Requiem for American progressivism (1)

As an altar boy, I would answer “Amen” to the priest’s monotonic invocation of “Requiescat in pace” (R.I.P. - rest in peace) during a funeral mass. That is one vivid recollection of a distant childhood, pre-Vatican Council and the Latin Mass’ fall from grace.

Many of us had hoped to be flying a black banner emblazoned with R.I.P. after November 2, as a symbol of joyful mourning for the Bush Administration; but the banner turned out to be white… and the R.I.P. stood for a new meaning: “Retained In Power.” A new chant was being answered this time not by an altar boy, but a choir of 20 million evangelical voters raising their arms to the heavens and rejoicing in a sonorous amen. For legions of religious voters, this election had been about a solitary issue: moral values.

By 10 p.m. (PST) on Election Night, it was all over… at least for those able to juggle numbers with ease. Only major errors in the data being provided could alter the ominous, soon-to-follow results. My angel of hope was being buried, while the devil was reborn with a smirk in his face to remind us who's in power.

At the end of a day born in hope, and ending in terminal anxiety, I did my customary last call for electronic mail. Surprisingly, I came across two dozen messages from friends overseas… mixed with an almost equal number of messages offering Swiss-watch replicas, or designer drugs said to enhance one’s virility.

E-mails from Brazil, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Australia, Spain, Egypt and Thailand… all composed within the previous hour, all expressing condolences and apparent sadness for an America they no longer understand. Some were from American ex-pats, others from American-educated foreign nationals… most from friends birthed in political chat rooms of cyberspace. A couple of them, in jest no doubt, offering me their homes as a place where I could live in exile, if I so chose. At times one must keep a sense of humor if sanity is to prevail.

Waking up with an emotional political hangover, the election result numbers confronting me did nothing but darken the expected outcome with an extra shade of bold; even as the news media were masking an impending verdict, as if in deference to a country said to be torn down the middle… in two.

Those were the news waiting for me on a Pacific Northwest overcast sunrise. And, as I checked my electronic mailbox, similar messages to those received the night before appeared from more overseas friends, all extending heartfelt condolences for a now defunct Hopeful America, and what many are starting to call a nascent Fascist America.

Later that morning I opted to listen as Kerry conceded defeat with well-meaning oratory calling for national unity. But his words could not echo past Faneuil Hall to an America which had formally ceased, after this election, to be an oasis of hope, becoming instead a mirage of dead-end realities.

Up to November 2, much of the world had viewed “ America under Bush” as an anomaly to past American governments… an aberration in both “the man” and his foreign policy. Leaders of most nations had been prudently and discreetly waiting for the American people to show their mettle and take back the reins.

Now, after this presidential election, Americans appear naked before the entire world. A majority has given its imprimatur to a socioeconomic and political structure that more and more people have grown to hate and repudiate… not just in the US, but everywhere else. Bush is no longer “an aberration” in the American scene, a de-facto appointee of the US Supreme Court. He is now the duly elected leader of the American people.

A democratic America has held in its tent a great diversity of people with myriad philosophies, and just as many different expectations. Unfortunately, an imperial, theocratic America, as envisioned by Bush and his retinue, only offers a narrow path to walk on… a path impossible to follow by those who have purist views of what peace, compassion and freedom should be.