COULD there be any upside to George Bush’s second term? Most Muslims might agree that this second chance was a poor choice, much like electing fire to deal with fire: The world burns faster. On the domestic front, the president has presided over a damning pounding ofthe middle class, a ballooning debt that will mean hell plus trillions to pay, not to mention a sharp partisan divide that reveals the mediocrity that is the girth of his piety. Internationally, the effects are no less disastrous, maybe only more obvious. America’s popularity in global polls now fits within wee margins of error.
Maybe decades from now, perceptive historians will understand this presidency: not America beginning its century of triumph, but America, an underpowered hyperpower in a world nauseated by free-world, free-market, self-serve moralizing. Did it have to be this way? Did democracy have to mutate, gone from the wisdom of federalism to the unfriendly ghost of numerology? What once was the check and balance, the dispersal of power to prevent the arrogance and corruption we Muslims are politically too familiar with now is shrunk to vapid popularity contests. In other words, the republic became reduced to mere concern with the re-engineering of the public’s opinions.
Because democratization began to affect the judgment of all experiences, we found in the absence ofthe divine no higher moral standard than the lowest common denominator. From sexual morality to aesthetic philosophy, numbers became the key to understanding what couldn’t be qualified. (When in doubt, count.) With data that makes a mockery of statistics, Alfred Kinsey claimed that a certain percentage of men had had homosexual experiences; that percentage became necessary and sufficient to the determination of sexual behavior. Now, movies, music, lifestyles, resource consumption, all are increasingly judged by popularity alone.
How can you, after all, argue that Hollywood is churning out very bad movies when Hollywood’s still pulling in billions of dollars from millions of viewers? How can one suggest a hierarchy of literature if Harry Potter, in which even pop spirituality is degraded into sort of good versus yucky bad, is so unbearably popular? (Tens of millions of readers can’t be wrong!) But now, thanks to George Bush, they can be, and that is why those of us who still believe that the simultaneous inflation of pants, egos, breasts and bank accounts are not tolerable topics for lyrics have cause for hope.
When millions of Americans voted for George Bush to continue in office, they proved that numbers alone do not equal right and wrong. Of course, the consequences of this for American democracy, a democracy born in an agrarian era and struggling to cope with a globalizing, industrialized, branded, mega-corporation generation, are another topic, much more appropriate for a book or two. In the meantime, though, I am happy that I no longer have to accept the taste of the many. Look where it got us politically. Never mind musically.