The Horror, The Horror

America no longer has a Bible Belt.

The sea of Red washing over the vast heartland on the map of the world’s bloated superpower indicates she is dressed now in Bible Bib-Overalls.

How else to explain Tuesday’s election?

Millions of the nation’s average, regular bargain shoppers seem to have voted against their economic self interest, against all logic, and against any reasonable assessment of the man’s executive abilities, returning George W. Bush to the White House –on the theory that he represents their “moral values.” He said “the right God” speaks to him, and nearly sixty million people believed.

Who would have thought it has to get even worse before it gets better? But that is apparently what must happen.

Young Americans and countless innocent people in Iraq (and, where next: Syria? Iran? North Korea?) must continue dying to swaddle the world in the comforting robes of democracy and “freedom.” The American working class must continue to watch jobs move to India, China, Mexico, and any other place where a buck twenty-five an hour is welcomed as a prince’s wage.

Healthcare and education must continue their retreat into the realm of those with the ability to pay for them. And those with the ability to pay must continue to dwindle, as the value of the currency with which they do so becomes a joke.

The earth’s air and water must continue to be fouled and diminished by the blind imperatives of “growth” and “progress,” while the climate continues to grow warmer; unspoiled habitats must continue to vanish under industry’s rapacious lust for oil and timber.

Fifty years of work for social and economic justice, together with over a hundred years of effort to bring racial and gender equity to America, must continue to be undermined and demonized, and the very Liberty on which the country was founded must continue to erode before, well, before what?

Therein lies the great mystery behind Tuesday’s near-record turnout.

It is somewhat instructive to note that an election billed by both sides as “the most important of our lives” failed to generate greater voter participation than did the election of 1964, when more people than ever before handed Lyndon Johnson a landslide victory over the father of the modern conservative movement, Barry Goldwater.

We live in a land of such vast and unrelenting apathy (as well as despair) that an election of such momentous import as this one still failed to get sixty percent of eligible voters to the polls.

Will this election mark the watershed moment when the spirit of liberalism, a defining quality of American polity for most of our brief history, is rekindled? Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich, MoveOn, and America Coming Together are certainly not going away, and the second Bush administration is sure to provide impetus for raising the ire of nearly 55 million Kerry voters in these next four years.

Will it mark our final descent into a society of heartless intolerance, unthinking conformity, and fearful rage at our multiplying “enemies”? One never knows, but Dick Cheney is already speaking of having been handed a “mandate” on Tuesday, and the likelihood is that Mr. Bush will have the opportunity to appoint as many as four justices to the U.S. Supreme Court during his second term.

There are those who will deny that America has abdicated her authority to theocratic fundamentalists, will deny the split between her secular realists and her faith-based idealists.

At this stage it remains unclear just what power “the people” retain in the land of the free and the home of the brave, or whether bib-overalls are the appropriate costume in which to exercise it.

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