I’m getting up in years as they say, but no election in my lifetime has been remotely this important, because at its base, the key difference between John Kerry and George Bush has nothing to do with personality, likeability or even intellect. This election, we are choosing between science and fundamentalist religious fervor. We are deciding whether this nation will base its decisions on evidence or faith.
As I write this, less than three weeks remains until the election. By the time most of you read it, we will know who won—assuming there is no repeat of the 2000 debacle in Florida.
I’m “getting up in years” as they say, but no election in my lifetime has been remotely this important, because at its base, the key difference between John Kerry and George Bush has nothing to do with personality, likeability or even intellect. This election, we are choosing between science and fundamentalist religious fervor. We are deciding whether this nation will base its decisions on evidence or faith.
What’s at stake is, quite literally, the America we have known thus far.
Despite the rhetoric of the radical Christian Right, and its increasingly successful effort to rewrite history, this was a nation founded (by skeptics and Deists) on a profound belief in man’s capacity to think, and to create governing structures that respected that capacity. They were suspicious of mob mentality, thoroughly steeped in the Enlightenment, and convinced that religion and government needed to be separated. The Bush administration would have been their worst nightmare.
If, as you read this, John Kerry is President, we can begin to repair some of the damage. I don’t envy him. The government he will inherit is in desperate straits, and his options will be severely limited. Nevertheless, the ship of state can be put back on a rational course. We need not feel “warm and fuzzy” about John Kerry, we need not agree with every policy he pursues, but the fundamentals (no pun intended!) will be sound. He will base his decisions on political and evidentiary considerations, just as virtually all our Presidents have done—including, not so incidentally, Bush senior. We will be moving back toward the America we knew.
If George Bush has managed to cling to power, the next four years will see this nation go down a path that will be impossible to reverse. More federal judges will join the 171 appointed by Bush thus far, and almost certainly two or three of them will join Antonin Scalia, the homophobe who is Bush’s “favorite justice,” on the Supreme Court. More “bible-believing” “scientists” will be appointed to critical committees at the Center for Disease Control, to make critical decisions about women’s health, embryonic stem-cell research and AIDS policies. The environment will be further degraded, the rich will get richer and the middle-class will dwindle even further. The Patriot Act will be expanded and enforced by John Ashcroft’s Justice Department, and further erosion of our civil liberties will be actively pursued. The legal gains that the gay community has made will be wiped out. Despite protestations, odds favor both reinstitution of the military draft, and more wars of “pre-emption” as Bush and the neocons pursue their goal of “taking freedom to the world.” The likelihood that this country will ever be able to regain its essential character after four more years under this radically un-American administration is somewhere between nil and dim.
If the gloomy scenario is the one we wake up to on November 3d, those of us who care—about reason, about religious and personal liberty, about the America that has been a beacon of genuine liberty—need to consider what our options are, and how we keep the spark alive during the coming dark ages.