By the time you read this, the outcome of the presidential election will be known. I don’t know who will be elected, but I am old enough to know that the world will not change overnight. What we will know, though, is whether at a critical juncture in history America chose to walk slowly but surely off a cliff, or whether it chose the alternative: the promise of a return to sanity, true security, and responsible world citizenship.

I watched the three presidential debates with interest. Bush, as the incumbent, held no surprises. He had the same trigger-happy, Ollie North demeanor of his debates with Al Gore four years ago. As a sitting president with four years of experience under his belt, were there signs of maturity, of statesmanship, of growth on the job? Hardly. This president is not capable of learning from mistakes.

I am no Kerry shill, but I was impressed by his performance in the debates. He kept Bush on the defensive about his dismal record on the economy, the national debt, Osama bin Laden, and Iraq. Kerry actually had a plan, while Bush had nothing new to offer. Side-by-side, Kerry looked confident, thoughtful, commanding—in a word, presidential. Bush sounded whiny and intellectually-challenged.

Jon Carroll, an insightful columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle, is less than impressed with the way this campaign has been conducted. In his view, no one has really discussed the root cause of the violence against America.

“No one wants to say that until the problem with Israel and the Palestinians is solved, there is not a hope in hell that this [terrorism/Islamic fundamentalism] will go away,” he writes. “You want to fight terror? Get the Palestinians a homeland. This is not an opinion; it’s not even a policy; it’s just true. We can eat all the rhetoric and appeals to biblical land rights and solemn mentions of tribal pride we can stomach; we still won’t get anywhere until we force the sides to make an agreement and live by it.”

My sentiments entirely. Three years after the fact, we still can’t face the possibility that our own actions in Palestine provoked this violence against us. So we shall reduce another country to rubble, and impose our version of peace on it. It is tragic that the peace we seem to be bringing to Iraq is looking more and more like the peace Sharon has brought to Palestine.

May God help us all to not look away, to probe deeper, and take responsibility for our own actions—at home and abroad.

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