The Brits Get It: Bush is Bad

Like most other publications around the world, The Colgate Maroon News has been flooded with editorials from very political readers incensed at the machinery of the U.S. administration. It’s been a long four years in media. Tempted not to put yet another two pence into the boiling stew of hate, I changed my mind this time, instead going for broke. Here I am in my new home, London, filling out my absentee ballot, yet flashbacks of the last (and first) vote I cast at the barely-legal age of 18 will return. Election day, 2000: I am sitting up late in a dark room with college roommates watching florescent flash news-by-minute from network CNN; watching Al Gore win – then lose – then win-then (finally two months later) lose; watching as myself, and the voting majority, get sh*t on. Unable to shake the haunting disillusionment I felt over the past few years as a result, I had promised not to vote again. I had graduated from an American university (Colgate), with American Stafford loans and 83,000 American road miles on my car, and then high-tailed it out with no intent to return. Little did I realize that, in fact, the U.S. doesn’t just think it’s the center of the world – it actually, unfortunately, is the center. U.S. political and business news here on BBC is in the top four to five stories nightly always, if not on top. Yet London, being one of the most economically strong, dynamic, creative cities in the world, muscles its way onto CNN’s headlines much less frequent – ditto for strongholds Tokyo, Moscow, Berlin, Hong Kong, and more. And the transatlantic difference in media perspective is absolutely staggering, considering the world events occurring are one in the same – still Iraq, right? One Bush? The British I live and work with are just as interested, if not more, in our election as any American I know. And the hottest issue of the race between Australian presidential candidates revolves around – you guessed it-American foreign policy. In a nutshell, the British (and the world) are extremely discontented with Bush, with America, with our war on Iraq. No surprise here. Yet it is the livid, extensive and convoluted anti-US propaganda hidden from U.S. news media that made me get out this election to vote again. A case in point: I jetted off to the 2004 Olympic Games this August with a ticket to the diving finals. On the Acropolis, there was a large group of pseudo-communist party demonstrators handing out anti-America-foreign-policy flyers. And far from being a small insurgency, there was instead an enormous banner pinned to the side of that holy mountain, in bold Greek/English writing: “Colin Powell go home!” Mr. Powell cancelled his trip to the Olympic Games that weekend. Another example: the disparity between literature of European and American bookstores. Try to find not one or two shelves, but entire sections in stores with books titled, more or less, “Why we hate America” at your local Borders Bookstore. British friends constantly ask me, “Why do polls show that 50% of Americans like Bush?” I’m ashamed the American public could lend itself to this approval rating-but the funny thing is, they’re not dumb. The American public is brilliant. They get it. But we all succumb to certain things, and presidential races are about proving who the strongest father is. And Bush is just doing it better. Yet the illusion of leadership was not bought by people in the communities where I lived – Chicago suburbs or Manhattan sprawl – but mostly in overtly religious, confederate-flag-waving Deep South redneck culture. I safely predict, with the next “close” win of Bush in this election, the coming of the nations’ second Civil War. Only this time the south can secede and no one will be upset. As a last-ditch band-aid to prevent Civil War, I’ve come up with a 10 second update on this administrations’ record for those really, really, really busy people who cannot follow news or trade and industry indicators: environment is rubbish, economy weak, inflation up, dollar down, deficits skyrocket, social security whittled, education neglected, income gaps exploded, the middle class destroyed. The Bush Administration has made the world more insecure and unsafe. They’ve used the war and the war on terror as a kind of carapace under which they’ve jammed through a lot of super-conservative domestic policies. Bottom line: people have got to get out and vote this Tuesday…especially young people. Because as far away as I am, in mind and in body, from John Melloncamp Fargo-Land, I don’t want to watch the place I grew up travel yet further down that slippery Republican slope into a worse state for the world. Because although you can escape a lot of things, no matter where you are – Australia, Athens, or Arkansas – you won’t escape the guilt from not voting when Bush wins next Tuesday, then unleashes all holy hell on the world. I’ve mailed my absentee ballot in last week, with far more than two pence in postage; and even on my meager budget, I wouldn’t have it any other way. And if anyone is still not going to vote after reading all this, I’ve got plenty of Brits lined up to punch Kerry into their ballot with one hand – and Bush in the face with the other.