By Mathew Maavak
I wasn’t surprised at the recent election results. The reasons given were predictable. Diebold machines were singled out, alongside the usual congeries of electoral fraud. They could be right on this, but only to an extent this time around.
The question is, if Americans are being defrauded a second time, with American blood being spilt abroad, with the promise of more bloodshed in store, why isn’t John Kerry at least demanding a full re-count, at least for principle’s sake, and prevent this literally bloody fiesta from repeating itself?
When many accused Al Gore of caving in too easily the first time around – when he had actually won — you’d expect the recent Democrat challenger to go down fighting as if he (or the nation) had nothing to lose. If people are genuinely mad, they’d endorse that recount and not blame the Democrats for fuelling a sense of national insecurity, or indignation.
The party has nothing to lose.
The business of state can go on, as usual, while electoral experts scrutinize all allegations of ballot fraud. A few hundred inspectors, if appointed, aren’t going to generate public hostility for the Democrat party; instead, if the allegations are true, voters would really watch out next time after this life-sucking double-whammy. Yet, Kerry conceded fast, as expected. He wasn’t the fighter his party liked to present. Bush certainly was, however much one disliked him.
Kerry’s campaign had the familiar, pre-planned circus themes, avoiding all the real issues of the day, and if you read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of United States, this is nothing new. This tacitly agreed engagement of safe issues between both major parties — that only serves the ruling class – is a recurring feature of American politics. In the late 1890s, when there was strong dialectical backlash against the tyranny of money and class, many progressives, populists, and socialists hobnobbed with the Democrats and individuals of renown for what they saw was a chance to smash the electoral ransom by a few. They were betrayed time and time again.
It’s the 21st century now, and “progressives” are repeating the same charade, thinking of short-term goals, which never really transpire, instead of just winning eventually by sticking to their guns.
Here is a really interesting question. How many votes that went to Ralph Nader during the 2000 elections went to George W. Bush this time? I’d be surprised if the Crawford Cowboy didn’t corral a chunk of them.
Upon observing the elections at close hand, India Today’s (Nov 15 edition) Aroon Purie felt like he “was back home” – yes, these things happen everywhere where there is a ballot box – and heard all the familiar debates “about voter disenfranchisement and intimidation, the inaccuracy of exit polls, money power and even electronic voting machines.”
He was confused over the “divided electorate” and a “plethora of opinion polls,” and personally picked the winner two days before the results. He did it by observing Americans.
Many didn’t like Bush but voted for him nevertheless. Why? Because they were goaded to make this decision by elements of the “so-called left” which later morphed to endorse Kerry on a big scale, dragging along individuals who were themselves wary of the Democrat candidate.
An eventual win for Bush was plain to me, even a year ago, and what confused me equally was the opinion polls, which showed a strong support base for Kerry.
Almost every American I talked to in person had already decided on the vote. It was for Bush, a man they ironically despised but who had made his stance clear on certain issues. His tough talk on terrorism and insecurity could have been smashed by the Kerry brigade in no time. It would have been that easy, if the Democrats had not been beholden to their financiers. But Dubya got away with it, and the votes.
There were two other reasons for this debacle, something omitted out of political or editorial correctness:
Attack on Christian beliefs: It backfired badly. “Liberal” elements paradoxically lost the votes for Kerry the moment they endorsed him. Many evangelicals who didn’t vote for Bush the last time were galvanized this time, mainly over these five "non-negotiable" issues: abortion, stem cell research, same-sex marriage, human cloning and euthanasia. Underlying these “non-negotiable” issues were fears of further attacks on their views and lifestyle. They don’t like a cowardly system that upholds free speech for Oscar-nominations like the Last Temptation of Christ, and oppose free speech in the form of school prayer. They don’t like selectivity under the banner of Freedom of Speech.
These voters have seen this assault on Christian beliefs in places like the United Kingdom, and the minority appeasement that results from it. How can you explain the case of M'hammed Azzaoui, 38, a Muslim trainee traffic warden, who got wobbly, for religious reasons, after discovering the existence of a tiny cross on his St Edward's Crown insignia? Police badges come with that symbol of monarchical/state authority. Ian Blair, deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police agreed that the crown used since the coronation of 1661 could be offensive to minorities (hardly a Sikh or Hindu in UK objects to this, and no-one objected to such badges when Indians, including Muslims from a then non-existent Pakistan, were fighting for the Brits, with good pay, during both World Wars).
There are countless more examples downplayed or omitted in the media. Here is another example. Big and Small Media provide the impression that France is actively trying to subvert Islamic identity among young adherents in schools. The banned headscarf is what we hear and Islamic propaganda claims this is a direct assault on their religion. Fact is, Christians aren’t allowed to carry their crosses into schools, and now Sikhs are banned from wearing their turbans (both a religious and ethnic symbol) as well.
But who gets to commandeer the discrimination tag for themselves, backed by the threat of “action” and propaganda? Who tries to argue with them, and face wrath of all kinds?
Here is the Christian response to the “liberal” elements: “Sure, we have strong beliefs, but do we lop off the heads of homosexuals, women who abort, and physically intimidate those who oppose our views? Do we force women into marriages, hunt pornographers down, and threaten our own daughters with mortal danger for seeking their own boyfriends? Does the New Testament teach us to hate our enemies and take up the sword? Do you respect our culture and beliefs while shying away from another, for your own safety?”
To that you can add: Why is the Western World – once the laggard – are ever developing materially and philosophically to an extent that its appeal can be found in a liberal Islamic, non-Arab country like Malaysia? James C. Dobson may be feathered and tarred in the writings of US intellectuals, but his Focus on the Family messages are popular with Muslims there. They are aired every morning on national radio, and heard with much appreciation as workers commute to work in the capital Kuala Lumpur and elsewhere.
You’d find arguments like these in more “right wing” articles. They are powerful, blunt and hit the mark. Ironically, some of the first post-election derogatory comments about women came from the traditional left, alluding to the usual “bimbo newscaster seduced the population” theme. For now those comments are OK, after Kerry willingly lost, but earlier it was a sign of male chauvinism, which came from the traditional, anti-feminist “right”.
Why bring in religion? Well, that’s why you got Bush.
Its important to know that society, as far as the ballot is concerned, is an aggregation of individuals and their votes. Some of their collective experiences have been publicised by neither Big Media nor the progressive-liberal front. Here is a personal experience. I have attacked Christians at online debates for their political views. Some of them later invited me, a complete stranger, to their homes. I have assailed right-wing Jews for Israel’s policy on Palestine, after the usual Christianity-Judaism joust and we still called each other achi. That’s non-lethal democracy and freedom of speech. I have argued with impassioned Vishwa Hindu Parishad sympathizers about the freedom of religion and they kept agreeing with many of my points. They are appreciative of the fact that Christian missionaries don’t use brute force, not since the time of the Portuguese rule, centuries back in India. They support freedom of belief, as long it is “genuine”. Almost all of them have to lower their voices into whispers when they talk about an established, non-tolerant Islamic militancy, one that has resulted in thousands of deaths. Ask yourself why the whispers, by a majority, in a democracy? Read all you can about Kashmir.
About three years back, whenever I got into a taxi in Leeds, England, ethnic Pakistani drivers frequently mistook me for a kindred soul, and sometimes I played along. It comes easy to me.
When I did, I heard all sorts of anger and resentment against Britons. Why? Here is a typical answer.
“They persecute Muslims. They eat pork, they drink. Their lifestyles are different from our culture.”
Different lifestyles cause hatred, I presume, even when it’s non-intrusive. I asked:
“Have you been attacked by these people? How long have you been in England?”
“No. I have never been attacked. Just six months.” That answer of six-odd months came from a restaurant help at a fish and chips shop near Leeds University. A year or two later, I would read about militant sympathizers being rounded up in that area.
I stayed in a Christian home in a calm South India recently, which was located within a Muslim neighborhood. The kind of lifestyle change needed was pretty darn vexing. I had to don track pants over my shorts to cross over from my room, through the study, to the balcony for a smoke. The erogenous potential of my calves and knees didn’t make me feel like a male supermodel. I get angry when head-scarved strangers look at me menacingly, in my sweltering track pants, while I make coffee in the kitchen, at a distance deliberately attained as far as possible from a Muslim maid. Still, some puritanical, sex-crazed mind would call up incessantly to keep tabs…No, my ankles don’t come close to Brad Pitt’s, me thinks, and no male I know can describe Nicole Kidman’s either, offhand.
I don’t like my liberty being held ransom even after I have made the necessary cultural compromises. I explode if I see that that the same liberty, post compromise, is being held to daily ransom by brute force…
Has this short discourse on the religious freedom angle, post-election, gone too far? It hasn’t; you have an ethnic Arab general named John Abizaid leading US forces in Iraq.
Many like Abizaid, though not specifically referring to him, arrive in America (and now, increasingly Australia), after knocking on its doors for years, into a system that rewards chop-chop Wahabbi fundamentalism more than their interests. The wealthier evangelicals do nuts about this, they hardly pressure congress, and that’s where they should be attacked.
These immigrants, despite their education and wealth, will tell you of the daily reprogramming and self-suppression they have to undergo to avoid a murderous riot. It is a unique one at that can explode without warning. They arrive in America and tell church members of how they had to censor themselves daily, even over online chats. The Lebanese Civil War can be frequently be repackaged as a conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, blurring the ethnic and religious homegrown realities in that internecine war...
Cultural refugees rather live in the United States where they can cherish their little freedoms, and they cherish it more than do Americans themselves.
The same article by Aroon Purie starts with this quote from a US election expert: “India runs its democracy better than us.”
This is what politically savvy Indian professionals in the US tell me:
“Here, you can say any damn thing you want, man”…and call Bush a @#$% in the same breath.
There are more Hindus in India rejoicing over Bush’s victory than I expected. The papers state reasons of strong defense ties under Bush, and his approval of outsourcing etc. A young, mobile, educated lot is not held hostage to “outsourcing.” Talk to them and you’ll find an endorsement of what Bush is doing in Iraq — yes — and elsewhere in the Arab world. They are angry. Many of them would have had a relative or friend who faced all sorts of humiliation at the hands of “oppressed Arabs” while they were working, studying or living in the Persian Gulf states.
At home they turn angry at India’s official appeasement of their own “oppressed lot”. This is civilization that welcomed Judaism and Christianity, with the promise of safety and wealth, long before they reached the shores of Western Europe, with its promise of century-abiding slaughter.
Failure of the liberal-progressive left: They are riddled with infighting, repeating a trend seen throughout all of the United States’ dialectic history (read H. Zinn again). This bloc makes too many compromises and practice equal control and censorship as do the Big Media they complain about. Freedom of speech means you have to find another outlet, perhaps your own, as you can’t air your views freely within their suffocating, confined spectrums. In the process, this group ticks off almost every potential sympathizer. They love to attack the church, evangelicals, and to an extent fanatical Jewry, never the Mosque that tries to impose its values on, even the majority, if permitted. The proof comes from history and everyday experiences.
The US liberal (or progressive) front has the historic habit of picking the wrong allies for short-term convenience, resulting in cyclical failures. Like before, they can enlist luminaries who in turn can subvert or drown out their screams for justice (again, read H. Zinn). Progress is made in terms of basic human compromises. The demands of those times, specifically during the turn of the last century, were however desperate.
There were “284,000 children aged 10 to 15”, who were laboring and dying in “mines, mills and factories.”
Mother Jones described one such situation:
“Every day, little children came into the Union Headquarters, some with hands off, some with the thumb missing, some with the fingers off at the knuckle.” (Zinn, p 346)
The Ludlow Massacre of April 1914 resulted in the “charred, twisted bodies of eleven children and two women,” perpetrated by National Guardsman on the payroll of the Rockefeller Family who owned the Colorado Fuel and Iron Corporation profitably, and the lives of its mainly-white immigrant workers in slave-like conditions. (Zinn, pp 354-355) Bush was a proud Guardsman, wasn't he?
Activists then, even among the educationally deprived poor, saw this as a class struggle, pitting capital and labor, one not confined to the United States alone.
The massacres haven’t ceased and you reap what you sow.
Their modern variants, however, include among them a lot trying to carve a class for themselves, ostensibly under the guise of "class struggle." They find it fashionable to reconcile environmental activism and tribal rights. Oh, “the traditions of tribal people must be maintained” is a common theme even if it means high infant mortality and lack of a literacy they have superbly mastered themselves.
They rant against elitism, move in elitist circles, arrive in comfort to stir up an impoverished population, and return to a hometown where they are poised to inherit a posh school that thrives on bribery, donation and discounts for donations, meant only for kids of the super-rich. The paradox here is that their parents boast about this to their super-rich American neighbors, who realize the game.
They complain about Big Media while their articles are published by major national dailies; the best money can buy for its purportedly steamy details. (I am recounting a true story here, corroborated over and over, the last one by an insurance manager who had to use a legal technicality to extricate both his daughter and his “donation” out of the school).
As Noam Chomsky once said: “People are not stupid. They “feel powerless” and realize the threat of amassed wealth. ( Power and Powerlessness By Mark Harris, Conscious Choice, April 2001)
You can argue about Chomsky, dispute his views and their contexts, but his words never fail to find a niche somewhere.
How can 59,732,000 people be so dumb? The Daily Mirror (Nov 4) should have headlined it “How can millions of Americans be so pissed?”
No, its NOT OK if tribal children are left to lead primitive lives and die from lack of medication, and by association, wealth and literacy. No, its NOT OK when such people are applauded when they assail Dubya while retaining their dubious activist credentials. No, its NOT OK to make deals with “anti-war activists” who inadvertently or not, are now our present day’s biggest accessories to bloodshed, all from a system of censorship and compromise, from the progressive-liberal front.
It has backfired, and the White House is secured for another four years.
Bombay, Nov 10 2004
Copyright@ Mathew Maavak 2004
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