I write this as a liberal, a Democrat, a gay man, an American, and an activist who has spent the past twenty years fighting on behalf of a better world for all humanity.
Today I woke up. I woke up to the cold hard facts. The fact that George W. Bush is now again the President. The fact that the day I had worked so hard for, the day when I would finally wake up to someone other than George W. Bush as leader of the free world, did not come. And the fact that a good percentage of the people who live in the county I call home, are more concerned about what would happen if I got married than they are with four more years of watching their environment be systematically destroyed, their basic freedoms ripped away, their reputation in the world trashed, and their country bankrupted. The fact that what lies ahead is almost too frightening to imagine.
As a global citizen, I am reeling with the implications of what has happened. The world has watched as we have watched, in a semi-stunned state since Bush’s appointment in 2000, the hell he hath wrought upon humanity. My only saving grace as an American in the international community was the hope that others around the world would not fault me and my fellow Americans. Hoping they would recognize that we despise him as much as they, and that they could see the shocking truth – that we have been under the rule of a man whose political cronies stole the election for him. So this one-time aberration of justice, this horrible blip on the screen of world history, it was something we didn’t do, after all, we really did elect Gore. And that somehow, this one time blunder in our democratic process could be excused as just that.
But now, what must they think? The thought sickens me. How must this ring in their ears, how must this land in their hearts? That finally, given the opportunity to rid the global community of this crazed war-monger, having not only the foresight we had about him in 2000, but also having now endured four years of his tyrannical wrath, we have instead told him “Hey George, keep going, we like what you’re doing.” And even if it is true that Bush won by rigging the voting process, how completely stupid we must look to the world to let such a thing happen two elections in a row. We have done the unthinkable. Today, I am embarrassed to be an American.
And who to blame? The neocons, the pundits, the political hatchet-wielding, fact-twisting hate- mongers – the Karl Roves, the Rush Limbaughs, the Rupert Murdochs? Possibly. There is certainly sufficient evidence for their conviction in any court of semi-intelligent peers. Or do I fault the American people themselves – the Fox News-watching, pea-brained, Bible-thumping, God-fearing, queer-hating “just keep me safe, daddy” morons who cast their votes in righteous ignorance? Not to mention the approximately 25% of self-identified gay men who voted, who, in what can be considered nothing less than an act of utter self-loathing, cast their votes for a man intent on desecrating our most sacred document, the Constitution, to dehumanize them solely for cheap political gain. Or perhaps Kerry himself. Not a hard villain to paint, he was after all the guy who was actually in the ring. Should I blame him for developing a backbone way too late in the game? For running too much as “not him” and not enough as “here’s who I am.” For running lukewarm so as to not offend, instead of igniting into the flame we desperately wanted, to blaze our way out of this four-year nightmare. And let’s not forget the voting process itself. There are now plenty of post-election reports that reveal that once again, the thieves of democracy have rigged the election, this time with touch-screen machines, disappearing ballots, and yes, in the deciding state of Ohio, more hanging chads. Any of these would be completely legitimate foils for the disastrous events of November 2. But none would give me what I need to actually affect the change I am committed to. So I will use this critical event to wake me up to who I have been in the matter of being a liberal in America, and what I have settled for.
We stand at a crossroads in this, the aftermath of Election 2004. The lines have been drawn. The choices are clear. The truth must be faced. Our nation, our entire political system has been hijacked by a fascist neocon regime. Did we see it coming? Yes. Did we act appropriately? No. Speaking only for myself, I can now see the delusion I have lived in. A delusion that has lulled me into the false security that given the opportunity to choose George Bush as President after having lived under his maniacal thumb for four years, the nation would certainly reject him. The delusion that after seeing the lies, injustices and criminal acts perpetrated on the American people and the world, that surely a majority of my fellow Americans would seize the opportunity to toss him out. The illusion that in the end, when good people stand up and fight the good fight, that good will win. But no, that world, that thinking, that enlightened consciousness that I have so dangerously assumed had permeated the fabric of this country, has revealed itself to me as just that – an illusion.
So what are my choices? I could move. Friends of mine are moving to Paris, and they have extended to me a generous invitation to go with them. No, I actually do love this country, or at least what’s left of it. Or I could wait. I mean, really, it’s only four years, and there’s always that slim chance that he could be impeached. And in the meantime, I’ll just keep as far away as possible from the actual goings on in Washington, living life in the crazed enclave of New York, huddled with my liberal friends, sheltered from as much of the political insanity as possible. But neither of these really speaks to what has been awakened in my psyche. You see, I have now confronted the cold hard truth about my country, and democracy, and freedom. That this thing called freedom, freedom for all, the principles laid down in our Constitution, a document that this President has done all in his power to bastardize, co-opt and weaken, it isn’t a right, it’s a privilege. And a privilege that one only gets by fighting for. And not once, not twice, not only at the occasional rally or during an election cycle, but every single day.
You see, this event, this November 2 atrocity, it is my wake up call, and I pray a wake-up call for millions like me. The millions of liberals in this country who are proud to be liberals. I dream that we can all wake from this illusion, this dream state, this cloud of hope and fantasy. This illusion that, given all the efforts of myself and millions like me, that in the end, this end called November 2, 2004, that all my prayers and wishes and hard work would be rewarded. That good would prevail in the land, and that Bush would be sent packing back to Crawford for a much needed extended vacation. After all, I have been a “good Democrat.” Worked for Gore in 2000. Did “my part” in the 2004 Kerry campaign…wrote letters, forwarded e-mails, sent contributions, worked the phones, marched in protest. But there is a funny rule in life – when you do the right things, the right things happen. So did I do the right things? No. Did we do the right things? No.
As easy as it would be to pin this horror on someone else, any and all of which would be completely valid and justified, it is not the kind of thinking that will result in what is required to take this country back. The kind of thinking we must adopt is that we get what we work for, and if we don’t do the right work, then we get what we settle for. I have settled for “doing my part” and expecting someone else to fill in the blanks. Assuming someone else would ultimately “make it happen.” I have settled for being a good activist, admired by friends and colleagues, someone really out to make a difference. But one thing I wasn’t was effective. Not really. Now, that’s not to take away from all the work that I did, and all that millions like me. It is not to take away from the enormous strides that were taken in the name of our cause. It’s just to say that in the world of reality, you either have the result or the reasons you don’t have it. And the result we were out to achieve, namely defeating George W. Bush, didn’t happen. Bush won. We lost. Just the facts.
But let us not in this the post-election wake, forget another enemy, one possibly more powerful than Bush himself. An enemy much less obvious and far more devious. The enemy waiting to cause the almost certain inevitability that we will, for the most part, go back to sleep. That our rage and devastation will be short-lived, and that soon we will be contentedly tripping through the fields of “Hey, it’s not so bad,” seduced by the lull of our SUV’s, mp3’s and DVD’s. I remember that fateful day, that morning just four years ago in the wake of the 2000 election, when the Supreme Court, in a clearly partisan ruling, stripped “We, the people” of our voting rights and appointed our first non-elected president. I thought, “Surely we will take to the streets. Surely there will be riots, days and days of rising up full force in the face of this historic injustice.” But that didn’t happen. We settled. We sold out. We compromised. Let us not make the same mistake twice. Let us confront, attack, and rise victorious over this silent enemy – the enemy that is our own complacency and resignation. The resignation that anyone who has ever had and realized a real dream has had to defeat.
You see, the really bad news in all of this is that the crisis we face in America isn’t George Bush. He is the easy target, the Darth Vader of our current galaxy, the villain in the same archaic model of “me good, him bad” that he and his compatriots have used to alienate much of the world. That tired old “you’re with us or agin us” construct of thought which only polarizes and alienates, and always serves to strengthen the supposed “enemy.” Bush is merely the symptom, the grotesque manifestation of the real culprit – the culprit which is the disgusting complacency and resignation that we have settled into. The tranquilized slumber of those asleep to the reality that freedom, justice, truth, and equality are what we have, not because we somehow deserve them, like a set of entitlements that simply come with the package of being an American, but that what it is that makes us Americans is that we are the people who have committed to keep those principles alive. To stand for them, fight for them, and ensure their existence as a matter of our own integrity as Americans. And until we confront the cause within ourselves of the mess we now find ourselves in, until we get straight with ourselves as to where we have given up, where we have left our rights as Americans up to someone else, where we have sold out on our promise to honor and uphold the doctrines laid out within our Constitution and Declaration of Independence, until we face the truth about where we have let ourselves devolve into being Americans by right, inheritance, and entitlement, and have stopped calling ourselves to account for continuously carving out the world that our forefathers fought and died for, until we confront those sobering truths, then what we can surely count on is that once we get rid of Bush, it will only be a matter of time before the next dictator shows up. Maybe God really did select George W. Bush. Not to rid the world of evil. But to wake us up.
I, for one, am done with settling. I am done with “doing my part.” I am done with leaving it up to someone else. I am done working hard, not winning, and licking my wounds. I am done deluding myself with the dogma that having fought the good fight for peace, justice, truth, and freedom is what’s important, and that losing the fight is OK as long as I fought. I am now awake. The events of November 2 have made things very clear. The lines have been drawn. It is time to take a stand. Bush is not my president. His world view is not my world view, and I will not go quietly into his night. I am done taking my seat on the back of his bus. This is not a time for all of us as Americans to band together under some bogus banner of unity. It is time for those of us who actually stand for the principles on which this country was founded, to wake up, roll up our sleeves, and get to work. I am done living in numbed submission under a tyrant who used the non-issue of my freedom to marry, to summon his contingent of fag-hating Bible- belters to the polls, keeping our country safe from the filthy clutches of dreaded co-habiting homosexuals. I am done watching in silent horror as our deficit skyrockets, our environment is destroyed beyond repair, and our troops are murdered so that he can line his cronies’ pockets and prove to his daddy that he’s really not the pathetic loser he really is. Never before in my lifetime has a man who so completely embodies all that I abhor held so much power. And so the charge is simple. He must be stopped.
And let us here and now say pure and simple – this is war, and we will win. We will do whatever it takes to thwart and overthrow the Bush regime. This is a time for the liberals, the Democrats, the independents, the torch bearers of a future of real possibility for this nation, to wake up, wise up, and get to work to do whatever it takes to take our country back. We did not win at the polls. That does not mean the game is over. It simply means we find a different way to win. And that we stop operating under this false veil of hopeful tomorrows that sings to us like the siren on the rocks that “good things happen to good people.” Your mama’s not coming to save us from this tyrant. We will get what we fight for, and if not, what we settle for. Those are the facts, and our power comes from dealing with reality.
Now, what to do? This is a question we must ask every single day. And not stop asking until the question has revealed an action and that action then gets taken. First, we must demand that the voting irregularities be fully investigated until the absolute truth about who actually won this election is revealed. And if it is discovered that in fact, Kerry did win Ohio and New Mexico, then we must fight to have Bush removed and Kerry inducted as the truly elected President.
If Bush does indeed get inaugurated on January 20, my next fight will be at the inauguration, and my actions between now and then will be to mobilize that effort. My dream is to have 1 million of us on the streets of Washington, sending an irrefutable message to this regime that far from this battle being over, it has just begun. And to let the world know that we are with them in our contempt of what this man has done to our planet and the global community.
The other action I am proposing is to enlist our like-minded political representatives who will be attending the inauguration in sending a message as well. Tell them that what we want is that when Bush goes to the microphone to make his inaugural address, for them to stand and turn their backs, and to keep standing with their backs turned during his entire address. No action I can think of would be more powerful, stunningly impactful, internationally mobilizing, and impossible for the co-opted media to ignore. January 20 must be the day that mobilizes the liberal/progressive movement in this country. And if our respresentatives don’t have the fortitude and courage to take the kind of stand against this regime and make the kind of statement I am speaking of, then we will let them know that we are happy to find people who will when their bids for reelection come up.
Bush and his fellow neocons can be stopped. If not removed from office (and we must pursue every avenue to make that happen), then we can at least render him and his administration impotent. And we must mobilize as an unstoppable social and political force. And if there are no current elected officials with the guts to fight for the liberal agenda, then fine, we’ll find others to do it, or we will find those of us within our own ranks to run and elect. The patient is hemorrhaging. We must at least stop the bleeding. We must block Bush’s proposed right wing ultra-conservative judicial appointments, especially for the Supreme Court. We must stop all legislative action which further rapes our environment. We must stop the war in Iraq. We must bring integrity back to our voting process, and once again make clear the separation between church and state. We must repeal the Patriot Act and stop the eradication of our personal liberties. We must block the privatization of Social Security and all legislation which further enriches the economic elite at the expense of the majority of Americans. And on, and on, and on.
It is possible to live in a land where all, yes all people are free. Where the bodies that govern us really are comprised of statespeople, and not merely political hacks and opportunists. Where there exists for every American, as their birthright, the opportunity to work and fight for freedom, equality and justice, and to enjoy the fruits of those labors. It is time to stand together, to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, get back in the battle, and fight for our lives and the lives of future generations. And win.
The revolution starts now.