by Daniel Patrick Welch
October 9, 2003
California awoke one morning to find itself governed by a giant cockroach. It's official: we are now living inside a Kafka novel -- though even Kafka couldn't have predicted the turn of events that would bring us to this point. To be fair, Schwarzenegger is not a hyper-violent, frozen, misogynist, monosyllabic robot. He just plays one onscreen. In reality, he is -- well, by now we all know who he is.
The frightening part is that the people of California knew, too. There is some indication that tracking polls showed his support slipping in the wake of all last week's revelations. Polls are tricky things, of course, but if this is true then the election happened just in time. The Republicans have become adept at cherrypicking such opportunities and milking them for all they're worth.
The thing to remember is that things are much worse on a national scale. I'm not sure if it makes it easier or more difficult to get out of bed to remind ourselves that no matter what happened in California, war criminals still skulk around the White House, and crimes against humanity continue in our name all over the world. A cornered dog may be a dangerous thing, but it is important to keep in mind that things really are crumbling all around them. Any pseudo-momentum emanating from Arnold's testosterone boost can't compare to the lift they got out of lying to start a war and the tragedy of the attacks of September 11.
As long as we have an adolescent political system based on individual personality, we will never be immune to such outbreaks of mass stupidity. Changes are essential to curb the manipulation that money and media can buy, as well as to refocus our political system on politics: the pursuit of policies and solutions that will be of benefit to the vast majority of people. What a novel idea!
I admit it does seem a long way off this morning, even if we do ignore California. The cabal in power is truly out of control, and now also panicked, desperate, mean and vengeful. I don't say this gleefully -- to contradict Martha Stewart, it's not a good thing. They are gamblers at heart, enormous risk-takers with our money, reputation and future. They have no problem going into Syria if the roll of the dice didn't pan out in Iraq, Afghanistan, or wherever.
No, we really have no right to stay in bed. Even if the old adage is true, that the problem with democracy is that everyone gets what the majority deserves, we still have our work cut out for us. There's too much to be done, or in the case of this insane government, too much to prevent being done. But Americans do need to open our eyes to the damage being done in our name. The world is recoiling in just a bit more shock and awe this morning; the fact that ordinary people could actually vote for this nightmare has always been the most difficult thing for foreigners to comprehend. But it is essential to remember that we are almost always voting in a vacuum. Given a real choice, Americans just might make the right decision one of these days. Get out of bed-you're going to be late for work.
Daniel Patrick Welch lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts, USA, with his wife, Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde. Together they run The Greenhouse School. He has appeared on radio [interview available here]. Past articles and translations are available at www.danielpwelch.com. © 2003 Daniel Patrick Welch. Reprint permission granted.