First let me say that I’m not sure this blog is the proper forum for my political views, and I have always made somewhat of an effort to keep my own personal opinions regarding politics (and even religion) out of the classroom. I will on occasion in class pose questions related to politics, or make analogies between events in the ancient Near East and the Bible to modern political issues. For example, both Bill Clinton and now Bill O’Reilly come up when we discuss the Ten Commandments, and I at times compare Akhenaton’s moral/religious certainty as well as his public isolation in Akhetaten Egypt with the policies of George W. Bush and his frequent escapes to his ranch in Crawford Texas. I try to be fair, and funny, and interesting, and when students ask me about my political affiliations, or who I will vote for, I tend to say that the classroom is not the place for me to talk about my personal views, but if they are curious, they can ask me in my office and I’ll tell them.
And so, back to this blog. I have at times in the past posted entries related to politics, and then deleted them a day later when I reflected on the issue and decided to keep this blog restricted to matters involving teaching. But now the most important election of my lifetime, an election that will have profound ramifications in the entire world, is a mere seven days away and the very different candidates are in a statistical dead heat. Most of the voters in this country are not informed on the issues. Most people still believe that Sadam Hussein had something to do with the planning of 9/11. Most people believe that Islam is a religion that has at its fundamental core a desire to destroy America and all of its values. Most people don’t agree with the president and feel we are going in the wrong direction but they like his moral certainty, sort of like supporting men who don’t ask for directions. Over the weekend I saw a T-shirt with an eagle on it, and it had the following text: “Listen world: either respect these colors or change your flag!” How did we come to this? I was upset four years ago, and still believe that a small group of oligarchs, including five Supreme Court justices with political motives, stole the election from the American people. I felt and continue to feel disenfranchised. But I, like many people, felt that Bush 43 had so little support that his agenda would be modest and he would make an effort, like he did in Texas (I heard), to unify and not divide. I found all of his "Bushisms" amusing, and so I felt I’d laugh for four years and then the world would move on. But it didn’t work out that way.
Traveling abroad, even though US foreign policy was harming the world and has been for years, especially the Middle East, I at least had the excuse that the American people did not elect this administration, that they stole it, and that I like most American people wanted to improve the world. I find myself longing for the days when this country was run by people like Nixon, Reagan, and Bush 41. I hated their policies, but at least they listened, made informed decisions, and compromised when necessary. They didn’t boast about how non-intellectual they were, nor did they wear their religion on their sleeve. They had a greater understanding of the world. I fear that this administration, especially George W., sees the world in binary terms, does not understand nuance, and acts repeatedly without studying an issue simply because he is confident that Jesus is behind him. Well, as a Bible scholar I can say flat out that Jesus never would have advocated an invasion of Iraq. Jesus would not have even wanted a war in Afghanistan. I believe that Jesus would have been a big fan of the UN. The current administration is so top heavy that the decisions are made first, and then the “facts” are spun to find support for their decision. I, as a citizen of the world, am terrified at the prospect of four more years of this group. Preemptive wars, the very real possibility of a draft, the privatization of social security, the reduction of civil liberties, the increased isolation of the U.S., and ever increasing hatred around the world of my country and its citizens. I don’t feel safe.
So I’m voting for John Kerry. Bush’s bid for reelection focuses solely on painting Kerry as weak, not on Bush’s record for the past four years. I don’t agree with all of Kerry’s positions. I know people who feel that this is selling out, because he doesn’t reflect ALL of my opinions on the issues. Four years ago I voted for Nader. I understand that the two party system is flawed, and the electoral college does not work. I live in Louisiana, a red state with 9 electoral votes, with current polling estimates of Bush 50%, Kerry 32%. So why not vote for a third candidate when this state is clearly going red? I don’t believe this election will be over November 2. I believe that I owe it to the world to do my part to make sure that even if Bush wins fairly or otherwise, that nationwide the other candidate had more popular support. I don’t feel Kerry will bring peace to the Middle East, because the key issue is the question of the Palestinians and Israel. Neither candidate will address this sufficiently. But I feel that the chances that we will invade Iran are much less with Kerry in office. I believe that many issues that desperately need reform such as education, the economy, and health care will be better in the hands of Kerry. So for me it is not a perfect vote, and if it were McCain, Powell, or Giuliani running against Kerry, and I lived in a red state, I would probably vote third party. But not this year. Not with the stakes so high.