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Let's Pretend
March 14, 2003
By Pamela Troy

Early 2001

True, he wasn't technically elected, but appointed by the Supreme Court. And true, there are all those questions about legal voters being purged from the voting rolls, and votes not being counted, and votes being credited to the wrong candidate, but, as our Supreme Court observed, is it really fair to hold these things against the man? Can he help it if certain voters couldn't keep out of trouble long enough to avoid having a misdemeanor on their record that got somehow counted as a felony? Is it his fault some of them have the same name as a convicted felon, or one that is similar? Is it his fault all those old folks filled out their ballots incorrectly? Please citizens, we don't want to push his supporters to the point where they lose all patience and start pounding on another courthouse wall. Obviously the only dignified course of action for you legal voters who weren't counted is to shrug and say, "Oh well. We'll get to vote in the next election." Let's do the adult thing. Let's pretend he was elected.

Mid 2001

It's simply a matter of common courtesy with a new president that we let him have his period of grace. And if he seems just a wee bit sensitive about any sign of opposition, a little wistful about how much easier it would be if he were a dictator, well, who can blame him, what with all those people getting so hopelessly neurotic about who voted for whom? The fact is, showing up with a sign criticizing him when he's making a public speech is just plain rude, no matter what some seventh-grade civics teacher may have told us about our traditions of free and open dissent. It's really about time we grew up and acknowledged that such vocal critics are just asking for trouble, and if they don't politely conduct their public demonstrations someplace where the public isn't bothered by them, they deserve what they get. We have an opposition party in the House and Senate who are keeping an eye on him. They'll prevent him from appointing anyone too "out there" to important positions (like Attorney General), or imprisoning American citizens without access to a lawyer or hearing. It's their job to keep the President in check and even though at the moment it may seem like they're giving him everything he wants, we should trust them. They know what they're doing. Just for a little while, let's pretend he has a mandate.

Late 2001

We're hurt. We're scared. We need a great leader, and now is not the time to quibble about whether or not his statements actually belong up on the television screen alongside such wartime heroes as Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Now, in this period of danger, chaos, and uncertainty, is the time to put out a flag, sing God Bless America, and turn our open and trusting faces towards the man appointed as our President. Whatever your opinions and misgivings may be about how he got into the White House, it is vitally important right now that all Americans put aside all their petty doubts, pull together, look confident and loyal and declare him OUR PRESIDENT. It's called faith! For the sake of our country, let's pretend he's a great leader.

Mid 2002

So there's no more attorney-client privilege, and, if the President says so, no more access to a lawyer or a public hearing at all for certain so-called "American citizens." So the FBI can keep track of everything we're reading, and can come into our houses, look around, maybe even copy everything on our hard drives without telling us. So certain potential terrorists (some of whom are active in the peace movement) have been stuck on a No-Fly List. Now is the time to ask yourself: "Does it really make a difference to ME? Is MY life truly disrupted by these arcane little changes?" Of course not! There are some non-average citizens, academics, activists, swarthy types, and other malcontents it might affect, but the fact remains that the average churchgoing Joe can still drive to work, watch TV, and eat his hamburger in relative peace and contentment. Surely we can overlook a few undetectable snips in some document that was written more than two centuries ago and still proudly declare ourselves a free and open society. Let's be good sports. Let's pretend the Bill of Rights is intact.

Early 2003

We have to do something. Hussein is a Moslem, Bin Laden is a Moslem. They're both Arabs and even if they make this big deal about not liking each other, they were probably in 9/11 together, because we all know how those people stick together. Look, whatever your private feelings may be about this war, it's important for all those soldiers we've sent over there to feel that they have our support, and they're not going to feel that way if people keep clogging up the streets with these peace marches. And besides, do you truly expect the U.S. government to make important decisions based on a show of hands? So be good citizens and keep those private feelings, PRIVATE! Take your cue from the American press, who are perfectly willing to pretend to hold press conferences with the man we're pretending to have elected, not all those foreigners who refused to guarantee the leader of the world's only remaining super power a standing ovation. Let's truly enter into that eternally youthful enthusiasm and trust that is supposed to be the hallmark of our country. Let's pretend Osama Bin Laden wears a black beret, is the dictator of a secular Moslem nation, and is clean-shaven except for a thick dark moustache.

2004

Another election is here and in the midst of these difficult times, it's vitally important that the rest of the world see us as a united country. The last thing we want is a repeat of all that unseemly arm waving and hysteria surrounding the 2000 Presidential election. Fortunately, while we've been so preoccupied with terrorism and the economy, our government has been on the case, and is implementing a system that guarantees voters will be undisturbed by any visible glitches or inconsistencies. Just walk up to the machine, touch a few buttons, and the software does the rest. And to forestall any troublemakers who might kick up a fuss about, say, the published results declaring that their predominantly Jewish district voted for a prominent anti-Semite, some state governments have taken the precaution of making recounts almost legally impossible. No more unsightly hanging chads, no more untrustworthy humans putting their hands on ballots and looking at them in the case of some machines, no paper trail whatsoever! The results and how they were counted are safely tucked away deep in a tangle of software inaccessible to anyone but the private companies who wrote the code, and all we see is the smooth, reassuring face of the machine and its nifty LCD display. What more can a patriotic citizen desire?

Come on, folks, let's take that one extra step. It can't be that hard, considering how far we've come in the past four years. Let's go the whole mile.

Let's pretend to vote.

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