|AGW Welcome||The Witness Magazine|
To Whom Much is Given. . .
By Sybille Ngo Nyeck
Following the U.S. presidential election on November 2, 2004, one lesson is clear: the president must now address domestic and international concerns in a way that restores the United States' credibility. I am very concerned with both the safety of United States and the world. George W. Bush should remember the old saying: to whom more is given, more is required.
Assuming that the 2004 election in this country resurrects the trust in the American electoral system, nevertheless, the president will lead a profoundly divided country toward which the resentment of the world is at its peak.
We must acknowledge that since the fall of Berlin War, the United States stands in the world as the sole superpower in a new era that we call “Globalization.” This concept, as Thomas Friedman pointed out in The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization , “involves the inexorable integration of the markets, nation-states and technologies to a degree never witnessed before – in a way that is enabling individuals, corporations and nation-states to reach around the world farther, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before, and in a way that is also producing a powerful backlash from those brutalized or left behind by this new system” (p. 7-8).
It is unquestionable today that the United States is the main force behind globalization. The hegemonic position of this country – instead of being taken for a free ticket to do anything in the world – should be viewed as a mandate to greater accountability. This starts with how elections are handled at home. In democracy, it doesn't matter whether you come from hell or heaven; if you're not transparently elected you cannot force people to respect you. This was a major question four years ago, and with the election just finished, we need to be certain there are no big concerns again this time.
The re-elected president should remind himself that democracy gives people the right to doubt and to question even superpowers about their actions and intentions. A commitment to accountability at home will help to unite this country again and hopefully weaken the rise of anti-American radicalism abroad.
We have heard a lot of talk about “bringing democracy and freedom in the world” and my take on that is democracy is not marketable. Democracy à la bayonnette assistée is a euphemism for imperialism. The re-elected president should remind himself that democracy gives people the right to doubt and to question even superpowers about their actions and intentions. A commitment to accountability at home will help to unite this country again and hopefully weaken the rise of anti-American radicalism abroad.
Unless the United States survives this election in a way that is favorable to engaging in global dialogue, the president cannot effectively address the inroads of terrorism. That is the “global test” that must be passed. Democracy is not “marketable,” and as Benjamin Barber stated, “the roads to democracy are many, and its cartography belongs to no one nation” ( Fear's Empire: War, Terrorism, and Democracy , p. 185.). The terrorists who brought down the Twin Towers left us with legitimate anger and resentment. However, in bringing us together (Americans citizens together with documented and undocumented foreigners), they also made us “twins” in the war against terrorism. Although the Twin Towers were destroyed, a “twin humanity” may still rise from 9/11's ashes. The president should seek to develop a coalition that honors all those who died on September 11, 2001, from around the world, as a crucial step in the global fight against terrorism.
In my native country, Cameroon, the use of public cemeteries is not common. Whenever death occurs, even the poorest family strives to have the dead buried in their village. It is not unusual for the family compound to serve as a burial ground. For these people, it is a disgrace to abandon their dead to foreign cemeteries. Ground Zero changed the rules. The blood of native-born Americans, foreigners and terrorists were indiscriminately united.
The result of that tragic event should not be the rise of an empire of fear, but a global understanding of the common roots of our humanity – including its craziness. It is not the UN, but rather the very act of terrorism on 9/11 that should keep us united around the world in the search for alternatives. The president should not despise this ‘twin' response that must emerge from the two-fold attacks on the ‘market” and architecture that the Twin Towers represented. If the fall of the Berlin Wall gave rise to a form of hegemony, the deaths of 9/11 should remind the U.S. president of his role as a trustworthy guardian of the world's cemetery. The period following this election could be the last chance for Americans to start to new narrative that will help bring flowers to this country, figuratively and literally – at least to the world citizens killed in the World Trade Center, if not to the Americans as well – instead of suitcase bombs.
[I]t is one thing to guard a tomb, and quite another to dwell in a cemetery. As a guardian of this cemetery [the Twin Towers], we appropriately share in the sadness of the milieu . . . But if we become stuck in that position . . . there is reason to fear that this country becomes . . . possessed by the legion of evil spirits we are trying to fight.
Terrorists have advertised the United States as an appropriate burial ground. But it is one thing to guard a tomb, and quite another to dwell in a cemetery. As a guardian of this cemetery, we appropriately share in the sadness of the milieu and the joy and hopes of families that visit it, both physically and emotionally. But if we become stuck in that position and forsake the multidimensional aspects of the United States' duty in the world, there is reason to fear that this country becomes like the demoniac [the man who had been possessed by demons] of the Gospel of Mark (5:1-24), possessed by the legion of evil spirits we are trying to fight. In our modern world, international treaties and conventions are developed to keep countries accountable to one another. Destructive ideologies (a form of "evil spirits") which despise and seek to break those chains will ultimately hurt us around the world.
It is funny that I use “we” when I am talking about this country, since I am not a citizen. My point is, when it comes to finding solutions for everyone in this world, it is rewarding to make these connections and identifications. After all, by crossing a nation's borders, we are systematically required to display our identity. However, we should acknowledge that the seed for answers to the fear that possesses this country is already evident in the questions that are being raised.
“What do you have to do with me, Jesus, son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me,” the possessed asked (Mark 5:7). When I say "to whom much is given, much is required," I do not mean to torment anyone – although someone has to make the point before the invisible networks of ghostly terrorists take charge. The fight against terrorism is not worth self-imposed terror at home. For those who manufacture fear can only export that fear, not democracy. If you look at Ground Zero and only see the United States, the Twin Towers, but not the United Nations, “four more years” of what we witnessed under the first Bush presidency may not be the right choice of policy.
Mr. President, painful experiences that are continually revived in our memory as ‘failures' can indeed drive all of us powerfully crazy. Furthermore, we, as a country, may become so dangerous that it reaches the point where no international chain is strong enough restrain us from doing harm. However, even with little sound judgment left, Ground Zero still offers an alternative to a militaristic assault on the world. The legions of terrorists within this country and abroad could make you a guardian of a cemetery but they should not reduce you to a lonely gravedigger.