Like many people who favoured the losing side in the U.S. election, I'm still struggling to accept the reality of "four more years." I'm a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada, and my American family and friends are as appalled at this election result as the world community is (Tony Blair, Israel and Russia aside).
Why does George W. Bush have such appeal for so many of my fellow U.S. citizens? How will he use his renewed power? I sought some answers as I watched Bush's victory speech on TV Wednesday. But television offers such a jumble of information and entertainment that the line between the two becomes blurred. Instead of enlightenment on any serious issues, I heard a pastiche of Newspeak straight from 1984's Ministry of Truth and platitudes that seemed to have been adapted from recent TV shows and movies.
"America has spoken," Bush proclaimed with satisfaction. I couldn't help myself; mentally I substituted "the tribe" for "America." I half expected to see Senator Kerry step forward, pouting and dressed in a loincloth, holding forth a torch for Bush to snuff out.
Kerry has been voted off the island, all right. With the Republicans in control of the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate, Bush will have a free hand to pursue more foreign wars and, at home, build a Supreme Court that will perpetuate his ideology far beyond four years.
I heard another pop culture echo, this time from The Lord of the Rings, when Bush turned to the question of restoring national unity in the wake of a divisive election campaign that pitted regions of the country against one another.
His reference to "one country, one constitution and one future that binds us" brought to mind the immortal Tolkien jingle that ends "one ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them."
Of course, Bush left out that bit about darkness. In his mind, light and right - not to mention might - have all prevailed in this election. And he most certainly did mention might. Huge applause greeted his praise for the armed forces and his promises to pursue the war on terror.
Domestic problems got the Orwellian treatment, complete with Big Brother intoning that war is peace. The shameful neglect of schools in poor neighbourhoods? "We'll make public schools all they can be." The robbing of the Social Security fund to pay for tax cuts? "We'll strengthen Social Security for the next generation." The stagnant U.S. economy? "We'll continue our economic progress."
And America's festering health care crisis? It wasn't on Bush's radar, despite the millions of his citizens who are without health insurance.
I fear for the country of my birth under this president and for the rest of the world under his army, the most powerful in the history of the world.