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Life Imitates Art in the State of Bush
April 7, 2004
By Joe Fields

What do George Orwell, Jack and the Beanstalk, westerns, and professional wrestling all have in common? Bzzz. Time's up. The answer is that you will find elements of these artforms and more in the Bush administration.

The last three years have been a strange disconnect between Americans and our government. Suddenly, black has become white, day is night, wrong is right, and diplomacy is might. Our world has become so topsy-turvy, the good old days of the '90s now seem like a lifetime ago. And if it feels as though our leadership has completely lost touch with us and the rest of the world, well, it's only because they have.

We live in a world where government policies run contrary to the way they are packaged and sold to the citizenry. Tacit approval to clearcut entire stands of trees is cleverly called the "Safe Forests Act." The gutting of more than thirty years worth of sound environmental laws are now called the "Clear Skies" and "Clean Water" acts. Another one, the "Patriot Act," which allows the government to see which books you check out in the library, peek into your finances, medical history, and look up your Internet browsings, is really designed to make you feel safe. Boy, do I feel safe now (except when I'm out driving). Newspeak, Bushspeak; what's the difference?

Sadly, the disconnect doesn't stop at our borders. In a series of moves, reminiscent of a gunslinger in a western movie, Bush tells the world that he pre-emptively had the notion to run Saddam Hussein out of town. "This world ain't big enough for the both of us!" he exclaimed. While it is true that Saddam was a very bad man, it is also true that the world is full of naughty little despots. Which reminds me of the professional wrestler Bill Goldberg, whose famous line is, "Who's next?" So, who is next? Iran? Syria? Venezuela? The list is long. It is no wonder that the rest of the world views the United States as some schoolyard bully, or better yet, the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk, stomping around the world, upsetting everything in his way. Diplomacy? Who needs it? One thing I'm thankful for - that George Bush wasn't president during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

As a government we have shown in the last three years that we don't play well with others. Thumbing our nose at the Kyoto talks, the World Court, the United Nations, our allies, and the Geneva Convention are just a few examples. We say we want to spread democracy, but an even more curious disconnect happens here. There is a little-known agency within our government called the National Endowment for Democracy. In years past, the purpose of the NED was to spread the virtues of democracy throughout the world. But lately it seems as if it's role is to work clandestinely to overthrow democratically-elected officials in countries such as Haiti and Venezuela, whose governments don't exactly see eye to eye with the state of Bush. Come again?

Back at home, there is the issue of jobs. In the three years since Bush took the Oath of Office, the jobs outlook has been dismal. We have been in a jobless recovery for well over a year and a half. Still, the administration assures us that the economy is good. The president says he's creating jobs; see? I told you my tax cuts would work. Only two million, five hundred and something thousand to go before we break even. Don't pay any attention to the fact that most of those are temporary jobs, or that the real unemployment rate is near an alarming 7.4 percent.

Granted, we live in a much less secure world than we did three years ago. The bogeyman is out there. Yet, there have always been bogeymen. I ask myself from time to time, "What price freedom?" Is it worth spying on neighbors because their skin is olive colored? Is it really worth the loss of individual freedoms that, at one time seemed written in granite? Do we need Tom Ridge coming on television every month or so, telling us of "imminent dangers," when there's nothing the average citizen could do about them? Or color-coded alerts, plastic sheeting and duct tape?

So, in a nation that feels out of sorts and off kilter with it's own government, I can only hope for one last disconnect, and with some luck, that will come in November. If not, we may have to add "Apocalypse Now" to my list.

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