s what the CIA is there for!!! That’s their job: go undercover, get the intel, figure out what is true and what is not. If they can’t do their job effectively, then it’s their fault as well as Bush’s. Kerry was right when he said we need to pass a “global test” before we go to war. If we propose going to war and the United Nations as well as countries around the world strongly oppose it, then maybe, just maybe, we should consider that it’s not a good idea. And since when did preemptive strike become an acceptable solution to a problem??? After all, how would we feel if a country invaded the U.S. because it felt that Bush was a dangerous president who needed to be taken out of office? We’d say, “Hey wait a minute, you can’t just occupy any country you want.” That’s basically what we did. Bush decided to use the terrorist attacks as an excuse to invade Iraq.

America really needs to stop thinking it can do whatever the hell it wants, and start respecting other nations, and I believe that if John Kerry had been elected, he would have tried to accomplish this. You can’t just govern in this world by disregarding others’ opinions and beliefs. (We have even seen that even in this forum about respecting others’ political beliefs). But the point is that we are not alone in this world. The U.S. can not govern as if it is the only country that matters. It isn’t, and its actions drastically affect other countries. I realize that there are many issues besides the war that surrounding the presidential election, but for me that was the one issue that set me over the edge. There is no excuse for us to be in a war right now, and I think that even God would agree that war is never the answer. So then why did 51% of this country vote for George Bush?

Name: maria
Date: 2004-11-09 20:25:41
Link to this Comment: 11477

"To say that the future will be different from the present is, to scientists, hoplessly self-evident. I observe regretfully that in politics, however, it can be heresy. It can be denounced as radicalism or branded as subversion. There are people in every time and every land who want to stop history in its tracks. They fear the future, mistrust the present and invoke the security of a comfortable past which, in fact, never existed" -RFK

My best guess is that 51% of the country voted for Bush for one or more of the following reasons: affinity for authority, loyalty to the incumbent, as a result of the religeous right re-framing what constitutes political discussion in this country to be based on "morality", those who identified with the armed forces and think that Bush will give the army more money...there are a whole host of reasons that people vote the way they do, but most of it has to do with your parents and what party they identified with (and, I suppose, how much you identify with you parents). (Maybe they like the way he says "nuclear"?) BUT, important to remember, 51 percent of the country DID NOT vote for Bush. 51% of the PEOPLE WHO VOTED in the election voted for Bush. We tend to think of our system as being a way that the citizens can speak, but not everyone has a voice, a lot of people in this country have no reason to believe that anyone gives a damn what they think, and so they don't vote and so the party that gets put in power doesn't have to answer to those marginalized groups and doesn't make their needs a priority and the cycle KEEPS GOING. It's about power and who has it and who gets to use it. Which means it's also about money. (Which, by the way, is why money cannot be considered speech and is SO not protected under the 1st ammendment.)

Long & Short (continued)
Name: Wil Frankl
Date: 2004-11-10 08:06:08
Link to this Comment: 11482

At 04:19 PM 11/5/2004, Anne wrote:

.....what i meant (really simply) was religious time--
a sense among the religious that this world/this time is not what defines us/what we should do.
it's really REALLY long term: millenial. the coming of a new age. completeness not in "real time,"
but beyond this place that is here.
wendell berry-ish.

Wil’s response:

"Coming of a new age" as a long-term world view is, in my humble opinion, a huge cop-out. It allows believers to throw up there hands and say "it's out of my hands", or " that's just the way it is." Where does that leave Paul's "I think, therefore I can change" If I don't believe I can make a difference, that I can change current environments, then I have no hope. What I place my hope on is very different then our true believing friends. One relies on the individual to play a role in creation, one view releases the individual from responsibility. The later being a very precarious precept to rest your hope on for a better world.

Fox "News" IS the Enemy!
Name: Lisa Kolon
Date: 2004-11-10 10:34:06
Link to this Comment: 11484

I recommend viewing "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War On Journalism" if you really want to be filled with righteous anger.

the longer view: an open conversation
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2004-11-10 12:40:37
Link to this Comment: 11489

I'm "tagging back" here to Wil's question about whether thinking in longer time frames won't keep us from having a sense of agency--but thinking that, before I do, anyone else visiting here might be wondering about our own (more narrow!) frame of reference. Earlier this summer, Wil and I had a long conversation with one another about the radical unpredictability of the world, and how we can possibly make responsible decisions in such a world without having--because we can't ever have--all the relevant/complete information. Or, as Wendell Berry says, We must not be misled by the procedures of experimental thought: in life, in the world, we are never given two known results to choose between, but only one result: that we choose without knowing what it is.

I evoked Wendell Berry repeatedly in that conversation because he speaks to the two poles of my own desires (perhaps the desires of us all?): for a known place (a place of safety), and for an unknown place (a place of exploration). Berry is also one of those who, along w/ Wil, believes that it is wise to

Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest....

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

What Berry repeatedly evokes is not only a longer view, but a wider one: not the sort of community I grew up in (xenophobic, stranger-hating), but rather one that hasn't existed yet (or maybe, just maybe, one that this sort of forum gestures toward?): "a good community has to imagine the strangers that come to it; it has to imagine its misfits and its enemies...."

There's been fear expressed here, a couple of times, that a real wide range of views aren't welcome on this forum.

Do we really want to live in a neighborhood where there are Republicans, Socialists, gays, religious right, all on our block? and talk with each other?


All of which is background for my saying (now): if we could take this longer/wider/more capacious-if-never-complete view, if we could re-set the telescope to the Hubbel "deep field" (say), if we could think in terms of a view from everywhere, incorporating the widest range of particular views in order to discover what can be seen in common...

maybe we could (take the time, as we are taking it here; and thanks to all who are taking the time, to) have more open conversations? As a step toward a shared future, with room for everybody in it?

Name: Sandy Schr
Date: 2004-11-10 20:51:23
Link to this Comment: 11494

The issue of allowing for diversity is not a way of getting away from the Bush administration as a threat to democracy; it brings us back to that. Only our Americanism wants us to turn away. We need to resist the privilege we give ourselves as Americans to turn away from the abuses of power enacted in our name around the world and even here at home.

Look at this way. Say that we all agreed that President Bush had all the right policies on abortion, sex, marriage, stem cells, taxes, social security, welfare, surveillance, fighting terrorism, and the war in Iraq. We would still have to confront that no other President in living memory has done more to work to manipulate public opinion, suppress public access to information, squelch dissent, deny people the right to vote, and do so in ways that systematically disadvantage the poor, especially nonwhites, and with such devastating consequences for both domestic and foreign policy.

Therefore, I would suggest that if we believe in democracy we actually have a moral obligation to oppose the Bush Administration, and in fact hold the President accountable for his actions, including investigating his role in each of these subversions of democracy with an eye to deciding whether that constituted grounds for impeachment.

But instead, today in the fervently religious U.S. that is considered irresponsible thinking and a misuse of the word morality. Defending democracy is not what is taken for morality in politics today. Instead, morality in politics is more often the pretext for the opposite, i.e, for saying that we can practice what for years people have called a willful ignorance and turn a blind eye to these subversions of democracy. Morality legitimates the undermining of democracy in the name of realizing allegedly more important ends like ensuring our safety, safeguarding our values and protecting our pocketbooks.

From where does such a willful ignorance arise? Is there something about our history as Americans that annoints us with the privilege to practice such a collective amnesia?

I would suggest there is. Americans have for over two centuries told themselves stories for about how we are living in a "new promised land," blessed by God, to create a "city on the hill," to realize heaven on earth in the ideal political system. This is called "American exceptionalism" and over time it has bred an indifference to our relationship to the rest of world, often in the form of an isolationist foreign policy, but more lately in a unilateralist policy as the world's superpower that feels entitled to bend the world to its will.

9/11 has added a significant element of self-righteous victimhood to this sense of moral superiority. Now we feel authorized to stand up for ourselves and even more defiantly make the world conform to our needs, this time to extract revenge, mete out justice, and most fundamentally to intimidate others that they should never threaten us again.

In this context, many people turn a blind eye to the lying, the deceptions, the manipulation of public opinion, the suppressing of dissent, the systematic undermining of democratic rights, including access to the ballot.

Self-righteous moral superiority encourages a willful ignorance about how the Bush Administration will use power however it can get it to ensure its political agenda succeeds.

A sad irony is that we then support policies that make us less free and democratic at home even as we profess to be waging war on the world in the name of protecting democracy and freedom.

This is an upside down world where authoritarian anti-democractic practices are touted as representing the will of the people and the fulfillment of democracy.

In the mean time, international observers tell us that the U.S. has one of the worst election systems for ensuring fairness and equity of any legitimate democracy in the world today. And what do we do? We self-righteously dismiss international observers as anti-American. Falling back on our heritage of American exceptionalism, we refuse to let people from the rest of the world criticize us and we defiantly insist on accepting our undemocratic, inequitable and patently unfair election system.

This is a very unhealthy time for the U.S. as a society that aspires to having a political democracy.

It is also a very unsafe time to be a dissenter. I am old and don't care what people will do to me. I used to think that the youth would save us. Now I think it might be the old.

If people reading this take this as a personal challenge to reconsider their relationship to the unquestioned privilege of being associated with American power. That would not be a bad thing.

Hey, what's College about but learning to question. Question what you know, what you believe. And do it now, while you can.

new maps of the election
Name: betsy
Date: 2004-11-11 11:49:19
Link to this Comment: 11512

these may help make the the election not so black and white or red and blue.

Name: Dan Marks
Date: 2004-11-11 13:52:48
Link to this Comment: 11516

It's amazing how many uninformed, ill-informed and unaware people there are in this country. We have regressed and are on the road to nowhere. Re-electing Bush was a death sentence for the environment. For some sobering facts, I encourage you to visit the following web sites:
Public Citizen -,,,,
These organizations do a great job of keeping tabs on the evil doings and general ignorance of the Bush administration.

on being uninformed ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2004-11-11 15:58:34
Link to this Comment: 11517

It seems to me that the election showed that we are ALL "unaware, ill-informed, and uninformed" about a number of things, including the concerns and perspectives of our fellow citizens. And my own personal feeling is that the kind of mindset from which gratuitous insults arise is, irrespective of traditional political persuasion, part of why that is so, and likely to make it worse rather than better. We can ALL use sources of information/stories in addition to the ones we normally use, Including ones we might previously have dismissed as "ill-informed". I still don't think there is any way to the needed evolution of a "collective human story ... from which no one feels estranged" other than for ALL of us to be able to learn from, rather than to dismiss, the stories of others.

A note on my previous post...
Name: Rachel Cre
Date: 2004-11-11 16:50:43
Link to this Comment: 11520

When I mentioned republicans being called "stupid," I was not just referring to this forum (in which I believe there was only one such usage of that word, besides in my own post). I have heard "stupid" and similar words used on campus and in opinions in newspapers, online, on TV, etc. If I gave the impression that I was only speaking about the forum when I mentioned this, I apologize.


a new addition in a new format ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2004-11-11 17:57:21
Link to this Comment: 11521

Sometimes things people have to say that are worth hearing are a little long for posting in the forum, as for example an essay by Annabella Wood called "The End of Terrorism" that says in part

"you still can not control the behavior of others. The most you can do in this direction is to inspire them through your example."

Happy to make materials that contribute to this forum conversation but don't quite fit the forum format available in other ways on Serendip, providing as here a link to the material itself. If you want to make contributions of this kind, email me.

and another ....
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2004-11-11 18:21:08
Link to this Comment: 11522

"The Week After the Election" by Lucy Darlington

"She wants me to hurt someone. I tell her I know the impulse. I remind her of our agreement that emotional and physical harm are unacceptable methods of assuaging pain ... Rather than hiding in fear how about opening your heart even wider than before and let yourself be surprised. Don't become them."

what our votes mean
Name: Mark
Date: 2004-11-11 22:10:59
Link to this Comment: 11526

I applaud everyone who has posted for their thoughtful commentary.

I want to make just one small comment on how much "thoughtfulness" we can read into this election, because many of us (me too) want to be able to draw conclusions from the crass selection we were offered between Bush, Kerry, Nader, and staying home.

I think for most people, the choice was not based much in ideology. They are scared, they feel threatened and it seems (to them) like a bad time to give up fighting the war on terrorism, regardless of their misgivings. It's true, some people were encouraged to be frightened of gay marriage. And others decided that if the vote was really lawyers vs doctors, they were going to vote for doctors. And not a few people voted for more tax cuts because they need, or think they need, more money. But overall, I am not sure that these votes "mean" in the way that we are writing about them. All of the choices had negative aspects about them. Almost no one had a choice he or she was excited about. To the extent that we were sure who we wanted to vote for, most of us were "sure" on the basis of which candidate we DIDN'T want to win.

My vote for the Democratic candidate was not a vote of confidence in that party and if Kerry had won, it would have been over-reading (in a big way) to say that I thought he was going to be a good president. I only voted for him (and I only voted) because it seems to me that the only way out of Iraq is through some international collaboration. And Kerry's primary virtue as a candidate to me was that he had not completely spent his credibility in the international community. I don't respect his vision. I don't agree with him on too much. And, like many Americans, I found his stand on the war to be slippery and disingenuous.

Frankly, I am mighty suspicious of anyone who is comfortable identifying her/himself with either of the two major parties.

And if I am angry about the results of the election, I am angriest at the Democratic party, which failed to nominate a truly viable candidate. With our nation in a war that scares us all and which most of us regret, with our economy failing, with our position in the world--in particular our moral authority-- fallen, our army caught red-handed torturing and murdering, our civil rights violated, and the intellectual integrity of Science jettisoned, how damned hard could it have been to come up with a candidate who could beat a man who (by all accounts) lost 3 of 3 debates, turned a huge budget surplus into a monster deficit, and sat reading to schoolchildren while the nation was atacked?

Kerry's team ran a lame campaign (which suggests they might well have been inept in running the country as well) . And the votes of many of us who are writing here were taken for granted. Let's not forget: there was no serious candiadte who was pro gay marriage. Or anti-gun. Or against the no child left behind legislation.

One of the keys to being a careful reader is to not read too much.

No question: Kerry's loss puts us all in line for some hardships in the years to come. But I don't think we can say too much about what the electeion "means" because I don't believe the electorate spoke clearly. It had no voice. Or I didn't, anyway.

Date: 2004-11-12 00:04:10
Link to this Comment: 11528

Bush may have won the election but he does not have the power. Instead, the power is now more than at any time in recent decades embedded in the discourse of Christian morality. Bush made a Fastian bargain with the devil of Christian morality to win the election by promising to pay homage to Christian moral talk about abortion, gay marriage, stem cells, just war, etc. Now, even if less born-again Christians voted for him than last time, he is stuck having to fulfill that moralistic agenda. Witness his immediate call for quick action on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, his replacement of Attorney General John Ashcroft with Alberto Gonzales. What's next? We will have to see. Bush may have won the election but how he won means he will almost surely lose in the long run. He will have to cede power to the Christian moral discourse that helped him get elected. He may be master of the White House but he is a slave to morality. And for that he will rue the day that he made his Faustian bargain. He will roast if not in hell than in the infamy of presidents who sold their soul so they could win at any cost, only to then have to pay, pay, pay the piper of political mystification that made their election possible. Bush will have less wiggle room now that he mortgaged his political future to a narrow political agenda that even he does not necessarily want to be the defining discourse of his presidency. His legacy will be as the war president who had to spend his political capital paying back an overly narrow discourse for the right to stay at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The sad thing is that while Bush has now less power than he did before, he will be required to inflict more pain on the world. If he tries to resist his enslavement to the rigidity of moralistic discourse, I am so there to help him. Bygones be bygones, I will be the first and best Bush supporter. Don't hold your breath; he has not shown any signs yet of resisting. But we can hope.

Name: Sandy Schr
Date: 2004-11-12 00:05:20
Link to this Comment: 11529

i posted the last comment. didnt mean to be anonymous.

Name: Ann Ogle
Date: 2004-11-12 09:47:19
Link to this Comment: 11530

Here's an interesting website I found in an English newspaper

Name: Gilda Rodr
Date: 2004-11-12 13:28:10
Link to this Comment: 11533

I've been reading this forum since it was started, and it has helped make sense of my feelings right now and my goals for not just the next four years, but my future in general. As an international student, I share the powerlessness of many around the world who are negatively affected by U.S. policy and decisions, especially the current administration. I've always been aware of my white, heterosexual privilege, but this election has made me realize how much the gap is widening between those who are like me in those respects and those who are not, so many of whom are people I love. And, as a Mexican, my ever-present fear of the dominant U.S./Western culture stamping out my people's way of life has increased in a way that I never thought possible.

I'd like to invite all of you--students, faculty, staff, friends--to contribute your thoughts, feelings, ideas, to the upcoming college news centerspread on the election. For those of your not familiar with the format of our centerspread, it is a space for anyone to voice their opinion on the given subject. There are no length specifications and we welcome pictures and art, too. Please send your submissions to by Friday, November 19 at noon.

And thank you everyone for posting to this forum. Your contributions have been a great source of both comfort and further, necessary questioning of my own ideas over the past week and a half.

Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2004-11-12 16:48:36
Link to this Comment: 11536

The last time I spoke here, I was advocating for a "telescopic " view: a perspective akin to the Hubbel deep field. I'm piping up again now to say I've been noticing an interesting pattern over the past day or two, one which seems to move in the opposite direction, what I'd call the "microscopic": an invitation--rather than pulling back for a long view--to dig down, internally, for a close-up.

We've been given, for instance, Lucy's story of herself trying to talk reason to her little girl self; Annabella's invitation to reconsider one's own belief system (and the power that it allows terrorists to hold over one); Mark's observation that his vote should not be "overread" as a clear expression of what he believes; and Betsy's offering of those "purple maps" that give a "closer-up" view of voting patterns (by population and by county)--a re-representation that was, to me, an encouraging indication that this country is not as polarized in its thinking as those first election maps represented us as being.

I took a set of those maps along to my Sex and Gender class yesterday, as an invitation to the students to see if we could "write a story big enough" to include everyone in it (in this case: a story of what marriage is for). We thought, by the end of class, that we couldn't, that even "integrating" ourselves into areas of the country colored differently than our own, mixing up those colors by mingling and talking ("wife swapping, gay style"), wouldn't get us anywhere, that no matter how much we talked, minds would not change...

But since then, there's been some hope, some indication (on that class forum) that a space of possibility may lie (for instance) in the disjunction between the small number of states that allow gay marriages, and the much larger number that allow gays to adopt children; there is evidence that one-to-one interactions can have remarkable effects in changing minds. Beginning, one-to-one, w/ oneself?

Bush re-election
Name: Peter Cock
Date: 2004-11-14 23:06:52
Link to this Comment: 11563

Hi everyone,
I have joined this forum only tonight with a view to re-determining my loneliness into something I can deal with and move away from.
I have enjoyed for the most part the many views and perspectives of your contributors and certainly their openess has led me to a greater understanding of my own fears and obstacles. So thanks for that.
I live in England UK and do not keep up with world events much at all but
it seems fairly clear to me that in order to realise your dream of this tolerant ,understanding and liberal community you surely HAD to vote Bush in again. With 66% turnout and 52% taking the vote it is unfortunate but there you go. Removal of Bush, Hussain or Blair forces a change in focus or a shift in perspective which is not what you need right now.
There is no time like the present as they say , so whilst the iron is hot just get to it for goodness sakes!
To quote some stuff I read earlier, Lead by example
Open your hearts - you,ll be surprised.
I wish you all luck with your venture and what may come of it. Who knows you might shape the world for all of us . In any event the rest of the world would surely respond in a good way to a positive movement in your country. If not - well you,ve got Bush!!

Bush re-election
Name: Peter Cock
Date: 2004-11-15 01:22:48
Link to this Comment: 11568

I would just add that the seventh letter of Plato may give some
guidance here if you can get through to the actual advice he is giving.
Good luck

collective apology
Name: Anneliese
Date: 2004-11-20 20:54:06
Link to this Comment: 11700

Go to the following website and click on "gallery"--

The USA and the world
Name: Heyha
Date: 2004-11-24 07:37:46
Link to this Comment: 11752

I write from S.E. Asia and share your disappointment that so many Americans continue to be deceived by someone who doesn't care about them. Sadly, many American voters think that Dubya's jokey smirk means that he's "one of us". Actually, he smirks because he doesn't care what you think: he's gonna say it anyway and what are you gonna do about it - smirk-smirk!

Here's him admitting it to Bob Woodward:

"I'm the commander -- see, I don't need to explain -- I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."
~ George W. Bush
as reported in the Washington Post, also in Bob Woodward's book Bush at War.

As for same-sex marriage, while I'm not an expert on American constitutional law, it does seem that forbidding it or levying unfair taxation may have legal remedies. Regretfully, minorities cannot always depend on enlightened majority goodwill and need legal determination of their rights.

What about us in "the-rest-of-the-world"? My distant view, undoubtedly simplistic, is that wars are costly and an extravagance for governments with deficit budgets. Getting rid of the Taleban was a good idea: I think that being cruel to women is intolerable and stopping others from enjoying music and dancing is literally inhuman. Saddam, too, had to go as is now clear from the influence he was buying with illicit "oil-for-food" sales revenues. Sooner or later, Saddam would have secured sufficient UN Security Council votes to lift trade sanctions and would have been able to buy what he needed for nuclear weapons development.

Winning wars for "regime change" is mostly about firepower which the US military has many times over any potential adversary. Building a new nation from the destruction of war requires manpower. Skilled manpower: plumbers, electricians, mechanics, machinists, welders and storekeepers, clerks, IT specialists and medics, laboratory technicians ... the kinds and quantities of skills that only a conscript force possesses.

Regardless of who won the elections, the US President would have to either reduce the deficit or withdraw from Iraq. Only with monumental stupidity could a President think of borrowing more money. Dubya's already done that. He's still smirking!

I'm not Canadian
Name: Arielle Ab
Date: 2004-12-13 19:42:49
Link to this Comment: 11965

After the election I was in shock. While I’ve always been interested in politics whenever they’re brought to my attention, I rarely go out of my way to participate. In high school I claim the uncaring nonchalance of those too young to vote and unaware that I could participate in other ways. When I came to college my first taste of American politics was on September 11, 2001. After watching that plane crash into the second tower over and over again, people jumping to their deaths only two hours from my new home, I’ll honestly say I couldn’t bare it. I turned the T.V. off and it now dawns on me that I never turned it back on- not until this election. This time I voted. This time I cared. This time, I was horrified yet again.

My thoughts raced through everything from the war that may cripple my generation, to the countless young girls who will be fucked over if/as abortion rights are rolled back even further coupled with the lack of sex ed in schools- oh- except of course for abstinence. I thought about gay and lesbians across the nation who felt the bite of fear and discrimination and I thought “shit! I’m not going to be able to travel as an American for the rest of the decade.” Let’s face it, waving the stars and stripes around in a foreign country nowadays is less than beneficial to one’s health and mental peace.

When I traveled abroad I was told to say “I’m from Canada”. I did for the first couple of weeks until someone asked me what the capital was and I said Vancouver. (Geography is not my strong point) I didn’t mind. I hadn’t liked it in the first place because I am American. I was born and raised in this country. I’ve lived and studied in China, Israel, Spain and Mexico and each one was amazing and incredible in it’s own right but so is the United States. So often we are caught up in the aweful things that happen here; racism, sexism, hate-crimes, welfare cuts, war, our mentally challenged and murderous president all covered by the overarching umbrella of hypocrisy and self-righteousness. Yes, it’s here and real but I am not going to turn my back on the nation that raised me. I am just as American as President Bush. I will not run away to Canada. I will not stop voting. I will not stop voicing my opinions. There is no way to distinguish where I end and my country begins, the boundaries are too blurred. Where would we be if Gloria Steinem, Martin Luther King, Betty Friedan, Judith Butler, Harvey Milk, Rosa Parks and millions Americans had all fled to Canada, refused to fight for a better version of America? I will not stop traveling nor will I say I’m from Canada - I’m not. I am American and proud of it.

Name: Christine
Date: 2004-12-14 01:12:06
Link to this Comment: 11969

Thank you everyone for opening your hearts and our minds just a bit; tonight I feel the extraordinary pangs of sorrow and despair for these many and various injustices.

But I won't write of what you all know too well for I must be thankful for the infinitesimally short moment of time we now occupy. How short is the present time within which we may continue these great deeds: to aspire to live through and with hope that each new day provides the means for fostering good! Small though we are, there are endless sources of beauty to discover if we only admire the world with astonishment as I believe we are naturally inclined. Thus each day I feel renewed with earthful vitality and passion for this life, curiously even its hardships.
But I know I am simple, optimistic fool.

I must tell you all that I have been inspired by you who have engaged each other in this sincere reflection of truth, which I trust (perhaps from experience or faith) can only increase love. Many of these postings have been beautiful, even in their intense pain, and they have moved me to feel your intense anger, sweet calmness and bitter tears. I would venture to say that never before have I empathized so deeply with others' outrage nor been so inspired by the unmitigated musings of strangers and friends; I am certainly the better for it.

So I beg you all to renew your resolve and continue to combat silence and fear, the ever-advancing enemies of those who endeavor to live freely.

Date: 2005-01-17 02:28:28
Link to this Comment: 12049

As Chomsky has said - the USA is a menace in the world and a continuing threat to world peace. It is debatable whether the US government is less evil than the stalinist and Nazi regimes in terms of ruthlessness and racist predilection. The nation started with a dedication to "freedom" but still with slavery and later converted this to industrial slavery inherited from Great Britain in the Industrial evolution and spreading like a disease throughout the world. It is amazing in terms of arrogance the protestations of liberty and democracy propounded by the core beliefs of the US in sharp contrast to their actions.

Name: Arshiya Ur
Date: 2005-04-29 01:56:32
Link to this Comment: 14944

What I am angry somewhat about is this notion of romance associated with different places. I’ve traveled a lot and I know how romantic new places can be so I guess I sort of identify with this. But it really makes me angry talking about places in contexts where romance is just stupid and meaningless. Like the tsunami – western countries pouring in buckets of money to help poor kids that they will never see. Not for a second do people donating money stop and questions whether money is what people need. It made me sick that Bryn Mawr was having a charity karaoke fund-raiser. I don’t know it seemed sick that’s the only word I can use. The solution seemed so simple. People would sing, people would pay money, the money would go to UNICEF and then hopefully (but by this time the organizers of the fundraiser have no control) go to help some poor kid in some vague way. Why didn’t any one ask whether UNICEF was the best place to give the money? Why didn’t the organizers research to find out that 80% of the money you donate to UNICEF goes to cover administrative costs in the offices and not directly to children. Why didn’t people think that money might not have been the thing that people needed most? Over the winter break when the tsunami hit, a bunch of us started gathering things that the people in coastal areas might need, medicine, blankets, grains... The Red Cross stopped accepting cash donations within a week of the tsunami. There was simply too much money and very little infrastructure to channel it into the right hands. There were inexperienced people handling way way more money than they could manage. Why did the charity fundraiser become something fashionable for people to do on a Saturday night? This is what upsets me. The world doesn’t need people to sit around their dining tables and discuss tragedies. The word doesn’t need unnecessary romance. We need activists – people who will get up and go and find out what’s happening before they decide to donate half their savings account. I don’t see this as a “cold, hard reality”. But I do see it as genuine and informed care for people elsewhere in the world.

This is an unrelated thought – but it’s what I’m thinking of so… A professor once said to me “let it rip”. She was talking about letting my mind wander and really go crazy with describing all the sensory details in a story. But I’ve begun to apply it to my life in general. It inspires me to really just let whatever I’m thinking about “rip”!

11 September 2006
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-09-10 11:23:03
Link to this Comment: 20333

Immediately following the events of 11 September 2001, Serendip opened the first of a series of on-line forums for public discussion of those and related concerns ...
We need to hear each others' stories, so that we can better tell and retell our own and, in doing, contribute our own pieces to the continually evolving human story. And we need not only to feel but also to reflect and think, to find the new and still better ways to make sense of the world we find ourselves in ... and to remake it anew.
Five years later, it seems appropriate and desirable to reflect on where we were, have been, and are going, looking back to look forward. The links here provide access to Serendip materials related to and growing out of the events of 11 September 2001. It is no less important today than it was five years ago to share stories as part of finding "the new and still better ways to make sense of the world we find ourselves in". Please join in.

IMAGINATION: time and space and memory and presenc
Name: mark lord
Date: 2006-09-13 10:26:58
Link to this Comment: 20385

It is 9/13 and this is the first opportunity I have had to reflect. So much for commemoration.

What I remember now, looking back, is the time there was to reflect on the significance of what happened that morning. Becuase everything inessential stopped, because deadlines and boxscores and housekeeping were all suddenly unimortant, there was time and the present sense of obligation to let it all sink in, to register and consider and to be present in that terrible moment.

I remember the empty skies. The sky was an incredible blue that morning, which we all know now from having seen it on video a thousand times or so. But the blueness and the emptiness of the skies went on for DAYS. The low rumbles that no longer register to us because air traffic is so ubiquitous, were so present by their absence.

It didn't take lots of us to rush to judgement. In hours or minuntes even (mea culpa) we had explanations on our lips to explain away the horror. In the larger community we were called to action, to sacrifice, to mourn and pray, and hate our enemies. Those calls to sacrifice and to mourn and hate go on til this day and they sound sadder and more empty with each passing day. In our own ivory tower, we had explanations and blame for those in charge, our own brand of hating, and anger.

All the anger was righteous and deeply felt. Many of the explanations on both sides were plausible. No specific point of view seems to have emerged victorious. The President and his administration continue to wage war in my name, snuff out more young lives every day, generate more hate for our nation around the world, make more and more people (Muslims and not) think of us as a nation of murderers, torturers, and violators of international law and the Geneva conventions. Americans on the left (and I use the term very loosely I should say Democrats) proved incapable of nominating a candidate who could present an attractive alternative to the current president. Things are a mess.

Two things stand out in my mind. First, the empty skies in the days following the attacks. The vast space and time in which we could reflect, in which we had the opportunity to do better than we have in terms of considering a response. I beleive that in taking the time to recollect that sadness, we can create, perhaps, the space and time we need to respond better to the current situation.

Second, I remember the Report of the 9/11 Commission, which identified 4 basic areas of failure that led to the sad events of that day five years ago. Three of the areas are connected to the machinations of government, and the Commission offered detailed steps to improve our capacities in those three areas (most of these remain unimplemented).

The fourth area of failure, for which the Commission offered NO solutions or steps toward a solution was the FAILURE OF IMAGINATION. We were not able to imagine how others thought of us. We were not able to imagine the forms their hatred might take. We were not able to hear the few voices who were capable of imagining that airplanes could be used as missiles. In general, we are very, very poorly equipped to imagine worlds that are even slightly different than the ones we create for ourselves. We will remain highly vulnerable as a society until we become better at imagining.

Those of us who teach, those of us who are students, those of us who are artists, and those of us who participate in the cultural life of the West need to make a serious effort to imagine better and to hold the rest of us to a high standard of imagining. We need to do better than the 9/11 Commission. We need to understand the ways that we can learn to imagine better. We can't be satisfied with cultural experiences that put our imaginations to sleep. Now, more than ever as they say, we need to be a culture that is capable of finding and using its collective and individual imaginations.

There must be time and space in our lives to do this. We need clear skies and time to think and imagine. There is an inherent value to recollection, to memory, but there is also a very practical and urgent need for it now.

beyond the fiesta
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2006-09-15 17:41:26
Link to this Comment: 20428

I'm doing this hard thing this semester, living in a country where I know neither the language or anyone here. Such an arrangement leaves plenty of space for interior reflection--and has little provision for reality checks, for the balance of the social that has always kept me this side of sanity.

I've just finished reading a Paul Bowles novel, Up Above the World, where one Central American visitor has made for himself “an eternally empty schedule in which he would enjoy the maximum liberty to make sudden decisions,” and where several others say they “just move around where we please, when we please. It’s the only way to do it.…The whole point is to be free. Not to have to make reservations ahead of time...”

Making no reservations ahead of time—not deliberately anticipating my own wants and needs, much less holding myself responsible to the needs or wants of others—is for me both the draw and the draw-back of this semester’s experiment. I’ve been thinking today largely about the latter, about the social dimensions of mental health—that is, about the role that being a meaningful participant in some communal project has in my own well-being.

Bowles’ novel is a version of Heart of Darkness, set in Central America. Like Conrad, Bowles uses the less settled regions of the world as symbols for the dark interior of the “civilized mind.” The gringo encounters, in Africa, in Central America, “the obscene reality of self”: "The purpose of the fiesta came to her. It was not meant to celebrate the glory of God...Instead, it was a night of collective fear, when everyone agreed to be frightened."

I’ve been watching quite a fiesta myself lately. Today is September 15, the anniversary of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua’s achieving independence from Spain in 1821. It’s made a sharp contrast, for me, to these musings in the U.S. about September 11.The celebration here has been a wild one: the streets have been full since yesterday afternoon with an astonishing variety of expressive forms, from very precise marching bands--one of them playing “The Marine Hymn”(?!)--to groups of young men running through the streets w/ torches. (I keep waiting for a collision between the marchers and the runners, the rule-followers and the rule-breakers…) The festivities picked up again @ 6 this morning, with fireworks and music and much shouting….

Mark's just called for a serious effort to imagine better: “we are very, very poorly equipped to imagine worlds that are even slightly different than the ones we create for ourselves.” I have a slightly different take on this: that the U.S. government has done a pretty good (=awfully successful) job of fanning the flames of our worse imaginings, the fears which make us most vulnerable.

Remember Roosevelt’s “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”? Reading over Mark’s posting, it occurs to me that the U.S. has a government now that not only does not try to minimize the fear we feel, but actually has worked quite hard to augment it—and that we have ourselves not only allowed, but encouraged, the fanning of those passions. Adous Huxley argued decades ago that it exhilarates us to have these feelings: “we cannot preserve our soul’s health without occasional orgasms of hatred, self-love, and group-frenzy….”

Watching the frenzy here, remembering the frenzy @ home, I wonder—mightn’t we find other ways to make meaning (and make common cause) in our lives, than trying to escape from our (inter)dependence by declaring our independence from one another?

Forum Archived
Name: Webmaster
Date: 2006-11-22 10:06:18
Link to this Comment: 21162

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