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Friday, October 15, 2004

Our Opinion

It’s the Country, Stupid!

The end is near, one way or another. In 17 days, we’ll know the price we’ll all have to pay, not only for the last four years, but for the preceding 30-plus. If we’re fortunate, and our collective reason defeats the sum of all our fears, the toll will only be heavy, of many years’ duration, and occasionally painful. If, however, our tribal unreason triumphs over our constitutional wisdom, well, then, each of us will, more or less, have to fend for him- or herself because the Day After Tomorrow will see a frigid dawn indeed.

This issue marks our third anniversary. We’ve written before that, as moved slowly from idea to reality in the spring and summer of 2001, we could never have anticipated either September 11 or the endless cycle of criminality and corruption to which it led, both in the world and, of course, our own country.

It’s always difficult to control the dogs of war once they’ve been unleashed; it’s invariably more difficult to restrain their masters. Yet, there are wars and there are wars. When war becomes an eschatology and a (perverse) form of theodicy (a literal baptism by fire in which, in the words of born-again Christians, one “bears witness”), then it not only slides into indiscriminate, and mass, murder but, worst of all, becomes a permanent form of terror, both physical and moral.

The first Crusade set out in 1095; the final (ninth) one came back to Europe in 1272, and the last Crusaders were expelled from Palestine in 1291. Compared to those Christians, the ones who fought the Thirty Years War—and ravaged Europe in their internecine auto da fé—were lucky: they at least managed to wipe out only one generation (historians and demographers calculate that seventeenth-century Europe lost roughly a third of its population, or about seven million human beings, in the three decades leading to the treaty of Westphalia). War is bad enough; when it becomes an inquisition, it is remorseless.

No one knows this better than the current president of the United States. It turns out he was right when he said that, after September 11, nothing would ever be the same. The United States of America is definitely not the same country today that it was on September 10, 2001, and, as far as we can determine, the changes are all for the very worst. However, this is not the place for a bill of particulars against Mr. Bush. We are long past the point, in any case, where such a thing is morally credible. If anybody still needs to be convinced of the historic insufficiency and ethical malfeasance of the current president and his administration, (s)he is as guilty—actually, as a citizen, guiltier—than Mr. Bush himself.

In the end, that is indeed the point. It is all well and good for the liberal establishment of this country and its European enablers—along with their respective media—to decry the cowboy from Crawford and his dark cabal, but, the last time we checked, the United States was still a democracy, albeit a severely ill-functioning and increasingly problematic one. Still, no one is knocking at the door quite yet—at least not systematically or with any coherence.  Four years on, it seems that the opposition to Mr. Bush (such as it is) has still not digested an admittedly hard-to-digest fact: it was not his appointment as president by a 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court that is the most disturbing aspect of his manifestly fraudulent “election.” (Although it is true that, in any other nation, a similar intervention would have rightly been seen—and denounced—as what it was in truth, a judicial coup since, among other things, it arbitrarily stopped the vote-counting.) No, what was most egregious about Mr. Bush’s installation was the sad fact that the 2000 elections actually ended up in the docket of the Supreme Court to begin with.

If people voted in this country, things might be radically different. If people actually cared in this country, things might be more different still. But there is nothing stranger, or more elliptical or disconnected, than American patriotism. What we are supposed to love, and to defend to the death, about our country, after all, is its tough love. Our nation was established on the communal principle that there is no grace in Eden except for the Lord’s inscrutable dispensation. If you are outside the Lord’s flock, however—if you have been untouched by His immanence—Earth might as well be Hell.

Which is finally to say that while our constitutional lucidity is the gift of James Madison and Alexander Hamilton (among others), our communal essence—our sense of ourselves as a people and as living, breathing exemplars of American exceptionalism—owes everything to John Winthrop, and to a theocratic notion of human affairs that even seventeenth-century England thought was innately corrosive of civil society.

So here we are, and there we go. Just two final warnings to our fellow citizens.  First, John Kerry is not the Messiah. Should he win the election, we can expect, at worst, Clinton Redux—which is to say imperialism with a human face. does not believe this will be the case, however. Indeed, we think that this election offers the starkest contrast in American politics in the entire postwar period (and, arguably, in the history of the Republic). For any normal, sensate, mentally sufficient, and psychologically undisturbed human being, there can be no choice—there is no choice. The fact that there actually seems to be one speaks volumes about the degradation of American life in the last three to four decades.

But even in the best of circumstances, John Kerry’s election is only the first step in what needs to be a generation-long process of civic and social reclamation. We have been losing our country for many years, under many presidents; it will take many years, and many more presidents, to win it back.

One last warning: if George W. Bush is elected—fairly and licitly, this time—it will, if nothing else, make clear to the rest of the world on which side the people of the United States stand in Mr. Bush’s global jihad. In the event, if—or, rather, when—a murderous attack against American citizens on American soil occurs again, we will surely not be able to claim this time that we didn’t know it was coming, and we will certainly no longer be able to ask the apparently simple question, “Why?”

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