I was poking about BBC’s news web site this afternoon. I ran across a section called “Have Your Say,” where people from all nations can leave comments on a topic chosen by BBC. The topic that interested me was “Is President Bush the leader you expected?” While I didn’t read all 910 comments that were available, those that I did read (more or less by random) seemed to have a common thread.
“George Bush has been an unmitigated disaster, not just for the US, but also for the rest of the world. Under his ‘leadership,’ the US has become to be widely regarded as interfering in other countries’ matters without justification, breaking international law, ignoring the damages to the environment caused by industrialisation and commerce and running down the social security provisions in the US. So, yes, he is precisely the kind of leader I expected him to be.”Rustam Roy, London, United Kingdom
“It is a reflection on the ineffectiveness of the US electoral system that people like Bush can get elected in the first place. Never has such an ignorant person been elected to such a powerful position. And I pray they never will be again. It is embarrassing to listen to him speaking in the company of orators like Tony Blair or Kofi Annan. Surely the Americans can do better than this!”CC Park, London, United Kingdom
“Bush is, sadly, exactly the president I expected him to be. Anyone who is surprised by his actions and the repercussions of his policies has had their heads in the sand.”
wendy, auckland, NZ
In other words, people who are NOT from the United States seem to realize that U.S. President George Walker Bush is not doing his job well. The comments from Americans fell into three major categories (again, I did not read all the comments, I merely nibbled). The first category is the “You’re all idiots, Bush is a genius” category. The second is “I’m embarrassed to be an American” (this seems to be the largest category of the three). The last category consists of incoherent ranting. (I did notice that the more incoherent a comment was, the more likely it was to be pro-Bush. There were exceptions to that, but they were rare.)
Some comments were just plain scary:
“Voted for Bush twice. Could you imagine the mess we’d be in if Gore was the presidnt or Kerry. I shudder to think how worse off we would be with them in office. High taxes, slow growth, our civilians being bombed at will by Islamic terrorists. Oh but the rest of the world would respect us, yeah while they walked all over us.”
Robert Harris, usa
“Mr. Bush is only going to bring the United States of America down at a faster rate. That is why I voted for him and he has not disappointed me.”
Alejandro, Washington, DC
It’s my personal belief that if Mr. Al Gore had been elected in 2000 (one of my favorite bumper stickers reads: “Re-Elect Gore in 2004”) we’d all be working on solar-powered Macintosh computers and riding around on Segways, smiling and waving at all the happy people. However, Mr. Gore did not make it to office, and we’re left to pick up the pieces. The trick now is to figure out the best way to do so.
It’s obvious that people in other countries see that we have a problem, even if some of us Americans don’t yet realize it. My wife’s relatives were to come to the U.S. recently for a family reunion. We ended up holding the reunion in Canada, though, because many of the Europeans didn’t want to come to the U.S. while Mr. Bush was in office. Some were fearful of being detained, others were afraid of being mobbed or attacked on the street. That makes me sad.
It seems to me that one of the first pieces we need to fix in our peculiar puzzle should be international relations. The term “Global Village” isn’t an empty phrase, it’s turning into reality. All nations need to work together if we’re going to sustain economic growth and achieve any kind of peace. Since the elections in 2000, our reputation in the eyes of the world has been shot. How do we fix it? Well, how do you regain any kind of lost trust? The first thing we need to do is to adopt a more confident stance, not in aggression, but showing an internal strength. Then we need to quietly go, hat in hand, and apologize to those nations that we’ve crossed. After that, we need to keep our mouth firmly shut. Offer help where it’s needed. Diplomatically keep our nose out of others’ affairs.
What we cannot do is charge through the world without consideration to others. If we feel the need to censure North Korea, we need to gain the support of the global community first. Cooperation and diplomacy are NOT signs of weakness or lack of leadership.
Gas Me Up, Sparky!
Another piece to be fixed is the economy. I’m certainly no economist (as can be seen by a quick glance at my personal finances; or rather the lack thereof), but it seems obvious to me that we need to do something about our dependence on oil, both foreign and domestic. Simple legislation could fix many of our woes – pass a law that all government vehicles (military excluded) be gradually replaced with hybrid or electric vehicles. Cut the $2.6 billion (not million, billion) tax credits we’re giving to the U.S. oil industry at a time they’re making record profits. Slap a luxury tax on those huge gas-guzzling pick-em-up trucks and SUV’s that are prowling the streets (there is NO reason for anyone living in a city to own a Hummer). If you’re a farmer or own a construction company, fine – have a truck. If you feel you need that four-wheel drive to get you ten blocks across town in the winter, pay the tax. While we’re at it, perhaps a one or two dollar tax on every gallon of gas would shake things up a bit. At least it’d get us thinking seriously about the problem!
I’m about half serious about those ideas. I’m very serious when I say we need to stir things up in regards to the oil industry! It’s gonna be a tough one to figure out…
(Short side-comment: Did you know that Dr. Condoleeza Rice is the poorest of Mr. Bush’s posse? Did you know that, being the poorest member of his advisors, she has an oil tanker named after her?)
The Grassroots of the Matter
But what, you may ask, can we do here and now? Lots, but some of it ain’t easy.
We need to send a strong message to those currently in power that we’re aware of what they’re trying to do (as in Vice President Richard Bruce “Dick” Cheney circumventing the Geneva Conventions in regard to torture) and that we won’t put up with it. We need to tell them that we really kind of like the environment. We need to tell them to protect our weak and poor and elderly. We need to tell them that education and health care are important to us. Call your Senator, e-mail your Congressman, write letters to the editor. But the very first thing we need to do is to sit down and figure out exactly what it is we want and what our priorities are. Read up on local politics. Participate. Start a dialogue, or join one. This is the time; we need to start hashing some of this stuff out amongst ourselves now so we can show a united front at election time.
We must get our local leaders to pay attention, too. Electing Mr. Jim Rixner to the City Council is a good start! Now we need to support him – let him know we’re here, what our views are… We need to find ways to help him with his agenda.