To the Editor

To the Editor:

I am not a Colgate student. I am a past Colgate parent. Over the last four years I have come to love and admire both Colgate and its students. I feel a bond to the school and the students. Now we have had a most important election. No doubt, some at the school feel like winners, and some feel like losers. Personally, I feel like a ‘Gate fan after the 40-0 experience with the Blue Hens. Most of you kids are of potential draft age, should the matter become fact. There is a fog around war, and you never know what’s in the Pandora’s box when you go and open it. Obviously, all of you have a large personal stake in our national politics of these days. With this in mind, I submit, as a parent, my take on our recent election: I’m really kind of cozy, right now, comfortably nestled into the corner of our leather sofa, my notebook computer softly lit by the cloudy sunshine outside. Here in our largely Republican master planned town of Valencia, all is well. The lawns are green and well mowed, the SUVs parked along the street are shiny and new, and the super market shelves are stocked to the brim with all the beer, wine, booze, sodas, cookies, crackers, pork and beef one could possibly eat or drink. The pool heater is turned off for winter, but that inconvenience aside, our life here is comfy and fairly well insulated from the pain, discomfort, hunger, and angst that we reluctantly hear exists someplace else in our country or world. All is well in our cozy life here, except for the regular helpings of terror and fear force-fed us in generous portions by Fox, CNN, and most of the rest of TV land. This terror stuff, well, this stuff makes us edgy and nervous. It’s hard to really figure it out. And we need to want to know that someone is just going to make it go away. Preferably, without any personal sacrifice on our own parts.

It’s a little cloudy outside. And, while I enjoy the weather, the clouds are also symbolic. My wife and are are still saddened over John Kerry’s loss (and our loss) of last Tuesday. We like John Kerry. He is an honest man, with tremendous credentials of service and intelligence. We understood that Tuesday night was a historic moment for the U.S. – one with significant ramifications for America for perhaps decades. Every life will be touched, one way or another, for better or for worse. We’re sad, because we’re pretty sure that this touching of American lives is more likely going to be a roughing up of American lives, and likely sooner than any one of us would expect.

There has been much said in the press over the past few days about this election having been a referendum on morality. That Bush has achieved a “morality mandate” – whatever that means. The true wedge issue of abortion, and the phantom wedge issue of gay marriage is said to have propelled waves of hard right Christian voters marching to the polls as so many “Christian Soldiers, marching on to war”. Maybe this symbolism is poetic justice at this moment? “With the cross of freedom,” they might just get to live it out in person in Iraq.

Elected on a platform claiming honesty, resolve, morality, and leadership, President Bush now declares a mandate from his overwhelming 51% of the vote. He says he has political capital, and he intends to spend it! The conservative Christians who swallowed the bait (and switch) of compassionate conservatism, of steadfast resolve in the face of terror, and of high moral values have with their votes, purchased the government they deserve. That’s what’s great and terrifying in its own right in a democracy – we always get the government we deserve. After all, we choose it. Right?

My wife and I enjoy the movie, “Evita”, about the rise of Juan and Eva Perone. Madonna and Antonio Banderas lend their wonderful voices to this poignant and timely musical about the Perone’s corrupt consolidation of power through terror and political lawlessness in 1940s Argentina. The story parallels with our time, right now. As Antonio sings…

“Just one shell and governments fall like flies: They stumble and fall, Bye bye! Backs to the wall. Aim high! We’re having a ball… The tanks and bullets rule, as democracy dies.

Just one shell and governments loose their nerve: They stumble and fall, Bye bye! Backs to the wall. Aim high! We’re having a ball… And that’s how we get the government we deserve!”

In 2000, we had soccer moms in SUVs. Now we have security moms in even larger SUVs. Grown men play army in their giant Hummers, marauding off to work each day. Karl Rove and Bush squeeze our emotions into percentage points, scaring the hell out of us with never ending fear mongering. An entire Senate rolls over and plays dead to Bush’s trumped up “intelligence” in order to align themselves with the patriotic fervor after 9/11. All were only too happy to “stumble and fall” in signing away our rights with the Patriot act; all were too unnerved but to agree to a headlong rush to war, lest they be singled out as unpatriotic, overly intellectual, or God forbid – Europhile!

And George Bush’s stated take on the whole affair was that he “won the Trifecta!”

Antonio again sings to me: “and that’s how we get the government we deserve…”

I happen to be a Sunday School teacher at our local Lutheran Church. Yes, my fellow Lutherans of Scandinavian descent helped propel the Great Lake states into the Kerry corner. With our long Lutheran heritage, we too, think we understand something of morality and resolve. No, we’re not real big on abortion, and most of us aren’t jumping up and down with the prospects of gay marriage. However, I suspect we also see moral leadership as being much greater of scope than election pandering with these two wedge issues. The Ten Commandments say little directly to these apparently all-encompassing moral issues of our day. However, they do speak with a strong voice directly to lying, greed, coveting, murder, stealing and misuse of God’s name (and reputation?).

Someplace in the heat of the campaign, morally righteous voters forgot to inquire about the 30,000-100,000 dead Iraqi civilians and 1200+ dead Americans. If the original rationale for war was false, do their deaths count as murder? Somehow, our morally righteous voters forgot to ask about the misleading and ever changing reasons for going to war in the first place. Isn’t this really lying and giving false testimony? The same moral majority forgot to ask why there are secret energy meetings, why companies like Enron and Haliburton have had continual influence on policies. Isn’t this really about greed and coveting? And nobody bothered to ask why we haven’t had an open and honest press conference in four years.

Just as in “Evita”, a shell flies, and everyone looses their nerve! “Someone please shelter us from terror – at any cost!” And “that’s how we get the government we deserve.”

From the comfort of my sofa in cozy Valencia, CA, I see little to be overly hopeful about in our national politics. The Christian Soldiers of the right will likely gain some passing satisfaction with the lip service they are about to receive regarding an amendment against gay marriage or an overturning of Roe vs. Wade. (Why are we so much more willing to suppress freedoms than to expand them?) Certainly, these loaded issues will still be unresolved rallying calls in 2008!

In contrast, our Christian Soliders may be a little surprised with the government they deserve as Juan and Eva (oops, I mean George and Dick) raid our society’s coffers for the benefit of their cronies and their own power consolidation. What will confortably righteous folks be thinking when…. their social security benefits get thinned out in the transition to an “ownership society’s private accounts? their credit card, home loan, and auto interest rates rise uncomfortably due to escalating federal deficits? the price of everything at Wal Mart climbs twenty and thirty percent as the dollar continues its decline and devaluation? more of their neighbor’s kids die in Iraq, or perhaps when their own son or daughter becomes one more man or women to “die for a mistake?” they lose their health care because it has simply become too expensive to afford? they see their Canadian and Mexican neighbors easily buying needed drugs which they themselves can’t afford at home, nor are allowed to obtain more cheaply abroad? their air quality continues to worsen, their fuel costs continue to rise, as we maintain our “what me, worry?” attitude towards clean energy and energy independence? they continue to lose personal freedoms and protections as a fully Republican government passes the Patriot II Act? as they lose their jobs and livelihoods because our national policy invested more heavily in warfare and empire than in education and science?

Most of us continue to be pretty darn cozy and toasty in our fossil fuel heated homes. We’ve got Saturday and Sunday football. We’ve got our super sized meals and 32 oz. cokes. We’ve even got Indian casinos right down the highway. Some might say that as a society, we truly have become “fat, dumb, and happy.” “Don’t bother us with the nerdy details required to address our complicated problems. In fact, don’t even remind us that we have any real problems! Just get us a guy with good sound bites who will keep the bad guys away. And why do they hate our freedom so much, anyway?”

It is said that “life imitates art.” I can’t help but hear Antonio Banderas’ voice again sing,..

“Just one shell and governments loose their nerves. Bye, Bye!…. and that’s how we get the government we deserve.”

Gary Horton Valencia, CA