Thoughts on the election results

Sun Ottawa Bureau Columnist Greg Weston: Take a left turn at the border

"Americans have re-elected a Republican president who is not only heavily indebted to the Christian-fundamentalist right for his victory, he genuinely believes he speaks for God."

Of course it's too late now, but last week I was going to post here that I thought Bush would win because Christian leaders would get millions of followers to vote, many for the first time, and vote for Bush. I had heard about this movement and I thought it would be very effective. Unfortunately I was correct. I didn't say it here because I didn't want to admit I thought Bush would win, because I so strongly did not want that to happen. I wonder if many felt the same but did not have the courage to say it aloud, like me. :-(

Listening to conversations all over campus (and the web) yesterday, it surprised me how few people were aware of Bush's faith-based decision-making, his belief that God speaks through him and that he is doing God's will. Those of us who paid enough attention knew this was the case, and saw how downright scary that is.

I have nothing against faith, my faith is agnostic but seeded by Christian values, so don't get me wrong, I do not aim to offend the overwhelming majority of faithful/religious people who are even-keeled. While it is entirely possible, in a universe where God exists, that God might work through an individual, but I'm sorry, I really don't believe George W. Bush would be God's quarterback.

Sometimes religion overpowers a person's thinking. I think this is what has happened with Bush. I think he turned to faith to cope with the immense responsibility his position thrust onto him. Not prepared for that responsibility, he let his faith take over some of his judgment to cope. Clearly he is someone who believes strongly in the messages his faith has taught him. That in and of itself is not a bad thing. Unfortunately, he makes decisions that affect everyone, not just those whose faith provides the same set of values.

I don't think it's the government's job to control the lives of its citizenry using extreme faith-based values as its guidelines. A Christian-fundamentalist government is just as bad for the world as an Islamic-fundamentalist government. Granted, my value system is more closely aligned with Christianity than Islam, so I might not see as many negative consequences from a Christian-fundamentalist government as one based on Islam, but if I was not Christian, I would probably see a large number of negative side-effects.

(Re-reading this as I edit, I thought back to History class in junior high, learning about the [war-plagued] history of Christianity. The crusades, the inquisition... I wonder what kids currently in junior high would say about what's going on right now)

So, Bush's sharp turn to faith as a guiding principal in governing the United States gave the Christian-fundamentalist movement the outlet it needed to succceed in pushing its values on the entire country. Maybe this started as early as the '90s when Bush was the governor of Texas, and it either accelerated after he became president, or people just didn't see it until recently.

Dori and Brent did well in communicating parts of the problem with fundamentalist government. Brent says the left shouldn't be afraid to use the world evil, and Dori used the word. I'm still not sure I like throwing it around that freely, but maybe it is an effective term.

Dori said "'Religious Fundamentalists are Evil.' Four words. Not very hard to remember. If that's too long, here it is as three words: 'Theocracy is Bad.' theocracy: A government ruled by or subject to religious authority.

Such as the Taliban. And I think now, such as the Republican Party. A party driven to keep the world in a perpetual state of war against "evil". Well, war is evil. Pushing your beliefs on others is evil. No, liberty is not evil, so if Iraq gains liberty out of this, those who survive will have had some significant good come out of the war that claimed so many thousands of their people.

Google: theocracy

It should be no surprise the first hit goes to: Rise of the Religious Right in the Republican Party. Note, I haven't been to the site, and I don't endorse it in any way, but the connection between theocracy and the GOP is strong, at least according to Google.

Democrats and other left-leaning (or anti-Bush leaning) people obviously had the wrong strategy. I'm not sure the right strategy will be to try to broadly communicate that religion and politics should not mix, not when the GOP can so easily get support from the Christian base, but I think it is something that needs to be talked about openly, often, and respectfully.

Following American politics consumed a lot of my energy this year, and this election result has taught me I need to understand people better.

I can see why someone from rural America wouldn't have many issues with Bush. So many of the issues that affect urban American don't affect them. They are fortunate for that.

I can see how someone with strong faith can let those issues become more important than the economy, civil liberties, and foreign policy. What I'm not sure yet is how to effectively explain that choosing a government and choosing politicians with similar faith-based values should be mutually exclusive.

By the way, I have some reason to be hopeful Bush will reach out to the non-Christian-fundamentalist part of America. In his speech yesterday he said:

"So today I want to speak to every person who voted for my opponent.

To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support and I will work to earn it. I will do all I can do to deserve your trust."

I hope he will.

Four more years, dare I say things can only get better?

Written on November 4, 2004