Dear Fellow Citizen, Foreign Observer,
In one month’s time, we, the Citizens of the fifty United States of America, will be given the opportunity to do that which allegedly consists, essentially, in the selecting of a leader for ourselves and our nation.
Let me begin, therefore, by expressing a certain degree of shame for those who cannot find the time in their day or the will in their souls to act. Considered in the frame of the course of human history, it remains novel and distinguished that a human should have the right to select its own leaders – a privilege granted to too few throughout the centuries, and to this day in an insufficient number of places. While I can accept that you may not care to vote because you are satisfied with the status quo, I cannot accept that that is almost ever the truth, or that it makes sense to be apathetic towards one’s future because one’s present makes do.
In a speech earlier this year, independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader envisioned a future in which the grandchildren of the current generation of American young men and women sat in our laps and asked us, “Grandpa, where were you when the world started falling apart?” and we had no better answer for them than to say, “Watching the reruns of the fifth season of Friends.” How dare we. The privileges we enjoy in the First World – in America, especially – are not the consequence of apathy and disinterest. They are the consequence of a staling entity formerly known as Freedom.
And so, I make my first request: however maligned the system may be, and however controllable the system may have become, it remains that you have some shred of a voice, though in a land where only half of you would speak, who is to blame for the loss of your voice is hard to say anymore. We have our flaws, to be certain, and there is no secret to the nefarious activities which have gone on in preventing certain groups or individuals from having their voice rightly expressed, but let me promise you this: it is not as bad here as in some other lands, and it is only bound to get worse in the face of your silence. So, one month from today, I ask what I feel to be a very small and undemanding thing of you: vote. It is not as much the one who wins who will determine the freedom of men as it is those who took the steps to determine the winner.
I have, also, a moral need to present you with a second request, regarding a specific furtherance of the former request and involving an interpretation of the human condition as manifested in the current administration and its incumbents.
The present administration of the United States of America has forced several issues into the light, entitled them “crises,” and caused the people, either through fear or allegations of wrongful disloyalty, to respond, in part, to these issues: Our president would have us believe, for example, that homosexual marriage is unacceptable because it “redefines” what marriage is. We are never told why this is wrong; we are never told that this is wrong. So, let me make this clear: America was always a land of redefinition. We came here from so many places, the refugees of a thousand separate failures of the human condition, and rose up to what was, at least as envisioned, an astounding level of moral aptitude and respect for one another. There were many groups and many instances of intolerance, and if progress was not defined by the overcoming of such intolerance, then I don’t know how it was. When two people become emotionally involved in a way which is mutually consensual and which affects only themselves, I cannot comprehend how it becomes the business of government to intervene in their relations. We are taught, however, to fear change. We became by changing, by doing something different – something which, at the time, was liberal and radical – never forget that. Our president claims to be a conservative and conservatives claim to believe in small government. To be frank, one doesn’t conquer two foreign nations, establish a Department of Homeland Security, a Transportation Security Administration, a Patriot Act, try to prevent loving couples from being legal couples, and then preach about small government. The current administration believes in certain values which are not American but which more and more we are trying to be seduced into believing are just that. The Anglo-Saxon, Christian, or white-male-millionaires-for-president traditions of our nation may very well be what we are generally accustomed to, but they are not what we are about in this land. Our Constitution does not outline a Christian basis for operation. It was drafted by God-fearing deists in an age when all “decent” men went to church, and it bears the earmarks of their faith, but our land has been one of diversity and freedom, and we have become great by accepting our differences and working together, between one culture and the next, between one faith and the next, to establish a great nation. When they told the blacks to go back to Africa because it was “our nation,” they were wrong. When they tell the Mexicans to get back south of the border because it is “our nation,” they are wrong. We have our problems, and it is very easy to assign blame for those problems to people of a different race or color and to fear the changes which newcomers bring. The fact of the matter is, however, that this was never “our nation” – that is merely the voice of the white, male, millionaire club – it was always a nation for all. The current administration may mean well in trying to uphold “American” values, but those values are of a certain faith, a certain set of beliefs, and they are clearly un-American. We are not a Puritan country. Progress is what we make when we work towards allowing all cultures to coexist equally, so long as that coexistence does not harm others. Progress is not what we make when we insist on nervously dragging old values into a day and age when it is shown time upon time that a man’s ability to be a man is not affected by his race, origins, religious affiliation, or sexual preference. Freedom is the power to choose; it is the courage to change.
Aside from these specific issues, there is a certain fearsomeness inherent to the growing trend of secretive governing. You may not know this, but at any Bush fund-raiser and other Bush-Cheney events, attendees are required to sign legally-binding oaths of loyalty. They are not allowed to express dissenting views. This is an extremely dangerous action for any government or the members thereof to take. At the point where dissent is silenced, we again loose track of Freedom. It makes a pretty show and goes over well on camera, but I long for a leader who has nothing to fear because his actions are honest and open, and who will, therefore, look dissent in the eye and give his best performance not when all are forced to agree with him, but when he can answer a decent question in a decent way. The suppression of dissent is one of the first and most vile signs of a failing civilization and a dying democracy. It has begun.
Let us consider the opponent, then, who has been accused of softness on the aforementioned issues and others. Those who accuse candidate John Kerry of being “soft” on issues are correct; he is. But let me ask you this: to what avail is hardness? Does it not seem stolid? Does it not seem ignorant? Bush was hard on war, hard on many allegations of terrorism. I will submit that our enemies were fewer then than now. If Kerry is soft on issues, I cannot honestly say that I fear that. If he was to go four years and not go on a single crusade, we might just be better off. No, I submit that it is the hardness which is wrong. Men and societies are not black and white; they are grey. Seldom comes the time when something is both absolute and when we are absolutely certain of it. If there is to be virtue in conservativism, then it must consist of more than cold refusal to accept change and childish preoccupation with pride and proud issues.
I also feel the need to opine, briefly, on who America is not only in America, but in the world – for centuries, America has been on a dangerous path of building itself an empire. As much as we would like to point the finger at religious extremism and say that it is the sole cause of events like September 11th, the fact remains that there is nary a country out there which we haven’t bombed, barricaded, or issued sanctions against. It is such a frightening and unhealthy thing to try and build a nation of Christians by convincing them that the other faiths are evil. The other faiths had no problem with us until we trespassed upon them. Osama did not bomb Canada, he did not bomb Australia. You cannot point out that to certain others, we are “infidels” and call that the reason for the deaths of so many – if that logic were true, then there would be no distinguishing element between those who were the victims and those who were not. It is not religious extremism which we must fear. If that were the case, then terrorists are as much in the White House as in any Mid-East land. It is extreme propose Constitutional amendments which intrude upon the entirely-personal lives of one’s own citizens.
...The French refused to help us in Iraq, and we used their refusal as a reason to spite them. Do we forget their aid in our greatest wars, here on our home soil, not that many centuries ago? Do we forget the number of times when they have come to our aid in foreign invasions and missions, sending their troops to war and getting nothing in return? The French refusal to cooperate did not depend on an issue of morality in invading Iraq as much as it did one of being fed up. They have been used by America enough. They are only one of many nations which has come to that stance.
Before drawing to my conclusion on what will be my second request, let me offer, now, an apology which America should have offered the morning of September 12th, 2001:
To the Native American nations which we dissolved in our wanderlust, warmongering, and eagerness to own the Earth, and then, across the globe, to every nation on almost every continent which we have invaded and held down and commercially imperialized decade after decade, at the cost of millions of innocent, civilian lives, I – an American – sincerely say: I’m sorry. We live a life of great consumption here in America, and that consumption depends upon us maintaining strongholds in locations throughout the entire Earth. We begin wars when they benefit us, we kill civilians by the thousand, and we install ill-chosen dictators who only years later become our new enemies once we have used and disposed of a nation which helped us once. How dare we. We are told that Freedom isn’t free. What we aren’t told, however, is how much it costs – or who, in blood, is paying the price.
There are many, many other issues which arise, but the issues themselves are not as important as your right to dissent, your God-given rights to your own soul, and those of literally billions of others across the planet. Remember, our president is said to be the leader of the whole of the free world... most of which doesn’t get a say in who we choose.
In conclusion, let me accept that I do not suppose it to be ours, or any man’s, to judge the current administration’s reaction to September 11th, for it is a hard thing to say how a man should react to such a travesty. We might have perceived that perhaps our presence in the rest of the world is in a state of overextended welcome. We might have stopped the killing then and there. We did not. It matters very little who comes next, so long as it is someone else. I do not profess hatred for President Bush, as many do. I profess sympathy for a man who could not succeed in business, was contested more violently than ever before in inauguration, and who has led a stolid, whining career as the leader of our nation, always pushing and punching against the wind to force another issue down another throat at the expense of another thousand lives.
My second request, then, is this: because we live in a land where plurality rules, and therefore a land where a candidate may win with far less than a majority of the vote, it is only possible for a change if we are all to vote similarly. This November 2, I ask that we forgive Bush his trespasses, and that we then get him the hell away from any position in which there is any even mild suggestion of political power.
Thank you, and whether you agree or disagree, please, at the very least, vote.
a citizen of the State of Illinois, one of the fifty
United States of America.