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"Anyone But Bush" and the Anatomy of Moral Failure

By Rootsie
July 22, 2004

There are obviously many people in the United States, people who you think would know better, who feel they can take their democratic processes for a joke. Nobody in the rest of the world is laughing.

It's interesting that workers in a troubled country like Peru can manage to organize a general strike virtually overnight to express their displeasure with their government. They obviously have a lot to teach us about the practice of democracy.

As a result of the intellectual and moral laziness of the supposed 'opposition' to Bush, America's gifts to the world for the foreseeable future will feature preemptive, illegal military interventions, an endless war of attrition in Iraq culminating in an ignominious exit or worse, and untrammeled piracy in the name of 'free trade.' The chickens will come home to roost, probably sooner rather than later. Maybe people will come to their senses then.

In a recent article on Kerry's 'Progressive Internationalism', Matthew Harwood writes:
"Although strategies differ, the goal remains the same for both Republican and Democrat Presidents: expand the scope of US power. The only way to do this is to ensure the US has access to and control over foreign markets and resources, especially Near East oil. Since not all governments will comply with US demands, US foreign policy must become interventionalist. If it didn't, the US couldn't ensure it got the oil, markets, and investment needed to maintain American living standards."
What the 'anyone but Bush' cadre has demonstrated to the world, consciously or not, is that 'maintaining American living standards' at all costs is what they are interested in above any other single value. Their criticisms of Bush, their Fahrenheit 9-11's and whatnot, ring exceedingly hollow. Overnight they abandoned an anti-war mobilization that could have begun to turn the tide on 'business as usual' in the United States.

On lurid display in American liberals and progressives are the unconscious assumptions of privilege. This of course is nothing new and would not even be notable but for the existence of an antiwar movement before the Iraq invasion that briefly showed signs of promise in its critique not simply of this particular intervention, but of US interventionism in general. By allowing Democrats to use the mass mobilization for their own collaborationist agenda, and then by uncritically aligning with the phony Dean and his impossible candidacy, the antiwar movement sold itself out. The millions who turned out were not there to make the Democrats' disingenuous argument about UN-sanctioned multilateralism. The United States is interested in the UN only when it suits them. They were out there expressing their disgust for a sham of a war, and more largely, they were expressing their desire, however fuzzily they may have conceived it, for their country to enter into community with the rest of the world, rather than remaining in its role of perpetual adversary and bully, on the wrong side of pretty much every moral equation.

What has become of those millions? I believe they are paralyzed with despair at the devil's bargain that now faces us all, for they had the wherewithal to do something about it. They could have insisted on a Democratic candidate who reflected the larger concerns of millions of Americans, or failing that, rallied behind a true anti-war candidate. Despair is one explanation for the fact that mass mobilizations did not continue after the invasion of Iraq. Arundhati Roy said earlier this year that the only feasible response to this war by people of goodwill is resistance. Major labor unions in the US have recently come out with strongly-worded statements insisting on the rapid withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, but only the presence of hundreds of thousands on the streets day after day would have made it possible for longshoreman, for example, to refuse to load weapons onto ships. It seems that sort of radical democratic expression can only be expected from countries like Peru.

What the sudden implosion of the antiwar movement reveals is the moral weakness of the American people. They went back home and took up their lives because they could. They do not have the integrity to see a struggle through, their commitment to justice for all is half-hearted at best, and they have no faith in their agency as citizens in a democracy. This is understandable. The situation is baffling and the forces of corporate imperialism are far advanced. But it is not acceptable. Many millions who are in the line of fire do not have the luxury of going home, and those bullets have our names on them, those bulldozers and helicopters bear our logos.

What we are so very reluctant to acknowledge is that 500 years of white supremacy have undermined us in an essential way. We are so comfortably ensconced in our bubble of privilege that the sufferings of others do not touch us deeply enough for us to be able to change our lives in response, even if we are, whether we desire to be or not, the cause and beneficiaries of that suffering.

We can play democracy. We can recklessly nominate and elect 'anyone but Bush,' and even believe that this is the best we can do. We can sentence the world to years of horror and folly. If the millions of us who went out to try to stop the war were still out there, we would be looking at a very different situation today. But we went home. And predictably enough, this 'anyone but Bush' wants 40,000 additional troops in Iraq, is a vociferous supporter of Israel's deadly status quo, and supports a continuation of unilateral military aggression anywhere 'American interests' are at stake. Remember please, it was Clinton and not Bush who first articulated this ominous turn in American policy.

I feel like a stranger in a strange land. Everywhere I go, I hear people asking each other, 'Have you registered to vote?' As if.

The anti-war millions still have a chance to turn the situation around by refusing to support Kerry. Whatever the shockingly na´ve and reluctant Kerryites choose to believe, Kerry and Edwards are headed straight for a Dukakis-style blowout: Bush has this election locked up. Why vote for the pale imitation when you can have the genuine article? The one thing that is absolutely clear is that we have no prayer of taking on the 40,000,000 or so unabashed Bush supporters unless we send a profound message to the Democratic party that we are far from in its pocket, and if it refuses us a place at the table, we are more than capable of flipping it over. We should be looking at our strategy for after the election. What are the 'anyone but Bushes' going to do after the election? Retreat even further into their enclaves of privilege? The administration is brimming over with whistle-blowers. Let's encourage an Ellsberg-style defection and put some people in jail. Cheney is practically under indictment already, and the Wilson/Plame grand jury is still deposing government officials. Let's bust these pirates and throw 'em out, Democrat and Republican.

I guess I can be accused of being pretty na´ve myself: after all I am begging millions of Americans to wake up to this crisis and take charge of their government, arguably for the first time. America's arrogance in the world is a product of its deep-seated insecurity: at the foundation of the establishment of this country lies the horrific twin holocausts of Native American genocide and African chattel slavery. This ground is soaked in blood. The superiority complex that manifests in grotesque paternalistic statements such as Nixon's 'we had to destroy Vietnam in order to save it,' and Kerry's 'we can't leave Iraq until it is stable' has rendered our country a plague on the rest of the world. What most people don't understand is how very much we suffer for this; we have become flabby and ineffectual, morally and spiritually bankrupt. We are, in Jean Paul Sartre's words, witnessing 'the striptease of our humanism' as all oppressor peoples do sooner or later. A clear symptom is our dazed 'deer in the headlights' refusal to see the magnitude of the crisis. It can't be that bad because it never never is: not for us. I know with everything I've got that we have reached a bend in the road. If we keep on the way we're going it's over the cliff for us, and I don't simply mean Americans. For we will take many with us when we go. What that will look like, what the future holds, I can't begin to imagine. Maybe I don't dare.

There is no historical precedent for this situation. Vietnam was a hiccup compared to this. This is not the Roman Empire, not Babylon, not Nazi Germany. The level of insight and sacrifice which will be required to put the brakes to this monstrous machine of 'total global domination' (their words, not mine) will have to involve a total global response. Individuals will have to dig deep to understand what this world has made of them, and strive one-mindedly to liberate themselves in order to bring down the systems which are mangling them and everybody else, not least of all the global hegemonists themselves. Dark-skinned people, because of the history, have a much firmer grasp on these matters. As the worst victims, they will have to be the ones to lead us out. Only conscious Blacks have the moral energy to do so. But for now, it is important for people who understand what is at stake to initiate a holding action. All you have to do, 'anyone but Bushes,' for right now, is to refuse Kerry.


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