President George W. Bush Jr. was able to bring this nation to war, an offensive war. There are certainly ways to justify the war, liberation of any people from a tyrant leader is something that all Americans should be proud to be a part of, and all of the soldiers who are a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom have something to be proud of for their individual efforts. However, many people have protested this war, not because they are stupid, not because they are "Hollywood Liberals" that are out of touch with reality, not because they are cowards, because they want to expose the country to danger, or because they don't care about the Iraqi people. Many people have opposed this war because they were aware that the Bush administration was lying when they brought information to the American people, because they questioned the motives of such actions, and because they were concerned for the well being of Americans and Iraqis alike.
What is the most troubling about this entire situation is the depth of misunderstanding in society that enables leaders like George Bush to stand up in front of this country and tell the number and magnitude of lies that he has told and get away with it. That was only possible because of the system of lies that has been perpetuated in this country by the American establishment for generations, enabled by the private American media. What does having a free press really mean? The lies and misconceptions that are floating around in American society have got to be cleared up and it is clear that no part of the establishment is going to do that; it is clear that the establishment is the source of the lies and misconceptions in the first place.
I would like to repeat the quote of Gilbert K. Chesterton made in 1926 that I sited in the Introduction :
"You may have secret diplomacy; you cannot have secret democracy. Democracy is dead without information. If the people are misinformed about the main facts, we cannot even say that they are voting wrong, but rather that they do not vote at all. At best they are voting about something else; something that does not exist. The old defenders of democracy never dreamed of defending this sort of democracy. They assumed that public affairs would be public. They had not seen the rise of two things, the dominate things of our time. The first is the financier, who remains entirely unknown; and the second is his servant or debtor, with an 'organ of opinion,' who decides for everybody what shall be unknown and what known. Till these two monopolies are broken, the whole notion of the citizen is nonsense; "
George Bush likes to talk about unity in America and how we have all been brought together. This unity is fictional, it does not exist. Americans are deeply divided. We are divided between people that believe in the establishment and those that do not. We are not divided in our intention to make America a better place and improve our lives and the lives of the people of the world. What we are divided on is perception of the truth.
We need open and honest discussion between opposing views, we need talk between the left and right, the Christians, Muslims, Jews, pagans, atheists, blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, gays, women, men, children, and adults. We have to hear each other out, listen, be a friend not a foe to each other and listen to some things that may be very hard to take.
In terms of the issue of tolerance, there is a type of tolerance that we don't need, and that is a tolerance of lies. We can't tolerate people who try to turn discussions about ideas into personal attacks or try to change the subject or fail to directly answer questions. We can't tolerate people who try to bully others into a state of not being able to engage in discussion. We can't tolerate corporate leaders stealing billions of dollars and not being held accountable and we can't tolerate government or corporate secrecy of American or foreign institutions.
We have to make some real decisions about our economy and our role in the world.
The Bush administration is claiming to support a Napoleonic plan for world peace, whereby America maintains its position as the most powerful country in the world and makes sure that no other countries are allowed to achieve enough success to become equals with us. If that is even their agenda at all, if that itself is not just an excuse for continued military action around the globe to serve corporate interests and the expansion of the American economy, then it is an option that we all have to consider and decide if we want to support.
I find it impossible to reconcile the idea of promoting liberty and also crowning oneself king of the world, but perhaps there is more to this idea then I have considered.
America currently has the strongest economy in the world, and the truth is that if we wish maintain the strongest economy in the world then what that really means is that we wish to prevent the rest of the countries in the world from achieving our level of success.
Think about it. How can we want our economy to continue to remain the strongest when we are already the richest country? If that remains the case, then that means we will be perusing an agenda that holds little promise for the rest of the world. This isn't an easy thing to consider but we have to consider it nonetheless.
We have grown up for generations in a society that promotes competition over everything else. Being number one is everything to Americans. Do we truly have the courage to share the world as equals, or are we too afraid to do that?
If we cannot choose to share as equals then we must recognize what we really are, global tyrants. There are no real alternatives to seeing this. Either we want the world to be able to share the success that we have, in which case we hope to all be equal some day, or else we don't. Do we want to be number one, or do we want the people of world to share in our prosperity on their own terms?
Once we figure out what it is that we really want then we have to figure out how to help achieve it. If we choose not to cooperate with the global community in achieving those goals, then we are looking forward to generations of conflict.
If we do choose to work towards sharing the world on equal terms then we are looking forward to seeing America fade from its position of dominance. As Americans we have defined ourselves by how much better we think we are than everyone else, as George Bush said, "…we're the greatest nation, full of the greatest people on the face of the Earth", and by doing this we have made it very difficult to imagine a world where other people enjoy the same lifestyles and freedoms that we do. In fact, many people all over the world already do enjoy a lifestyle similar to the America lifestyle, with all the same freedoms that we have, but most Americans don't acknowledge that. We still say that America has the most freedom because we want to believe that we do have the most freedom, because the idea of having the most freedom is what makes us think we are great. In a way we do have the most freedom, we have the most economic freedom because we have the strongest economy in the world.
Can you imagine though, living in any of the other countries in the world where your life is not defined by being "the best"? Can you imagine what it would be like if we woke up tomorrow and America was no longer a super power, if we were just another country, equal to the others? I don't think that many Americans like that idea, and that is what is so troubling. The idea that America can be altruistic means that America would engage in activity that would truly benefit other countries at our expense. Clearly we should do this, if we don't there will always be conflict. Clearly, if we study our history well, we see that we also have a responsibility to do this.
If we do not promote an international agenda of cooperation then the international agenda will be defined by competition. The rest of the world is not waiting for our handouts, they are working towards their own success and achievements. If we do not cooperate with them now then as they achieve success they will not be inclined to cooperate with us then. We have to recognize that cooperation with the world may mean sacrifices for the United States, but failure to cooperate has its own sacrifices as well.
Do we have the courage to cooperate? Do we have the courage to reflect on America's role in creating the problems of the world today? Do we have to courage to see the world improve and become successful like us and peers with us? I think that that takes more courage than anything. It takes more courage to be equal than it does to be superior.
The true measure of American success will be when we are no longer a superpower and no longer the best, but we are equals. Are we really working towards that goal today?
At the beginning of this paper I said that there were three basic ways to see American leadership and society.
Now the question is, which is it?
"...in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily, and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously."
- Adolph Hitler