Thursday, January 06, 2005

Ear to My Neighbor’s Wall

Remember the British documentary Living with Michael Jackson? It played on television during the weeks leading up to the U.S. attack on Iraq. The morbid voyeur in me couldn’t resist the documentary. When its surface titilation wore off and news of the impending war asserted itself on my TV, I realized that Michael Jackson is a microcosm of America: He is fabulously rich and famous throughout the world, existing in a rarefied stratosphere of his own creation that bears fleeting resemblance to reality. He accepts no criticism. He is incapable of self-reflection. Michael Jackson and America look in the mirror and see seamless sanity—it’s the world that’s crazy. Michael Jackson dangles his infant son out of a hotel window in Berlin, and can’t imagine why anyone would question his abilities as a father. America launches a wrong-headed, pre-emptive war on Iraq, yet wants the world to believe it remains a beacon of democracy and fair-minded peace. Looking across the border at the United States, I feel like I’m gazing at a dear old friend who has joined a cult.

I’m a Canadian who has lived most of his life a stone’s throw away from Michigan. Until George W. Bush occupied the White House, I always thought that presidents were basically figureheads. However, Bush has shown me just how much power a president wields, and why he should not be wielding it. To quote from the book that George W. Bush sleeps with under his pillow, “A good tree cannot produce bad fruits, nor a worthless tree produce good fruits” (Matthew 7:18). George W.’s actions speak louder than his words, and his talk about a “war on terrorism” has all the credibility of O.J. Simpson talking about going after the “real” killers of his late ex-wife.

The early morning of September 11, 2001 found me at Detroit Metropolitan Airport dropping off my inlaws who were flying to Arizona. From there I headed to work in Southfield, Michigan. I won’t soon forget that awful morning, standing with my colleagues on an unused floor of our building, watching live pictures of the devastation in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. Before noon that day, there came word that the Canadian border was closed. I was stuck in Michigan for the night. Within minutes of this news being reported, numerous colleagues and some people whose names I didn’t even know asked me to come home for dinner with them, and offered me their spare bedrooms. I gratefully accepted.

That is America. Nowhere in George W. Bush’s administration, nor in any of his policies have I seen the face or conscience of the America I know.

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