Four More Years (Let’s Roll Up Our Sleeves)

Pres­i­dent George W. Bush has been re-elected for four more years. The man who led the Unit­ed States to “two wars in four years”: and whose poli­cies in Afghanistan and iraq con­tin­ue to cre­ate chaos in both coun­tries will get four more years to pur­sue his war of ter­ror­ism against the world. Amer­i­cans will not sleep any safer but will dream ever more of con­quer­ing and killing ene­mies. We’ll con­tin­ue to sow the seeds of wars for gen­er­a­tions to come.
I was wor­ried when Sen­a­tor John Ker­ry unex­pect­ed­ly picked up in the pri­maries to become the Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date. In his patri­cian upbring­ing he was very much like Pres­i­dent Bush, and they actu­al­ly agreed on many of the big issues — war, gay mar­riage, stem cell research. But in his per­son­al­i­ty, style and tem­pera­ment Ker­ry was too much like for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Al Gore.
Yes, I know Gore won the pop­u­lar vote in the 2000 elec­tion and that his loss was declared by mys­te­ri­ous chads and a hand­ful of senior cit­i­zen judges in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. But an elec­tion as close as that one should have been seen as a resound­ing loss, no mat­ter what the Supreme Court ver­dict. As Vice Pres­i­dent, Gore had helped lead the nation to one of its great­est eco­nom­ic recov­ers in our life­times. He was also clear­ly smarter in the Pres­i­dent, more knowl­edge­able and far­sight­ed, with more care­ful­ly artic­u­lat­ed visions of the future. But he bare­ly won the pop­u­lar vote, mak­ing the elec­toral col­lege vote close enough to be debated.
Ker­ry is intel­lec­tu­al and aloof in the same way that Gore was. And clear­ly there are a num­ber of Amer­i­can vot­ers who don’t want that. They want a can­di­date who can speak from the heart, who isn’t afraid to talk about faith. They also want a can­di­date who can talk in sim­ple, moral­ly unam­bigu­ous ways about war.
And what about war? Would a Pres­i­dent Ker­ry have real­ly pulled out troops soon­er than Pres­i­dent Bush will? Who knows: Demo­c­ra­t­ic Pres­i­dents have pur­sued plen­ty of wars over the last cen­tu­ry and when Ker­ry pro­claimed he would hunt down and kill the ene­my, he spoke as the only one of the four men on the major tick­ets who actu­al­ly has hunt­ed down and killed fel­low humans in wartime.
We can make an edu­cat­ed guess that a Kerry-led Amer­i­ca would leave iraq in bet­ter shape than a Bush-led Amer­i­ca will. Ker­ry has the patience and the plan­ning fore­sight to do the hard coalition-building work in iraq and in the world that is nec­es­sary if U.S. mil­i­tary pow­er will trans­late to a real peace. But a Ker­ry plan for paci­fi­ca­tion and rebuild­ing of iraq could eas­i­ly have fol­lowed the path that Demo­c­ra­t­ic Pres­i­dent Lyn­don B. Johnson’s did in Viet­nam: an unend­ing, constantly-escalating war.
Did Amer­i­cans offi­cial­ly approve the country’s past two wars yes­ter­day? It’s hard to con­clude oth­er­wise. Despite the lies of mass destruc­tion and despite the “will­ful mis­lead­ing of the Amer­i­can people”: that Sad­dam Hus­sein was some­how involved in the 9/11 attacks and “pos­sessed weapons of mass destruction”:, some­thing over 50% of Amer­i­cans thought the Bush/Cheney Pres­i­den­cy was worth keep­ing for anoth­er four years.
But there’s noth­ing to say a pop­u­lar vote grants wis­dom. In the next four years, those of us want­i­ng an alter­na­tive will prob­a­bly have many “teach­able moments” to talk with our neigh­bors and friends about the dete­ri­o­rat­ing sit­u­a­tion in iraq and Afghanistan. Maybe those of us whose “paci­fism is informed by reli­gious understandings” can cross the intel­lec­tu­al divide some more and talk about how our faith gives us a sim­ple, moral­ly unam­bigu­ous way to argue against war. The coun­try needs “strong paci­fist voices”: now more than ever. Let’s get talking.
ps: …and donat­ing. Non​vi​o​lence​.org is a nine years old peace resource guide and blog. It’s time it gets reg­u­lar fund­ing from its mil­lion annu­al read­ers. “Please give gen­er­ous­ly and help us expand this work”: We have a lot to do in the next four years!