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While you were sleeping

Like many of you out there in Dukedom on Election Day, I was awake late into the night, watching as those fabled Democratic precincts in Cleveland failed to deliver Ohio to Kerry. I kept watching, but even as Cuyahoga County’s returns rose, so too did W’s lead in the state. I went to bed disheartened. I went to bed depressed.

And so I slept, comfortable and well fed despite my dismay. I slept the luxurious sleep of those for whom politics is more like a sporting event than a matter of life and death. Watch the election returns. Cheer for my favorite candidate. Boo and throw beer bottles when he loses.

While I slept, while all of us slept, how were things with the rest of the world?

Assuming that Nov. 2 was an average day, 30,000 people around the globe died of chronic hunger and the diseases that follow in its wake. Thirty thousand. Dying by inches as they waste away. That’s one death every three seconds. How many will die as you read this page and sip your morning coffee? I didn’t hear President George W. Bush mention this in his post-election victory speech, but I know he’ll do something about it. President Bush is an honorable man.

That same day, 1,500 people died from AIDS in southern Africa. Now, compared with deaths from hunger, this is a relatively low number—only 1,500, you might say with some relief. Barely enough for concern. Perhaps for some, but not on this president’s watch. President Bush will take notice because he is an honorable man.

That same day, 52,000 dogs and cats were killed in the United States at overcrowded animal shelters. Every minute of every day, almost 900 of our “best friends” are given the lethal injection that we otherwise reserve only for the most heinous human beings. It looks like being Man’s Best Friend is not a job one should covet. And then I realized that I shouldn’t worry so much about this because we have George W. Bush for a second term, and he is an honorable man.

I was going to mention the tons of chemicals pouring into the atmosphere and oceans (there’s a new hole in the arctic ice that’s larger than Arizona and Texas combined), the people being killed in Iraq and the 150,000,000 (this is not a typo) livestock animals killed that day, but then I remembered that it’s morning again in America. These problems will surely be addressed quickly because President Bush is an honorable man.

I was a little surprised when I heard the victory speech in which President Bush mentioned what he’s going to tackle in his second term. I heard about Social Security, and tax reform, and the economy, and education and terrorism. I must have missed the part about world hunger, and the pollution of the biosphere and the wholesale destruction of innocent animal life. I missed the parts where this pro-life president talked about our duties to those who suffer while we live in affluence. I know I must have missed this because President Bush is an honorable man.

Perhaps I am ignorant about the subject matter of politics. Perhaps it is just concerned with the Dow Jones average, tax rates, Social Security and how many children will be qualified to work in a high-tech economy. Perhaps. But I thought this election was about morality. I thought it was about honor.

But maybe I didn’t miss anything. Maybe, as shocking as this might seem, neither candidate for the presidency had anything to say about these issues. How could this be? How could so much untimely death and unmerited suffering fail to register on the radar of American politics? Aren’t we a light unto the nations? It seems that our role as a beacon for the world has left us tired—too tired to even stay awake any longer.

Sleep is pleasant, especially on a full stomach. Why wake up, when everything is going so well? Why not just sleep a little longer?

 

Stefan Dolgert is a graduate student in political science.

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