Help me, I live in a rogue state (revisited)

The following is an essay I wrote 14 years ago during George W. Bush’s tenure as POTUS as he was prepping the country to go to war in Iraq to find non-existent WMD’s. I’ve been thinking a lot about how the pendulum swings in American politics and, in particular, what might happen after Donald Trump is no longer acting President. GW took office following Bill Clinton, whose progressive views helped revamp the economy after a double-header of Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr. created a devastating recession. They followed an incredibly liberal Jimmy Carter who is generally regarded in history as a poor President and lost his re-election campaign. GW was accused of “stealing” the election (remember “dangling chads”?) in 2000, and also lost the popular vote. It’s important to revisit where we’ve been in order to potentially see where we’re going. As America hunkers down in another wave of isolationism, the bright light at the end of the tunnel is the idea that this too shall pass, and maybe what comes after can be something truly amazing.

As you read the words below, replace “George W. Bush” with “Donald Trump” and you’ll be surprised (or maybe not so much) at how many parallels there are.


HELP ME, I LIVE IN A ROGUE STATE!

This is for all the patriots who disagree with our President. This is for all the people around the world who disagree with our President. This is an apology.

I don’t believe in George W. Bush. I didn’t vote for him. I don’t think that makes my opinion invalid.

I oppose what he’s doing in Iraq and to the world not only because it’s unjust and unjustified, but also because I didn’t vote for him, and neither did half of the American population who voted. Have we forgotten that? The only reason he’s in office is because of the rules of the electoral college, he lost the popular vote. And in an age in which only 30% of americans vote, period (and that’s a generous estimate), whose President is George W. Bush, other than George W. Bush’s? He’s certainly not the American President. In a democracy, the person chosen to lead the country is selected by a majority. That does not mean a majority of those who turn their ballots in, that means a majority of the country. Our country has become so alienated and disenchanted by the American government, that we don’t feel like what we say, think, or do matters to our local representatives, senators, President. And it probably doesn’t. Why should we be surprised that America is going to war despite the fact that most of the world opposes us, the United Nations oppose us, and a huge number of Americans oppose the war, too? Did we expect anything better from a man who didn’t even win the American people’s vote?

Several months ago, there was talk about Iraq being a “rogue state”. What does that mean? That Saddam Hussein is a tyrant, winning his people over through fear, propaganda, and force? How is that different from our President? Who are we to say who is a rogue, who is an outlaw, and who isn’t? Aren’t we the outlaws of the world? With so many Americans lining the streets protesting against this war, how can our President say “i respectfully disagree”? Isn’t it his job to do that which reflects the voice of his people?

I live in a rogue state. I live in a country where my leader was not democratically elected, whose decisions do not represent the opinions of his people, who uses the media and advertising to terrorize and terrify his own people into believing that there is no other choice but to follow him. George Bush may not have planned the events of September 11th, but he’s certainly capitalizing off of them. I live in a country where if I’m not with President Bush, I’m with the terrorists. I guess that means I’m with the terrorists.

I live in a rogue state.

Just because we disagree with the President does not mean we are treasonous. Democracy means people have opposing views. We are patriots because we care about our country and care what happens to it, and we care about the world, and the effects of what our country is doing to it. We are patriots because we disagree. that is our right, our privilege as Americans.

What we can learn from Canada and Vash the Stampede

This is how you make your country great:

For that matter, replace “country” with any word that represents a community. Because the way you make any kind of community better is with love, not hate.

Fighting hate with hate only creates more hate. The way you fight hate is with love and acceptance. With understanding and empathy. You can’t fight hate with bigotry, isolationism, divisiveness, that only fosters more hate, more bigotry, isolationism. More divisiveness.

Looking at pictures of Justin Trudeau welcoming refugees from Syria and his “Welcome to Canada” response the other day to Donald Trump’s Muslim ban and watching him tear up when speaking with a Syrian refugee’s experience entering Canada just makes me think about how that’s what we should be doing. This is what freedom looks like.

Because it’s not about keeping all the good stuff to ourselves and a few of our friends, it’s about welcoming strangers in and letting them share in that good stuff, too. Justin Trudeau gets that. Barack Obama gets that. This country used to get that, too. That’s one of the fundamental principles it was founded upon.

I recently rewatched Trigun with my partner and here’s why Trigun is a topical anime series for what’s going on right now that if you’re unfamiliar with it, you should watch it, like, today. You can find the entire series on YouTube (English dubbed) on Funimation’s channel, but it’s worth owning.

Trigun takes place in a dystopian future that resembles the wild west. Civilization has fallen apart, and people are struggling for survival in a harsh, desert landscape with little access to water or resources and there’s no real law or government. The story centers around a gunslinger, Vash the Stampede, who refuses to take anyone’s life, at great personal risk. He frequently sacrifices himself, both physically but also emotionally, at times publicly humiliating himself if it means saving the lives of others.

Throughout the series, he’s constantly told “I don’t understand you, why do you do these things?” His mantra seems contradictory for a legendary gunman: “love and peace.” He uses his skills as a gunslinger to change the trajectory of bullets, to knock a rival gunman’s weapon just off course, he uses his incredible speed to usher people out of harm’s way. He does this because he believes that no one should have to suffer, even those who cause harm and terrorize others. His love is indiscriminate.

There’s so much television that is about hate and fear. But what is television but an escape, a way to give your brain a break from what’s happening in the real world? Why escape the hate and fear outside your door with more hate and fear? Why not fill your head with the fanciful notion that everyone is an inherently good person if you let them?

I struggle with the idea of “love and peace.” I sometimes think that, at a certain point, you need to fight back, right? There are a lot of things I have yet to learn from Vash, but being more Vash-like is definitely something I aspire to. It’s important, now more than ever, to remember Vash when we are being faced with adversity and fear and terror and hate. When we are being told to fear these people over here because they are too dangerous to enter our country, it’s important to remember that we are those people. Our histories are not separate, they are the same. We are each and every one of them. We are the ones causing terror and the ones being terrorized. The sooner we open our doors and welcome everyone in, regardless of whatever, the sooner we can show others that there is something better and worth more than fighting.

Love and peace.