I am not one of those Canadians who is bitter that Americans (as a rule) know so little about my country. From an American point of view - that is, from the center - all other countries are outside the magic circle of power and importance. This is the way that empires, to their ultimate detriment, have always seen the world.
Nevertheless, and despite being a citizen of one of the imperium's most coddled colonies, I am compelled to issue my two cents' (Canadian) worth.
For the past 10 months, anyone with the slightest interest in US national politics has been bombarded with the message that this election is not only one of the most "partisan" (read: dishonest and bombastic, with barely-veiled charges of "treason" replacing genuine debate and the assumption that good and reasonable people may honestly disagree) but one of the most important in living memory, if not in history.
Like so many other "ideas" being tossed around in the clash between the Republic and Democratic candidates, both ideas are false. I suspect the election that preceded the US Civil War was at least as nasty as this one; and an important election is one in which the views of the candidates differ enough that the post-election course of the country will be significantly different should candidate A defeat candidate B.
Lets leave aside the fact that a President's power is in large part dependent on being able to pursuade a majority in both houses of Congress, and that both ("serious") candidates are beholden to the interests of the American monied class to a degree possibly unprecedented in a democratic society, and deal simply with Bush and Kerry's positions on the issues.
Long-time readers may remember my post of October 17th, when I suggested that, were I an American, I would cast my ballot for Ralph Nader - neither "mainstream" candidate offered sufficient difference for me to bite my tongue and vote for the lesser of two evils. Gentle reader fromaway fromaway</lj> shook my thesis by suggesting that, as a woman, Bush's fundamentalist beliefs on such things as Roe vs. Wade made the choice far from the trivial one I had suggested.
I've wrestled with that idea since then, but have now come down on my position as an outsider, influenced in some degree by Ken Wiwa's suggestion in the Globe that 4 more years of Bush leading his country to self-destruction would be better for the world than would the probably more competent leadership of John Kerry, who would nevertheless take the US down the same foreign policy path.
- Bush will continue killing Iraqis as part of the "war on terror", even though Iraq's former dictator had nothing to do with 9/11 and never had any "weapons of mass destruction"; Kerry promises to do the same, only better;
- Bush will push ahead with the "missile defence", thereby making the United States less secure but enriching the military-industrial-complex; Kerry promises to do the same, but not quite as quickly;
- Bush claims the right to send the marines anywhere in the world, any time; Kerry claims the same right, but promises he'll be able to gather a bigger coalition to join him in breaking international law.
From a foreigner's point of view, neither candidate seems motivated by a morality that recognizes citizens of countries other than the US as people. 100,000 Iraqis have paid the ultimate price for 9/11 and both candidates promise that more will follow. That Kerry seems to understand that other states matter to the US seems a small difference indeed.
From a foreigner's point of view, it seems clear that voting for one or the other is a vote to affirm the validity of your corrupt and failing system. Since it doesn't much matter whether you end up having as dictator either Tweedledum or Tweedledee, you might as well salve your conscience by voting for Ralph Nader (or writing him in in those states where, in your beacon of democratic hope, he has been denied the right to be on the ballot), then settle in for the fall-out as your country bankrupts itself on behalf of those few of "your" companies that will make billions from the slaughter of brown people all over the world.