Monday, July 23, 2007

Living in America's Shadow

You can scream, you can shout, you can howl at the moon - but you cannot escape the fact that, in the era of the Cheney monarchy, Canada is firmly under Washington's spell. The American foreign policy of "you're either with us or you're against us" has demanded a yielding of some sovereignty. Today, America's enemies become our enemies, even if we don't declare them that in so many words. In everything from fisheries to softwood lumber we bend to America's often capricious will. That's why Canadians - you and me - have an immediate and vested interest in the goings on in Washington that we've never had to shoulder before.

Churning through these thoughts I was reminded of an article I'd read in the June issue of Harper's that explored what America faces in undoing the damage of the Bush/Cheney regime. One aspect examined was the need to undo the climate of fear and cowardice inculcated in the American people and their government:

We abhor cowardice and revere courage in part for the good courage does the rest of our character. In Ancient Greece it was one of the four cardinal virtues, along with temperance, prudence and justice, none of which can be found in either the Bush Administration or the majority of the Congress. can say with some certainty that a fearful person is unlikely to be temperate, prudent or just. It is reasonable to think that as courage improves the moral character of a person or a government, fear worsens it.

Cutting taxes for the rich and adding billions to the national debt is not prudent. Leaving millions of people, many of them children, in dire poverty in the richest nation in the history of the world is not just. Silencing the press is not temperate, nor is secret surveillance of the citizenry. Failing to put an end to an unjust war because one is afraid, like the Democrats, of repercussions at the polls is anything but courageous.

...The word "virtue" in either the Greek or Christian sense, does not apply to the Bush administration or to many of its cohorts in Congress. some of our representatives now lie, others accept bribes, at least one abused children, many participate in fixing elections, and then there is the war. The result has been an American decline so precipitous it may not be reversed for generations, if ever.

...We have become brave in answering pollsters and timid in pursuing action. ...It is a comfort of sorts to think that the disposition to evil is limited to the Bush Administration and its followers in the legislature, but there is an itch in that idea. Bush and his minions were reelected in 2004. Could there have been any cause for that but fear? And would this country have turned against him if the prediction of his court of fools had been correct and the invasion and occupation had been "a piece of cake"?

The final question is compelling. We take comfort in polls revealing that a majority of Americans now consider the conquest of Iraq to have been unjustified but how much of that enlightenment arises from the fact that Iraq has turned into a disaster? I suspect our comfort is an illusion.

A year ago I wrote of the final line of the American national anthem, the part where it describes the United States as the "land of the free and the home of the brave". It struck me at the time that neither can exist without the other - no bravery without freedom and certainly no freedom without bravery. And yet we see in this incomparably wealthy and powerful nation, a climate of fear and even a willing surrender of freedoms.

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