Sunday, November 21, 2004

Politics Among Friends

Agree to Disagree...

I received this email from a dear friend of mine today:

We are all receiving and sending pertinent email, reading articles online and in print, watching the news, listening to the radio, or locking ourselves in a dark room--trying to make sense of the stunning election result. This made me think and I wanted to share it with you. It's impossible for us all to reach the exact same conclusions about how this happened, why it happened and where we go from here, but I did take away something positive from this essay.

In the 144 years since Lincoln was elected as the first Republican to the White House, Democrats have only held office 60 years while Republicans have held it 84 years. Even this is deceptive because there have been long periods when Democrats have been virtually shut out completely. From 1860 to 1932, a period of 72 years, only two Democrats were elected (Cleveland and Wilson) for a total of 16 years. The anomaly is the period between 1932 and 1968, when Democrats actually were in the White House for 28 years. Since 1968 we have reverted to our earlier pattern -- between 1968 and 2004, Democrats have only been in the White House for 12 years (Carter's one term, Clinton's two terms.)

The message from this pattern is this was not the "Armageddon" election; it was business as usual. While the Democratic Party is strong in many states at the state and local level, it's always been a hard road to elect a Democrat president. What this reminds me of is that this country is, and has been for a long time, culturally conservative. Nor is the Christian right a new phenomenon. Christian fundamentalism -- reading the Bible literally -- is an American invention and rightwing Christians have always attempted to impose their views politically. The high point of that
activism was actually in the 20s when they managed to get a constitutional amendment passed banning alcohol and when states passed laws outlawing the teaching of evolution (remember the Scopes trial.) So, again, I think it's a mistake to view the election as some kind of turning point.

What is different is not that the strength of cultural conservatives and Christians but that there is now a cultural counterweight to those groups which is, if we just go by the vote, almost half the country. We are the counterweight and we are not just some embattled minority. Depending on the issue (abortion for example) we are in the majority. The pace of change in the consciousness of the culture has been breathtaking; when I was in college in the early 70s, gays and lesbians couldn't get a license to practice law in California because homosexuality made them morally unfit per se and until 1974, California had a sodomy law. Now we're talking about gay

The right is not made up of super humans. It's made up of a lot of frightened people who want to turn back the clock but history is inexorable and the real history of the last few decades on a social and cultural level, at least, is not the right-wing primacy but the increase in diversity and sensitivity to and tolerance for difference that is reflected in, among other things, the incredible gains made by the lesbian and gay rights movement.

Progressive people need to own their power. The more vicious and vocal people on the right may claim that we are not Americans but that's only true if we agree with them. Let's not. Langston Hughes said it in a race context that's relevant beyond race: "You are white -- yet a part of me, as I am a part of me. That's American./Sometimes perhaps you don't want to be a part of me./Nor do I often want to be a part of you./But we are, that's true!"

The election was not the end of anything and not the beginning of anything. It's another day in the struggle to create a different consciousness in a very hidebound culture. What I plan to do is sit down and write a list of 10 things I can personally do to keep the struggle going.

- author is an attorney in Florida, I will reveal upon request as this was from a public email that was sent to many mailing lists throughout the internet. Please write to me if you would like his information.

I have received many of these types of emails since the re-election of George W. Bush. I have a response to these folks where ever they are out there....

I take offense to quite a few of the issues raised by this attorney and others. First of all, if the Democrats have done so poorly, why don't they reexamine their platforms and their candidates. If they are truly the party of the people, then why are most of their candidates silver-spoon rich types who can't fatham what it's like to get a student loan or be turned down for one; work nights while going to school in the daytime; being a single mom living on welfare and food stamps; working their ass off for minimum wage; riding the public bus; living on the street; or any of the other plights that regular people go through. At least the Republicans don't pretend to know what it's like and they don't pretend to say they are going to "save everyone". No one can "save everyone"!

Then I take exception to the fact that reading the Bible is an American-made tradition. My grandmother and her brothers and sisters came to the US from Germany. They read the Bible before they came here and took it literally. Maybe this attorney is a member of a religion that doesn't read the Bible on his own, and only knows the Word of God from having someone else read it to him, perhaps he only reads the responses. I really don't know, but he is totally uninformed.

As for being "frightened" - get real! The only frightening thing is to sit through an election where the candidates don't even reveal their beliefs, their platform, only their negativity. We are in a fricken war, that was caused by a terrorist attack. All the rhetoric from White House aides, former administration, the media and even Hollywood does not fool the grass roots of America. Afterall, who's kids are fighting the war? That's right, the grass roots. The people that the media has called "STUPID" and that this man refers to as "FRIGHTENED". Terrorism is frightening and people that don't take a strong stand against it are stupid.

Look, I have voted many ways over the years. I have cast my ballot for Democrats, Independents, Republicans, and even the Green Party. I have voted my conscious over the years, and unfortunately the state of the union required us to stay the course, fight the good fight and not have to deal with all the unknowns of John Kerry. Look at him - he's so totally out of touch with the regular folks; a Vietnam Vet - that had quite a few other vets against him for reasons that ONLY THEY CAN UNDERSTAND BECAUSE WE WERE NOT IN VIETNAM WITH THEM!!

I am an American, a proud American. I have worked hard to grow in my career, to improve my life so that my kids would know that there is a better way. They have learned that hard work and perseverance pays off. My kids are independent and have their own beliefs. Two of them voted for John Kerry and that's fine. They are entitled but they didn't cry when he lost, they didn't get depressed and they didn't send emails to their friends that were offensively accusing their friends of being less of a person for the way they cast their vote.

For the record, I totally love my friends and I especially love the friend that sent me this email. His was the straw that broke the camel's back. I have received all sorts of grief from my friends, tons of emails, videos to watch, nearly shrines to Michael Moore and others. Then, I have seen them literally crying over the election results. I have avoided this topic of conversation over and over again at work and at social events - until now!

Please understand that in four years, I will vote for the person that I think is the right person for the job. I believe in equal rights for all people including equal pay for equal work - that is a fight that has been going on for over 30 years and I'M STILL WAITING!!; gay rights & marriage/civil union - which ever is the best choice; women's right to have an abortion (not partial-birth abortion); fathers paying their child support; men being arrested and convicted of domestic violence, rape and other crimes against women and children; living in a safe neighborhood with police that are not corrupt, attorneys and judges that really help to see that the law is upheld; animal rights; single women that get help by training them to become self-sufficient. I don't believe that women get on welfare continually have children to live in the 'lap of luxury'. People that believe that have never seen the size of a welfare check and had to figure out how to pay for the water or the electric!

I believe that people should help other people, but that the government doesn't need to tell me what to do, when to do it and how to do it. I am an adult, I am responsible for myself and my kids, not the government. It is my responsibility to pay my bills; have health care for my children; show my children the difference between right and wrong; teach them how to make choices and decisions understanding that there are consequences for their actions. My greatest legacy is to have children that become adults that participate positively in life, make a change. But part of that is to NOT JUDGE others and assume because their beliefs are different from mine that they are STUPID.

I hope that all those folks out there that are sending these types of emails will finally get it and realize that the election is a done deal. Better luck next time!!

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