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Message in a Bottle

An Election Day Intervention from a Hopeless Romantic

CultureUSA Politics

With this edition, Canadian Dimension joins the infinite numbers of romantics who, throughout history, have put a message in a bottle and thrown it out to sea, never knowing where it might land, who might read it, or what might happen as a result.

We were aiming for Clark County, Ohio. We know it’s landlocked. We know the odds anyone there will get our message are slim to none. But hey – we’re romantics!

Dear Voters of Clark County, Ohio:

Just when you thought it was safe to vote, just when you thought you had put international meddlers in their place, here comes another one.

We know how you feel about us. When The Guardian, a newspaper that lives just down the street from Queen Elizabeth in London, England, encouraged Britons to write to you and try to persuade you to replace President Bush, you were less than amused. Your letters to the editor made that clear – notably the one that said “Keep your &%#@! limey hands off our &%#@! election, &%#@!-head, we don’t want you here.” You backed it up with a rather impressive threat of kidnapping by Navy Seals and a free trip to Guantánamo Bay.

Of course, you were right to feel this way. We agree with you: whenever a sovereign nation has an election, other sovereign nations should mind their own beeswax. The editor of The Guardian came to his senses very quickly and sought refuge behind his public-relations flack, who sought refuge behind her answering machine. This went on for several day – exactly the kind of cowardly behaviour editors whine about when other people do it.

But never mind them. I’m writing to tell you that your response gave us all a laugh, a gut-splitting howl, to tell the truth. You had people all over the planet bent over double and slapping each other on the back, enjoying the ever-popular image of the ignorant American, completely unaware of his own circumstances and of his reputation around the world as, I’m sorry to put it so plainly, a political fool.

We laughed and laughed.

We laughed to think you imagine yourselves as casting votes in a fair election, although a citizen needs a billion dollars to run for president.

We laughed that you imagine you have fair and accurate information with which to vote, although your media colludes successfully to keep you in the dark about the actions of your government at home and abroad.

We laughed, dear voters, until we cried.

Yes, writing letters to influence voters in another country, however well intentioned, is rude, intrusive and definitely the work of busybodies.

But not so rude as … well, let’s see:

Not so rude as slipping vast amounts of cash and weapons to countries where it will be used to murder and disappear ordinary citizens, people pretty much like yourselves, as in Indonesia.

Not so rude as sending “special advisors” to another country and overthrowing its entire government, as you did in Chile.

Not so rude as repeated attempts to assassinate the leaders of other countries because you disagree with their policies, as you have in Cuba.

Not so rude, for example, as coveting the resources of another country, cooking up a ludicrous excuse to invade that country, killing 100,000 people and taking what you want, as you did in Iraq.

We cried because we know mere facts like these have no power, because the truth of them is dismissed as mere “anti-Americanism,” not just in Clarke County, but everywhere, by the powerful who strive to keep this sorry world the way it is.

We cried because your complaints about the attempts of foreigners to influence your vote reminded us you are the helpless citizens of Never-Never Land, who, even in this age of information, do not know what you do not know, and worse, don’t want to know it.

And in your hands, at least in this election of 2004, rests the future of your nation, and the future of many other nations, many of whom you have never heard and in whom you have no interest.

We cried because humility from Americans like you will not materialize any time soon.

Now calm down! This is just a letter, a letter from a country where, we admit, things are only slightly better – though, fortunately, we can do less worldly damage with our ignorance.

Hoping to hear from you, but not holding our breath,

Lesley Hughes

at Canadian Dimension

This article appeared in the November/December 2004 issue of Canadian Dimension .


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