May 13, 2009 / Creative Writing
I watched Rebel Without a Cause on TV late one college night when I learned …
October 10, 2004
“The root of all war is fear.”—Thomas Merton
Our third grade classroom is filled with the colors of the rainbow. In it, Latoya’s map of her city of Asbury Park contains deep greens for parks and three shades of blue for the Atlantic, greeting her by way of the wind. She included some brown hues to symbolize benches, some reds and oranges to color a sunset. She sees her world this way.
Outside of our classroom, President Bush proceeds in the language of black and white. It is an alluring language, filled with the catch phrases of ‘for us or against us’, ‘the evildoers’, and ‘not on my watch.’ This is the world Latoya will be held accountable to. It is the world of wars and violence and seemingly perpetual bloodshed. There is none of this in Latoya’s countenance. She smiles and hopes for a good day at school and a decent lunch.
The election of 2004 stands as one of the most important in American history. It is a crossroads, a moment of decision for a country waking up from the shock and awe of September 11th. It is a time for a nation to decide whether it is governed by fear, or able to operate freely in a world of possibility and choice.
Our current president has been labeled the “President of Good and Evil,” destined to be on the world stage at this moment. People liken the need for Bush to remain in office as if referring to a superstitious ode of destiny or fate. Perhaps this was predestined! And so, matters of politics become a numbing fall into line behind a leader who is perpetuating wars based on false claims, wreaking bloodshed while labeling it freedom. Instead, what we have the power to do in this election is to create something new, not based on the confines of ‘destiny’, but on the knowledge and true freedom of acting out of trust and not fear.
Dick Cheney announced to the world that, if Kerry was elected, the United States would be in danger of future attack. Realizing the Stalinesque tactic, his advisors quickly made him revise his comments. What was revealed is both astonishing and frightening. The Bush Administration bases its success off of the fears of the American people. Thomas Merton writes, “The root of all war is fear.” The Bush Administration’s future is ‘secured’ by war and the propagation of fear. Nothing new can be created in an environment of utter fear. Instead, it is the environment for complete destruction.
Correspondingly, John Kerry appears as a weakling willing to listen and dialogue with world leaders in a multilateral approach to dealing with the world’s problems. The Terminator has labeled him and his fans “Girlie Men.” Enough with rainbows, we are dealing with terrorists! The cries are shouted from the capital at digital speed. And so we march on with the terminology and actions of a black and white worldview. Along with it, America proceeds to isolate longtime allies and belittle countries that do not follow our nationalistic agenda. It is a dangerous worldview in that it promises security at the cost of mass bloodshed and exclusion of most of the world. Moreover, it is a worldview that will not admit weakness. Historically, this has not always been the case with war-time presidencies. Roosevelt kept America abreast on the ups and downs of World War II. How else could the public trust a Commander in Chief? Bush convinces the public that the country is ‘headed in the right direction’ by telling them that any other course could kill them. Again, this binary world of either/or persists throughout Bush’s agenda.
What Kerry will create is yet to be seen. What we do know is that his palette will be much different, and the use of scare tactics to coerce votes is not on it. Kerry speaks of the need to restore respect to our country abroad, realizing that the war on terrorism is a global one, and exclusion of allies stands as an extremely costly measure. Moreover, he does not dare bring God onto his side, as Bush declares in his ‘for us or against us’ swagger. Kerry’s faith seems more humble and reverent to the task at hand. Furthermore, Kerry is able to hold myriad issues in his brain, and adjust his thinking accordingly. Bush labels this lack of the binary “flip flopping.” Most Americans understand this as a fundamental component of human intelligence.
Moreover, Bruce Springsteen, an American symbol of sorts, has taken the bold stance of recreating the notions of courage and bravery, wisdom and strength. In his editorial to the New York Times he writes, “It is through the truthful exercising of the best of human qualities—respect for others, honesty about ourselves, faith in our ideals—that we come to life in God’s eyes. It is how our soul, as a nation and as individuals, is revealed. Our American government has strayed too far from American values. It is time to move forward. The country we carry in our hearts is waiting.” Springsteen is calling us to create a world in which the black and white does not continue to wreak fear and death. Rather, he invites a rekindling of America’s core values of independence, liberty, freedom, and choice. These are the values that gave birth to our nation.
It will be surprising if John Kerry wins this election. It will take courage and great strength for the American people to wake up from a trance of fear placed on them by the Bush Administration and much of the media. The stakes are high. Lives like Latoya’s that see the world in color, in freedom and peace, rely on the educated voter to get off of the couch and vote for a world that works toward conversation and new approaches. We have the opportunity to be in on the creation process of a world that will undoubtedly be filled with horror, but will need the truth of the colored palette to recover, to heal, and to move on.