DEMON WISHES, DARK HOPES
If you root against an incumbent president, you must brace yourself against impure thoughts.
I want George W. Bush voted out of office this November. I believe that in the long run his ouster will be the only way to preserve domestic civil liberties, rectify economic injustice, repair our country's reputation, prevent further warfare, and save lives. According to the polls, about half of all Americans believe as I do. We believe that there is urgency in defeating George W. Bush--that it is deeply, deeply important that he lose in Novermber. Our fondest wish is that Bush be replaced in the White House.
But is it really our fondest wish?
You see, there are other wishes of which I am also quite fond--wishes that somehow contradict the wish that Bush be defeated. For example:
¥ I wish that gasoline prices would drop. But if they do, it is all the more likely that Bush will win.
¥ I wish that a million new high-paying jobs would be created in the United States in the next three months. But if they are, it is all the more likely that Bush will win.
¥ I wish that inflation would be held in check. But if it is, it is all the more likely that Bush will win.
¥ I wish that Colin Powell would help design a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians by September. But if he does, it is all the more likely that Bush will win.
¥ I wish that Osama Bin Laden would be captured and Al Qaeda put out of business. But if that happens, it is all the more likely that Bush will win.
¥ I wish that the political conventions and the Olympics would take place without terrorism or any other form of violence. But if they do, it is all the more likely that Bush will win.
¥ I wish that the new Iraqi government would prove its independence from the U.S., end violence from north to south, begin rebuilding its economy, and show that democracy will work there. But if it does, it is all the more likely that Bush will win.
¥ I wish that there would be an end to killing in Iraq and Afghanistan. But if there is, it is all the more likely that Bush will win.
¥ I wish that American soldiers would be safe everywhere in the world, starting now. But if that happens, it is all the more likely that Bush will win.
In other words, my wishes for a better world are shadowed by that other wish--that Bush be defeated. This is why those of us who root against an incumbent president must feel the pull of impure thoughts.
Let me admit something shameful: Sometimes I find myself hoping that the world does not improve--until after the election is over. Sometimes I find myself hoping that gasoline prices stay high and that the economy stays sluggish for just four more months--so that Bush will lose. This is an impure thought.
Now let me admit something much worse: Sometimes I find myself entertaining the fleeting hope that Osama is not captured and that things dont get better in Iraq, Afghanistan or Israel--until after the election is over and Bush is defeated. This is a low, dark hope, and I am ashamed of it. I dismiss it as fast as I can and tell it to leave the room, treating it like a seductress with a communicable disease. No, I promise myself, I am too decent for this evil hope. I dont want any more American soldiers to die. I dont want any more Iraqi children to have their limbs blown off. I want war to end, killing to end, democracy to prosper in Baghdad as soon as possible--even if it means George W. Bush is more likely to be reelected.
But, oh, the temptation of such demon wishes, such dark hopes! Even logic encourages one to give in to that temptation. What if, says logic, ten more soldiers dying in Iraq means that Bush loses the election? Would their deaths be worth it if they helped prevent a war-happy administration from getting back into office and destroying far more lives in future wars? No, no, again no, you tell yourself. That is the same hollow logic employed by those who justify actual torture in the name of preventing hypothetical deaths. It is a twisted pseudo-logic leading to evil conclusions.
And so those of us who would defeat George W. Bush must confront those unwished-for wishes and those unhoped-for hopes that occasionally spring forth in our unguarded brains. And we must exorcise them.
It helps to remember, of course, that wishes and hopes are not actions. To wish for troubles in the world is not to make trouble; to hope for turmoil is not to create turmoil. We would not do anything to hurt anyone or to make anyone's life more miserable, just to defeat Bush. We wouldn't raise the price of gasoline. We wouldn't leave that single mother unemployed. We wouldn't kill a child or a marine.
Nevertheless, even the brief thought without the deed is dangerous. We must weed out such wishes and hopes as fast as we can. We mustnt indulge them, even for a moment, lest they start to seem somehow legitimate. Somewhere in the United States today is a Kerry supporter who briefly considers the possibility that a bomb on a train in Chicago might do for this election what a bomb in Spain did there, sending the incumbent administration packing. Let that thought be brief. Let that Kerry supporter berate himself for even thinking such a thought and then go back to stuffing envelopes and making phone calls for his candidate--the kind of good deeds that bury bad notions.
So, at the end of the day, I will wish and work for a better world right now, and I will continue to believe that in a better world we can surely defeat a president who violates our best wishes and our happiest hopes.