Turning the first corner
It's Thanksgiving week and America has finally put the turkey on the chopping block. The celebrations that took place following the outright stuffing that George Bush and his cronies received in the midterm elections were a sight to behold. The air was charged with victory. House parties were held all over the country. There was a renewed sense of hope that a corner had been turned. Rumsfeld got the boot. Bush was seen shedding a tear. Even Cheney hung his wattled chin in shame. It felt as if the US had emerged from a terrible fever and now, at least, there was a prospect of cool air.
But there's an old joke that you know you're drunk when you feel sophisticated but can't pronounce it.
When the hooplah was over and the bunting was taken down, there were a lot of cold hard realities to deal with for Democrats and Republicans alike. Everyone knows that a hangover is something to be reckoned with, especially if it's going to last two years. So before the turkey is carved and laced with gravy and the over-cooked vegetables laid out on the plate (the punning possibilities are endless, given the state of the Bush regime), it is time for the country to take a quick, sober look at affairs as they now stand.
A host of problems await the Democrats, not least the massive swelling that has happened in the ranks of the uninsured, the failure to negotiate a minimum wage, the necessity for a rollback of narrow-minded immigration policies and an education system that has been willfully ignored by those in power.
The deficit is the ultimate hole in the bucket, dear Conde-liza. Bill Clinton left office having turned the US deficit around, but since Bush got in charge a staggering total of $1.6 trillion has been added to the national debt. It's hardly a beacon of light to whomever inherits the family farm.
The sell-out continues. It is staggering how much the nation has come under the cosh of the Halliburtons and other corporate kingpins. These companies have become the legitimised thieves of the nation's soul. The subcontracting goes far beyond the war bounty, to where "jobs for the boys" continues in all areas of social policy. The bribery scandals alone should have brought the government toppling down and while there is a small amount of talk about impeaching Dick Cheney, it will never happen.
While the Senate and Congress swung towards the Democrats, the true powerbrokers – the corporate lobbyists – are still whetting their knives at every door. Under the Bush regime, the rich continue to get richer and the poor have been crippled, while the middle class has been stunned into silence.
The war policy is still up in the air. It sometimes seems as if war is a comfort to those who have so far failed. Unless a swift and decent response is proposed to end the war, and to institute a type of Marshall Plan in Iraq, these will be remembered as the very worst of times no matter who is in charge.
The war costs the American taxpayer $250m a day.
The death toll for Iraqis is six Hiroshimas. It is so horrific that it deserves to be said again. The problem is that it may not be said at all, by either political party.
The very real threat of terrorist attacks in various parts of the world still prevails. And there's always Iran and North Korea, not to mention the hawks in the Israeli cabinet who seem bent on keeping the Middle East off-kilter.
The Democrats don't exactly have a stand-out candidate for 2008. Some would like to take Hillary Clinton onboard, if only to have Bill back in office, but she seems a divisive choice for others, even women voters. Barrack Obama is a shooting star, but the fact is that his light is probably still a few years away. And there are still those in America who are scared of a woman or a black man being in charge. And while there's talk of Al Gore getting another chance, it's astounding that the Bush regime has ignored his calls on environmental policy.
The Republicans seem to have a stand-out candidate in John McCain, who tempts the right-wing and the middle ground at once.
Lest we forget, the Democrats only scraped by in the elections. Their victory is a scaffold, not a surefire new structure.
And so for Thanksgiving, yes, let's give thanks but not too loudly. The US has turned a corner but it will find a whole series of new corners in the coming months.