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One week after – some thoughts

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Last Tuesday America re-elected George Bush in what has been called the mother of all elections. It probably was, with 3.9 billion dollars being spent on congressional and presidential campaigning. It is the first time, I am told, that presidential campaigning has passed the billion dollar mark. It is an occasion on which we can justly say that a country has gotten the government it deserves. {{more}}I don’t think many other countries in the world would have elected George Bush in the first place, much less re-elect him for a second term. He plays, however, to Amer- ica’s macho image. Yes, many enjoy his defiance of the rest of the world, the United Nations and those Europeans who dared to criticise the super power for going into Iraq unilaterally. Bush is their hero, their genuine Texas cowboy. Bush concentrated on two things, fighting terrorism and making America more secure, at least that’s what he seemed to be saying. Then there was his catering to the religious right and religious fundamentalism, particularly from the South with the gay rights issue, stem cell research, abortion and what they call faith-based values.

Those who elected George W. see him as a man they can trust. He will stay the course in Iraq. He will make the world safe for democracy. What nonsense; the world will be a worse place with George W. still in the White House. The United States of America will spend a lot more money in Iraq, but the wealthy will get their tax cuts and Halliburton will prosper. More atrocities will be committed. Expect a lot more terrorism since he is, really, a recruiting agent for Osaama bin Laden. A gentleman from Germany in an e-mail to the BBC following the American elections wrote, “Yes, I am European and wanted Kerry to win. But it doesn’t affect me as much as those who voted for Bush. Good luck with the record deficit, the growing unemployment and continuing lack of friends and of course, the more hostile terrorists that Bush has unleashed.”

With the exception of Israel, persons in the rest of the world could not believe what they were hearing, the re-election of a man who has not only mishandled events in the United States of America and elsewhere, but has made that country among the most hated in the world. An Indonesian gentleman made the point that “Bush’s victory has made the world quite clear. It is all of us now, Europe, Africa and Asia against them.” Would he stay the course? Certainly his radical, faith-based conservative backers would not allow him to do otherwise. Even an American lady was heard to have asked, who are these people in the Red States? From where have they come? Actually the issue of Red and Blue States conceals the fact that large numbers in the so-called Red States voted against Bush.

I have argued before that a presidential election is a veritable laboratory for the thinking and actions of politicians. The American election is undoubtedly the most analysed election anywhere. In fact, a number of experts seem to emerge out of thin air in an election year and deal with every conceivable aspect of American life, even the food the President eats. Quite a lot of what we see from a distance is frightening. You will have to come hard to beat what happened in Florida in 2000. I expect to hear about more irregularities. Remember that the last time the media remained silent until the BBC broke the story. Already questions are being asked. How could the exit polls be that wrong? They have always been known for their accuracy. Well stay tuned!

You are never sure what you are getting in American politics. Image makers create an artificial being that they hope will appeal to voters. That image is often nothing like the real Joe or perhaps, better said, George. Script writers and speech writers sound out the pollsters and produce speeches and sounds that tell you more about them and the game they are in than about the candidates. By the way, what has happened about the story of the bulge in the back of George W’s jacket? Someone claimed it was a result of bad tailoring. I guess there are some people who believe that kind of thing. The funny thing is that all of us are buying in to this sort of nonsense. We, in these poor, developing countries, seem to be of the view that the American pattern should be imitated. We already have a lot of the trappings. We might soon have primaries and what goes with them. In the USA individual contributions to candidates and parties amounted to $2.5 billion. Now, this is not being done for the good of the country. These people expect to get back their contributions and much more. At least, it can be argued that the country can afford it, but can we?

America is a bundle of contradictions. A country that claims to be democratic but has on its statute books something called the Patriot Act that stifles or rather removes peoples’ rights. We are quick to refer to our electorate as ignorant but the USA takes the cake. We laugh at Bushy but he reflects much of the heartland, those other people, unfortunately the majority. I might be overstating my case, however, because America is a land of diversity and there are large numbers who do not support the foolishness that comes from the Bush Administration. But the reality is that we have to live with another Bush’s term. One might argue that the election of the president is the concern of the people of the United States, but this is not really so for everything the administration does affects all of us. I agree with the statement of someone from South Africa, “Bush has won but the world and its environment has lost.” I don’t think there is much comfort in this other comment from Egypt, “The bad news is Bush has been re-elected. The good news is that he can’t run for a third term.” Some consolation! Eh? Perhaps we have to resort to the thinking reflected in the headline of one European paper, “God Help Us”?

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