No More Excuses: Understanding the Americans
No More Excuses: Understanding the Americans
By Jeff Memler
For the last three and a half years I have been making excuses for Americans. You see, I was born in the US and therefore I am continually asked by non-Americans, to explain the mysterious ways of my former countrymen.
Although, I came to New Zealand over twelve years ago primarily because of my distaste for things American, I still have felt a degree of compassion for most Americans. I have been asked, "How is it possible that such an obviously unintelligent, incompetent and grotesquely offensive politician like GW Bush is the leader of such a powerful and influential country? Why do so many Americans support him?"
I usually began to answer these very relevant questions by pointing out that in fact, many Americans had not supported Bush. In the 2000 election Bush's main opponent, Democrat Al Gore, received over a half a million more votes than Bush. (To understand how one can lose the popular vote but still "win" an election requires a difficult explanation of the confusing American electoral system.)
And that is also not counting the hundreds of thousands of citizens whose votes were never counted nor the tens of thousand of Americans who were denied the right to vote (an estimated 57-94 thousand alleged ex-felons were removed illegally from the voting registers in Florida). The vast majority of these disenfranchised Americans were minorities who traditionally vote Democrat.
I remind them of the highly controversial way in which GW Bush was declared the winner of this election. He was essentially appointed president by a slim 5-4 vote of the Supreme Court: A court dominated by Republicans appointed by Bush's father as well as Bush's mentor Ronald Reagan.
This unprecedented judicial intervention happened due to the fact that Bush's Florida campaign manager, who just happened to be the chief election officer in Florida, which just happened to be where Bush's brother was Governor, would not allow all the votes cast to be counted, especially in primarily Democratic precincts.
This so-called "victory" in Florida is what brought GW Bush to the White House. So, Bush's selection was not what most Americans wanted.
But still, there were a lot of Americans who did vote for Bush in 2000. And yes, they were a hard lot to understand. But one could argue that they really didn't know who George W Bush was or what he would do. After all, political candidates make all sorts of promises and Bush was no different.
He campaigned on being a "uniter" not a divider. He campaigned promising a modest US foreign policy-no "nation building." He campaigned on being a "compassionate conservative" (whatever that means?). But the point is, he was a relatively unknown quantity at that time.
However, once he got in, the real agenda became clear. The unpopular Bush struggled those first few months of his term. But he would soon have his opportunity to show what he was about. The terror attacks of September 11 was that opportunity. Very suddenly, this un-elected, unpopular president was thrust into the limelight.
A horrified and grief stricken America was paralysed by fear and this was when Bush and his handlers went to work.
The next few years would be a kind of Orwellian nightmare for Americans as well as much of the rest of the world: Wars of aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq; Massive build-up of the military and threats of more attacks; Repudiation of long-standing international treaties and agreements (ABM Treaty, Kyoto Protocol, International Criminal Court, Land Mine Ban, to name a few); Disregard, antagonism and mockery of the United Nations; Bush's policy of "pre-emption" put an end to the accepted standard of international relations and diplomacy and thrust the United States into the undisputed role of international bully.
World-wide opposition to these policies were arrogantly re-buffed and given no consideration by the newly empowered Bush administration. In the black and white world of GW Bush 'you were either with us or against us.'
Meanwhile Americans at home, watched their freedoms and civil liberties whittled away in the name of "national security." The US Constitution was redefined and age old American rights of free speech; the right of due cause before being arrested; the right to a fair trial; the right to privacy were stripped away and packaged in the so-called, "Patriot Act."
Dissenting voices were branded as "un-patriotic" or "un-American." Some were ridiculed, some were arrested and most were watched and put on lists of "suspects" or "terrorists." More commonly, those who had opinions which differed from the government party-line were just not acknowledged.
But, how is it that a country priding itself on democracy and freedom could allow this to happen? Firstly, I remind people that Americans, in the wake of the September 11 attacks, were terrified. And their government reminded them daily to stay terrified.
Americans were told continually that they were "at war" and that the enemy was out there ready to attack, anytime and anywhere. This message of fear was transmitted and marketed by a mainstream media beholding to the corporate friendly Bush Administration. Americans were not seeing the same news as the rest of the world was seeing.
The biased US media was not telling the whole story. "News" in America was often no more than government press releases presented in a style reminiscent of Soviet Russia (with a touch of Hollywood).
This was the environment over the last three and a half years for most Americans. So, when US opinion polls showed continued support for president George W Bush, one could frame it in this context and begin to understand why.
However, in November 2004 there was an election. Americans were given the opportunity to review the performance of their president and to vote on his leadership and the direction their country was going. US voters now knew who GW Bush was and what he could and would do. They had over three years to judge if those campaign promises had been kept. Was he a uniter or a divider?
The American people have never been more polarised. Bush and his Attorney General, John Ashcroft, blurred the line between Church and State with controversial edicts and reinterpretations of US law involving prayer in school, same sex marriage and abortion. Government commissions on 9-11 and weapons inspections in Iraq revealed the Bush Administration lies and deceptions used to justify the illegal and lethal attack and occupation of Iraq.
The attempt by Bush and Co to block and cover-up information related to the incompetent government handling leading up to and following the September 11 terror attacks became common knowledge. Over 1100 dead US soldiers in a war where the enemy never had any WMDs, had no connection to 9-11 nor was ever a threat, began to irritate a large cross-section of Americans.
As for a "modest US foreign policy?" Bush's record is unequivocal--Wars, occupation, justified torture, nation building, threats to an "evil axis," and the right to "pre-emption." Lastly, has he been "compassionate?" Refer to the 5000 dead Afghan civilians or the 100,000 dead Iraqis or the 1300 dead "coalition soldiers."
Or perhaps refer to the top 5% American income earners who received tax cuts whilst over 40 million Americans still do not have health insurance. American voters had access to all of this information: sanitised news or not. And on the 2nd of November 2004, a majority, albeit a small majority, re-elected George W Bush (that is if we dismiss the evidence of vote tampering during the election).
I can no longer continue to try and justify the perplexing and bizarre actions of "the American public." I will still feel sympathy for those many Americans, over fifty million, who did not vote for Bush in 2004.
They tried valiantly to save their country and the world from four more years of tyranny. I am grateful for their efforts. But in the end, a force far greater had the final say. But I will remind any American who voted for Bush that the blood of every person killed in Iraq--American and Iraqi--is on their hands.
I will remind those Bush supporters that their own loss of freedom and democracy was their choice. I will remind them that they have endorsed a US foreign policy of belligerence and contempt for international law. I will remind them that they are partially responsible for the precarious state of the world, a world that is overwhelmingly bereft and horrified by another four years of a Bush-led America. I have finished making excuses for Americans.