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Does Approval Rate?
Published on Sunday, February 3, 2002 by Common Dreams
Does Approval Rate?
by Bill C. Davis
 
When polled, people are not asked if they are inspired, challenged or uplifted by Bush – they are asked if they approve. Like a test screening of a movie searching for an ending, audiences are asked what they want to see and hear. Like a child who loves a parent who serves fudge as the main course America approves of Bush.

Apologists for Bush say that he is smart and even if he isn’t he doesn’t need to be - that his rabble rousing is the purpose of a president - that he is there to reflect not guide or transform the energy of the people. He is meant to preside over the drama but not really interfere with or elevate it. By doing what the apologists say he must do, not that he has shown to be capable of anything else, Bush wins approval.

He in fact percolates popular paranoia. He senses and generates fear and uses it. He will give America a military that can protect its interests but not its citizens. He will point to enemies - out there - encouraging the cozy insulation of xenophobia – creating the eerie warmth of being huddled in our own cave ready to support the long arm of superpower expansion masquerading as superpower justice. As he insults and provokes in our name for reasons that are covert, convoluted and Carlyle, he is met with approval.

The purpose of an inspiring leader is not to catalogue the common and predictable impulses of people and then canonize them as noble and coherent policy. A leader should lift the agenda and the people. A leader should usher his people through the canyons of evolution. To diminish the role of a leader to a kind of chairman of the board who anticipates and exploits public appetites is to put America and the world in peril.

The death penalty, which is history in all European countries, is the exaltation of an understandable and base impulse. Born again Bush pushed and believed in the death penalty to such an extent that he became known as governor death. The crowded death row and steady rate of murder in Texas show how effective the death penalty has been as a deterrent. But even a failed philosophy is held on to if it meets with approval.

The American military was useless in the face of 9/11. In fact, it can be convincingly argued that previous, pervasive and perhaps threatened use of the American military contributed to the criminal assault. In response America used the same military to strike back convincing us that they had the right target even though it was only the first target.

Other than making most of America feel good, the widely broadcast military response, which everyone said was the something we had to do, has done nothing to resolve the conflicts that feed the pathology that fuels the violence. To be told that we’ve had a great victory and at the same time we are more vulnerable to attack bears this out. Victory that doesn’t bring security or peace is not victory. Our bombs killed a lot of people and generated the need for more bombs and more homeland defense, and well-groomed people stand in front of cameras and tell us how well the war is going, and we approve.

Like a smoker with lung cancer adding another pack of cigarettes to his habit, Bush increases the military budget. And as he paints a bigger bulls eye on all of us every time he speaks from the platform he usurped from us, we are asked, do you approve? Although we see high percentages the approval feels like confused and numbed acceptance.

So we wait – like a city on a fault line - plates beneath the earth shift according to increased stress, and when no one expects it, an act of terror like an earthquake will hit. And Bush will have another window to continue the cycle and win approval. He and his handlers trashed our democracy in 2000; insulted international endeavors and agreements in 2001; and in 2002 he waves a red flag in front of countries he is informed about but about which he knows very little. And America approves.

Someone who both personifies and manipulates the collective reflexes can be approved of. Will he change the world for the better – will he develop a solution or adjust the landscape on which the world has battled and bled for years? Will he liberate the human condition from the insane paradigm that has kept us landlocked and earthbound? Someone who will give the simplistic predictable rush to a population hungry for easy words and sentimental, chauvinistic assurances will win approval. But he will never win the peace.

Bill C. Davis is a playwright http://www.billcdavis.com/

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