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Mr. President, where is the love?

Peter Quaranto | Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Dear President George W. Bush,Four years ago, I was apathetic when you beat Al Gore to become President of the United States. Four years ago, I cared more about Paul Pierce joining the Celtics, the movie “Gladiator” and the new song “Country Grammar” by Nelly than your slim victory for the White House. Little did I know at the time that your election would prove the catalyst for my political awakening and engagement. And therefore, Mr. President, I want to begin by saying this: Thank you. Sept. 11, 2001 was certainly the most important global event of my generation. I will never forget Mr. Donovan in calculus class telling us that two planes had flown into the World Trade Center towers. I will never forget sitting in Mr. Scanlan’s history class when he told us, “Boys, the world will never be the same after today.” I will never forget sitting at home with my brother and watching you address the nation. I remember being filled with pride, confidence and hope as you stood before me and told the nation that we would get through this traumatic day. I was proud, on that day, to be an American.It was on that day, Mr. President, when you faced a choice. You faced a choice of using international law to mobilize the international community to combat terrorism or employing a unilateral approach of fighting terrorism. You faced a choice between bringing justice to these crimes against humanity through a military police force or using traditional war tactics to invade rogue states that could potentially harbor terrorists. Mr. President, you chose the latter, and I fear this may have been the most deadly decision of your administration.Since that decision, the United States has engaged in two wars, resulting in the deaths of at least 10,000 Iraqi and Afghani civilians and at least 750 U.S. troops. In the case of Iraq, it has recently been discovered that your claims about weapons of mass destruction were false. The United States has become occupier and parent to two troubled and unstable countries, which are soaking in tens of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars and could easily become breeding grounds for terrorism. Osama bin Laden has not been caught, al-Qaeda remains relatively strong and the War on Terror has no end in sight.Mr. President, on Sept. 11, the United States received the sympathy and support of the entire international community, giving us the highest international approval rating in U.S. history. Two years later, we have the lowest approval rating in U.S. history. Mr. President, I find myself hard-pressed to argue that you capitalized on the unique opportunities that the United States had post-Sept. 11 to work for a more safe, just and peaceful world.Unfortunately, Mr. President, your foreign policy is not the only problematic element of your agenda. Under your watch, about three million Americans have lost their jobs, 2.5 million have lost their healthcare and two million have slipped into poverty. That is not to mention the other 35 million Americans who live daily in poverty, the more than 41 million Americans who live without healthcare and the 30 million Americans who suffer from hunger. Mr. President, where is the love?Mr. President, the two most disconcerting policies that I am still trying to grapple with are veterans’ benefits cuts, especially healthcare, and cuts in programs for civil servants, such as police officers and firefighters. I find it hard to reconcile your “support the troops” patriotic rhetoric with your current policies that are cutting the legs from underneath the very defenders of American liberty and freedom. Mr. President, this sort of hypocrisy tears at the social threads that hold our country together.I will not even begin to go into the problems of your current education system, your harmful environmental policies, your unrestrained support for the FTAA or your massive slashing of social programs for the poor and disabled. Mr. President, I will not even begin to address the fiscally irresponsible federal deficit that is projected to reach $2.4 trillion over the next 10 years. Mr. President, where is the love?Now, as we drive forward into this election year, you will most likely, with the help of Karl Rove, use your usual fear-tactics, “religious right” rhetoric and big business support to avoid addressing these real problematic elements of current U.S. society. Will the American public stand for this? We will find out in November.Mr. President, I want to encourage you to use these next nine months to bring back the love that is so missing in our country right now. I want to encourage you to stop the cuts on social service programs, to work more closely with the international community on global issues and to empower the American people to rebuild communities committed to justice and equality.Mr. President, where is the love? It’s time that we get serious about building a country where the love is not so hidden.

Peter Quaranto is a sophomore political science and international peace studies major. He encourages everyone to tune in to the best WVFI radio show, the Jim Madden Show, Saturdays from 4 to 5 p.m. Contact him at pquarant@nd.edu.The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.