Monday, November 06, 2006

A warning against optimism

I have written before about the similarities between Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Both capitalized on the citizenry's fear of "the other," whether that other be African Americans, Hispanic immigrants, feminists, gays, liberals, or dark-skinned people in other countries. Since I am a radical feminist, I simply think of this strategy as "protect the patriarchy at all costs," but the Reagan/Bush crowd packages it as a "return to American values." To make matters even worse, this same crowd preaches that they are spreading democracy when, in fact, they are systematically destroying it.

I am willing to concede that the Bush administration is worse than the Reagan administration, and that Reagan's "charm" was greater than Bush's. But Reagan was undeniably racist, an enemy of women's rights, an enemy of free speech, an enemy of the gay community, and an international bully who had no qualms about causing the deaths of thousands. No one said it better than Greg Palast, in his Reagan obituary column.

It has been almost twenty years since Reagan was in office, and he is still considered a great American hero. One national poll resulted in Reagan's being named The Greatest American. A major airport is named after him, as are countless other things; my own community is erecting a giant statue of him and naming a highway after him. Reagan appealed to people who were racist, sexist, suspicious of education, afraid of free speech, jingoistic, and contemptuous of gay people. The Greatest American.

What is my point? Do not expect people to see Bush for what he is. Yes, people are fed up with the war in Iraq, but not with the fact that the U.S. has been responsible for killing who knows how many hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens. And they are not fed up with the fact that Bush has poisoned them and their children with industrial toxins. Nor are they fed up with the fact that he has destroyed the economy, instructed schools to teach that girls should be submissive, brought about the suffering and death of countless African women and children (his very first act as alleged president), broken the wall that separates church and state, refused to permit Americans their guaranteed freedom of speech, supported the torture and rape of detainees, removed the basic rights of the accused, replaced science with right-wing Christian jabberwocky, and determined that he does not have to obey any national laws.

It hasn't helped that the news media has refused to discuss Bush's (actually, Cheney's, of course) enthusiastic destruction of our country, which was way far from being what it should be, but is now broken beyond recognition. And it hasn't helped that the "liberals" have, with a few blessed exceptions, gone along with the program.

This is reality: America, with all its racism, sexism, homophobic hate, environmental destruction, and toxic corporatism, was still doing a better version of democracy than most other nations. America has never exactly been a paradise for people of color, women, gays, the poor, and the disabled, but at least there were people working to bring justice to the oppressed. Now there are people working to take away whatever justice there was. And not a lot of people seem to care or even notice.

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