By Sean C Tarry
November 1st, 2004
Artwork by Sean Corrigan
The big money carousel of fat political dreams and blood-hungry power has been cranked into high gear as Presidential candidates manipulate truth into lies and lies into truth in the few hours and minutes that remain of the biggest United States election to date. And a few things, if nothing else, are most certain about this election.
One thing that's right as rain is that this mess is bound to get messier. If 2000 didn't teach the lawmakers anything; we're in for another hell of a ride. There's already undue controversy concerning some of the electronic ballot systems in Florida, and the stench of another call for recount has already started to linger in the air. But enough about that.for now.
Another fact in the matter is that the bad taste that you have in your mouth right now is nothing to compare with what's going to be rammed down your throat in the next day or so. All the sticking, stinging clichés. Swing states.swing votes.fight against terror.jihad.flip-flopping.fence-sitting.ensuring safety.yee-haw!
And another certainty, also the drunken weaving winding driving force behind this commentary, is that not only Americans but, indeed, the world awaits the outcome of this, and will be collectively effected by the biggest two-horse race on earth.
I'm Canadian. I believe the only Canadian contingent writing for Acid Logic. So I feel it upon myself to offer my own continental, if not global perspective regarding American politics and the unique and strange brutality that shapes the United States election process. A process that some people are taking to calling the 'mean season'.
And it's mean alright (I suppose I'll start here). But I tend to interpret it as something quite beyond mean. It's ugly. There is absolutely nothing civil about an American election, or American politics in general. It's wretched. It's often contemptuous. Vile. Very much revolting. And at certain moments seems to be able to offer only a slice more than barbarism. But it's also very beautiful and romantic (in a death and doom kind of way) in the sense that people in grass huts and igloos all over the world will, at very least, feel indirect consequences as a result of the election's outcome.
One of these consequences, among others, will be felt by Canadians if Kerry comes out on top Tuesday night. Although, on paper, it's likely that Canadians would vote a Democrat government into power rather than one of Republican morals and ways of thinking; there is a quiet resistance being pitched against Kerry's cause. The fear is that as soon as he gets into the White House he's going to come knocking for our involvement in Iraq. A war which has been seen by many as hugely unsuccessful, and a distasteful extension of the Bush Sr. and Reagan administrations.
Smokescreens were sent up by the Bush administration in the form of 'WMD' and 'connections to Al Qaeda' to dissuade the non-believers .but, in truth, nothing has panned out over there. And come on! Canada's a peace-loving nation. We don't start wars, and nobody starts them with us. An exception, perhaps, is 'Canadian Bacon' if you've seen it. But aside from that we would rather help than flush out. We'd rather aid than disable. We try to learn from others rather than impose our beliefs unto them. And we don't live in fear of God. In fact, we try to conduct ourselves in a way that will allow us a chance to live without any fear at all. It's a rotten, gripping thing fear. Cuts you off without a chance. You're better off without it. And we know it.
But anyway, this is the point where the fear seeps into daily life of the average Canadian. And it's down to a combination of the American governments global affairs and the very structure of our political landscape. I'll try to explain. Canada wasn't quite split in its last election, but was close enough to cause a minority government in the House of Commons. This simply means that legislature within the government is not at the, near sole, discretion of just one party. And majority control of the leadership does not exist. An honest thing really, although it does allow room for unwanted squabbling and bickering over issues that are of great importance to the citizens of the country.
For your amusement: Canada's government consists of four major party players, as well as a small handful of Nader-like green parties and others. Yip! All of 'em get votes too. Pretty democratic when you have a good look at the set-up.
Anyway, our conservative party leader, Steven Harper, considerably closed the once chasmic gap that our long-standing Liberal government had held in the populace. But he was still unable to pull off a victory, largely due to the fact that he was perceived as too 'American' in his ideals and beliefs. None more potent than his vow to Canadian voters to send military personnel to Iraq to support United States efforts in the bloody region.
And this alone may have cost him the election. You see Canada has been going through our own 'crises' or 'controversy' in the last eighteen months. What controversy? The fact that our government threw $100,000,000 at strengthening ties between Quebec and the rest of the country. Yeah, actually, maybe you're right. That is a little lame. I suppose in the shadow of the magnitude of U.S. problems 'crisis' and 'controversy' may be terms too harsh for the reality of it all. But the point is that if Harper and his conservatives didn't let out the notion of sending Canadian military to Iraq, the fool may have won.
Canada is so strongly against the war in Iraq that Jean Chretien, Canada's former Prime Minister, steadfastly disagreed with the war from the get-go. And he made a country proud when he swiftly and decisively rejected President Bush's demands that we help as western neighbours.
Well, a lot of us in Canada are just hoping that Chretien's successor Paul Martin has the girth and wherewithal to stand up to our gerrymandering minority parties and reject a potentially forthcoming Kerry request for numbers.
I'm not quite certain where it is that I'm going with all of this, except to maybe note that there seems to be too many Americans, good people I'm sure, who have yet to slip off those red white and blue tinted spectacles and realize that the rest of the world actually does exist outside of American borders. And further, that the rest of the world is impacted, sometimes to tremendous degrees, by the actions and global policies of the most powerful nation in the world.
But lets leave that chatter for now, and talk for a minute about the bipartisan system that elects an American President. I am, with many others, of the belief that a two-party system is designed to fail. It allows no room for creativity within the government and turns what would normally be intelligent, thought provoking discussions between candidates into spitting matches and lowly displays of name calling and finger pointing. The lack of choice involved often makes perfect sense of John Kenneth Galbraith's assessment of American politics, 'It's not the art of the possible. It consists in the choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.'
Simple words from an American economist, who was born in Canada, that seem to be ringing true in the United States more so now than they ever have before.
In addition to the problems naturally posed by a two party system, it is the two parties on offer themselves that ensure that Galbraith's prophetic wisdom sees light. An older woman down the way said that Republicans don't care whose house gets burned down, just as long as their hands are warmed. Well, if that's true (and it sounds fairly accurate), then I'd have to say that Democrats would strongly oppose the burning of the house, but would whine and complain incessantly about cold fingers. And hell, I suppose that the under-appreciated fuck Nader would probably write a book about the whole thing with his one percent of the popular vote.
Let us all be understood however, that I'm not writing this to bash any heads. I'm not writing it to impress anyone, nor am I trying to 'swing' any votes. Fuck it all! In the end, when the shit starts to drip down from the fan, I suppose that I don't even count. And perhaps shouldn't. And I can be the first to admit that I probably don't possess the right, or a thorough enough knowledge of American politics to even put pen to paper on this subject. But the blinding reality that most people around the world have just begun to adjust their eyes to is the damning fact that there is no getting off of this out-of-control nightmarish ride that we're all on. It's called the long haul kids. And whether you're American, or French, or Spanish, or Canadian, or of any other clique, tribe, cult, nationality, or colour; it just doesn't matter. The consequences resulting from the American governments actions have been inherited globally. And it's not being appreciated around most parts.
Another quite interesting fact about Election 2004 is the supreme intensity and virulence with which the candidates are striking out at each other. I know that the nature of American politics is aggressive and combative, but not even the Viet Nam War had party lines dug so deep into the ground. And never before have the tensions and emotions run so high as to cause such a dark cloud to hang over the country in the wake of an election.
I wasn't around during Viet Nam. In fact, the last of the troops were finally brought home the year I was born. But if I had been alive and healthy and knowing then half of what I know about the whole situation today, I would have likely been one of the Leftist nuts that made a living selling homemade beaded necklaces and such, and protested against everything during every other breathing moment that I had available. But these are dramatically different times, and protesting will just get you gassed and beaten. An unwanted punishment no matter what's at stake. But let us also leave that to the side. Gassing and beatings are two different subjects altogether.
Now, The National, Canada's leading nightly news journal, visited New York City and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania early last week in an attempt to engage Canadians and Americans on the topic, and many sub-topics, of this years Presidential Election. And on the score whether Americans in the discussion audiences will consider the rest of the world, and American occupational involvement in other countries when they decide who to cast support for; the responses were largely very rigid, and seemed to indicate that the increasing anger between party lines within the country is actually blinding voters from the anger and resentment that is being directed toward their government from outside the country.
Which pointedly leads us to examine how the most recent events and ongoing proceedings outside of America may, despite the aforementioned attitude, play more of an important role in the minds of voters now than they would have even five days ago.
Arafat has fallen ill, and looks about ready to kick the bucket at any time now. This has already turned ripples of discontent in Gaza into waves of speculation concerning the future of Israeli-Palestinian-American relations. And it seems like it could turn vicious fast, at any time. And another suicide bomber striking on Monday morning didn't help things at all.
Also, eight more U.S. Marines were killed in Iraq this past Saturday morning. And, of course, we wont forget to mention the disappearing mountain asshole Bin Laden, and his new release to the public. How does that play on the mind of the average American voter? Does it swing votes? Does it decide the undecided either way?
So many considerations to make, and there is definitely no stopping this train now, except to twist open the Canadian Club and sit outside to watch the sun set upon us once again. But you can rest assured that I'll be watching as intently as any American, maybe more than some, as I go back and forth between coverage on CBC, CNN, BBC and various other internet news sources Tuesday night in a desperate, junkie-like way trying to get my fix. Trying to figure it all out. And in the end resting in the uncomfortable knowledge that I don't envy the task faced by Americans one iota.
Good luck, and at the end of this, may we all take the right steps and climb that mountain like snails. But slowly, slowly!
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