Wednesday, November 03, 2004

An open letter

Dear America,

I'm finally able to pull myself together and write to you. I admit, after seeing the results of the presidential election this morning, I felt as I've been kicked in the gut and this tremendous sense of despair and sadness came over me. My reaction stunned me and honestly, many of my fellow liberals said the same thing. No one expected to get overwhelmed by emotion, no one expected to feel as if they had suddenly lost all hope. That's not what America is supposed to be about, but somehow, for the 55,554,114 of us who cast our vote for John Kerry, we've been feeling anything but hopeful -- no matter what CNN says.

Now that I've been through the five stages of grief over this election, I feel like I can finally tell you, the 51 percent of of you who selected George W. Bush as our president, why this election mattered so much to the rest of us, why we took the results as hard as we did. Contrary to popular belief, this election could never have been about who could handle Iraq, terrorism or the economy better -- whoever took office would be stuck with a royal mess to clean up. Perhaps Bush is better on Iraq; after all, who better to manage a debacle than the person who got us into it in the first place? Maybe the economy will perk up, maybe it won't -- President Bush, for the record, you can keep my next tax cut; just make it so my health insurance premiums go down and that I no longer hear of friends and family getting laid off. And terrorism, ah, for the love of Pete, America, don't fall into the trap of believing this is a war that can be won. You cannot win against those who have nothing to lose, who are fueled by hatred, who see glory in death, and have no heart, not even for their own fellow countrymen. And so perhaps Bush may not mess up so badly these next four years as he did the previous four, when I look at these issues in this particular light. Yes, America, I'm rationalizing, because without hope, it's all I've got left.

I've been thinking about my unanticipated emotional response to Kerry's loss long and hard because while I didn't vote for Bush in 2000, I didn't sink into despondency when the Supreme Court finally handed him the White House. I felt sad, yes, when Al Gore conceded, but nothing like the tears that threatened when I returned to my desk and found an IM from a co-worker waiting. She wrote, "Kerry is conceding. I can't believe he won't wait for Ohio." But what was there to wait for? Statistically, Ohio could not be won. We didn't need a replay of 2000 when the election was declared in the courts, and Kerry recognized our system did not need another such blow. And in that moment, as that tenuous hope called Ohio drifted away, I sank into my chair, and just stared at the screen, thinking about the elation in all of those red states and wondered why I felt so out-of-control sad.

America, this election mattered because we now have a Republican majority in Congress and a Republican president in power -- a president whom I once thought could be a moderate, but now I know differently and the disconnect between what Bush promised us in 2000 and what he delivered rankles hard. I did not feel this despair back then because I believed Bush when he said he could be a uniter, I believed him when he said he could be compassionate conservative -- I fell in the same trap as so many people, America, and I didn't even vote for the guy. This time around, America, I'm afraid I don't have the ability to extend the benefit of the doubt; I've seen what he's done, what's he's capable of, and America, frankly, I'm frightened.

The fear stems because those of us who are socially liberal see the very real possibility of erosion in our constitutionally-guaranteed rights due to the fact checks and balances have been all but wiped out. I tried to take heart in the fact Barack Obama was sent to Washington, D.C., in a landslide and I smiled at my co-worker who has been wandering around the office proclaiming, "Clinton/Edwards '08." I have to say, at this moment, 2008 seems a helluva long way away.

A lot can happen in four years. A new Supreme Court Justice -- maybe even as many as three -- will be appointed. The issues of abortion, affirmative action, death penalty, the issue of religion in public forums and gay marriage will be among those on the court's docket. Already, 11 states -- including two 'blue' ones -- have approved anti-gay marriage amendments to their state constitutions. For shame on you, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah, for essentially creating a second-class citizenery. For shame on you for falling into a trap of social values, for believing what other responsible, mature and law-abiding adults do in their own time has a bearing on your life and values.

I'm not surprised to see states like Mississippi, Georgia and Arkansas embracing such an amendment, but Oregon, Oregon... and with a conservative government in power with the ability to appoint similar-minded justices who will have long-term effect on the policies of this nation, who knows how long such state-sanctioned intolerance will go on? You see, America, this is what those of us who supporting Kerry feared the most and what we will continue to fear through the next four years.

America, the majority has spoken and you have selected George W. Bush as your president. Some of you will insist he is my president as well; he is in the sense that he leads the American people and I am an American. But in no way does he or the party he represents stand for my values or beliefs; as such, he isn't 'my' president at all. So many people decided this race based on 'morals' -- morals dictated by religion -- rather than what made economic sense. So many people cast their vote on whether gays should be allowed to have the same rights as the rest of us, rather than looking askance at a man who led us into war on a lie -- a war which has yielded us nothing but chaos, increased threat of attack, and more than 100,000 dead, Iraqi and American/coalition casualties together.

America, I love you, I honestly do, even though I'm not feeling very kindly towards 51 percent of you (and especially the one of you who stole my Kerry/Edwards bumper sticker not once, but twice). I'm a relatively mild-mannered person, so don't worry, I'll get over my righteous indignation and despair soon enough, so I can start talking and living with you again, hopefully in peace and respect. I do want us to be able to moderate this divide, America. I want us to be able to see we're so evenly divided, that some compromise ought to be made, that we ought to somehow figure out we're all in this handbasket together and we've got to make it work.

But I do want you to know, America, that I do not want you to dicate how I live my life or what decisions I can and cannot make concerning my own health. America, you've chosen someone who has advocated smaller government but greater intrusion in our personal lives. You've chosen someone who has said it is okay that a certain segment of our population cannot have the same rights as the rest of us. You've chosen someone who prefers giving tax-breaks to the rich, rather than helping me -- us -- figure out why my health insurance premiums have risen 15 percent in one year. Forgive me, America, for I don't understand what you were thinking.


p.s. No, I didn't select the previous poems purely on a whim.

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