On November second, I was joyfully optimistic. I wore my Red Sox cap all day and said, "God is smiling down upon Massachusetts." I said, "We're going to win!" and I believed it. I was ignoring the polls and counting on the fresh faced, passionate young voters I have encountered all over the country in the past four years. I was elated by the surge of interest in Democracy.
Tom got up at 5:30am to drive up to New Hampshire and volunteer for the Kerry campaign, standing with fellow Democrats in intersections with pro Kerry placards. A retired vet with a scraggly beard watched Tom and the other volunteers, limped into a nearby McDonald's and came back with styrofoam cups of coffee for all of them.
The other thing I was saying yesterday was, "No matter what, about fifty percent of the country is going to wake up broken hearted tomorrow." I was saying this to try to remember that even though it looks like we are a nation of red vs blue, Republican vs Democrat, insane religious fanatics vs thoughtful generous people, we are really all one. We really are; every piece of wisdom I’ve picked up over the years, from any and all philosophical or religious traditions, or even good old fashioned Yankee common sense tells me that.
Almost fifty percent of the electorate voted for John Kerry. He got 252 electoral college points and some fifty million votes. Heck, twenty five percent of the state of Utah voted for him! I'll go with that! So even though today I felt so sad and angry and fearful that it was difficult to pick up a pen, difficult to put on a smile, I take solace in some things.
I take solace in the fact that in a wartime election, in a climate of intense (partially manipulated) fear, the Republican Smear Machine only just barely worked against our sensible candidate.
I take solace in that fact that John Kerry will have a much more pleasant four years now. This war in Iraq is an abomination. We have invaded a country that never attacked u, nor was it planning to. We have killed over 100,000 Iraqis and lost over a thousand of our citizens and there is no end in sight. This war is illogical, irrational and morally repugnant. We need to find a swift road to peace. Had John Kerry been elected, he would have inherited this mess, plus rising gas prices, a bipolar stock market, and a deeply divided electorate. Not a picnic. My astrology teachers say that when predicting who will win an election, you look at the candidates birth charts. Whichever one has a bigger shit storm brewing in the heavens is the one who generally gets elected. Now, I do believe that had Kerry been elected, he would have helped raise respect for the USA internationally, been able to build coalitions, but then again, what nation at this point would want to volunteer its army to help us in Iraq? If Kerry had been elected, my anti-war friends and I would have had to yell and scream at Kerry to bring us to peace. Now we can just go back to bashing Bush, which we all have gotten pretty good at doing.
This is easy for me to say: I live in Massachusetts. My gay friends can get married. I don’t have even have a single Republican friend to irk me. And the truth is, I didn’t care a whit about Kerry’s well being; I just wanted him to be president, to ameliorate the global threat of nuclear terrorist, to make some sense out of the health care and social security messes, to balance the budget, to give a face of reason and justice to our country’s figurehead.
And I’ve been close to despair. We worked so hard! We did everything right this time! We raised so much money! We registered so many new voters! It’s tempting to throw it all in, cancel my subscription to the New York Times and go dig in my garden, ignoring the rest of the world. It’s also tempting to follow my good friend, Charrette, and convince Tom to move with me to New Zealand.
One of my all time favorite quotations is by Mahatma Gandhi:
"When in despair, I remember that all through history the way of
truth and love has always won. There have always been tyrants
and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible. But in
the end they always fall." They always do. The mean part of me says, Bush will get his. Nyah nyah.
But at the same time, as angry and hateful as I feel, I also have to admit that this time around, I don't think Bush stole the election. He was properly elected, it seems. So I will acknowledge him as my president, something I haven't really done until now. I don't think he's evil. I think he's troubled and confused. I think he had a hard time as a kid, was probably dyslexic and struggled in school and has a chip on his shoulder against the intellectuals he came into contact with at Andover, Yale and Harvard. He's an alcoholic, who through his disease seems to have found a sort of spirituality. This I can understand and respect; after all, I am a Christian too.
But what I can't understand nor respect is the way the Republican Right has misappropriated Christianity. Both parties and the media seem to buy this lie: that Christians believe in fighting terrorists and Muslims, gays and women's reproductive rights; and that Democrats are Godless perverts who only eat French food.
My friend, folk singer Carrie Newcomer, a Quaker and an activist, told me this amazing fact last week during our Folk the Vote tour: The Bible has over 2000 references to the poor. If you were to cut out every time "the poor" are mentioned in the Bible, the book would literally fall apart. It would not hold together. By contrast, homosexuality is mentioned seven times. And never by Jesus. Jesus's ministry over and over again is about caring for those at the bottom of the social and economic ladder: prostitutes, adulterers, lepers, thieves and murderers. Oh, and the poor.
From the Book of John, chapter 21, verses 15-16:
Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?"
"Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."
Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?"
He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."
Jesus never once mentions homosexuality.
As a Christian, I believe Jesus died on the cross to show us that salvation is possible, and that it is ours if we only believe. But what that means to me is this: what Jesus proved was that if we can show up and actually be present even in the worst of circumstances, we will not die that particularly gruesome death of detachment that almost every human suffers, many many times a day. This includes tuning out, being in denial, sticking our heads in the sand. What Jesus did, and what He alone could do was to be absolutely present for his own life, his own experience. He said both, "My God, why have You forsaken me," and also "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." He was with his own anguish and he was with his murderers, with compassion.
WWJD about 9/11? The scriptures are clear: "if anyone hits you on your right cheek, turn and offer your left also." (Matthew 5:39).
In the restaurant in Lenox where Tom and I had lunch today, my fellow Bay Staters were furious.
"We should secede!” said one woman. “The People’s Republic of Massachusetts!”
Patty said, “Let’s get all of New England and the west coast to join Canada.”
Dave Hower said, “My friend Mike says the goal should be to get George W. to leave the Oval office in handcuffs.”
I say this. This is our country. Remember those 25% in Utah, the 48% in Virginia, who voted for Kerry. For that matter, think of the 41% in Massachusetts who voted for Bush. (Where are they, anyway? I never see them.) Even though we are in the minority, it’s just as much our country. Thank God for the Constitution which protects minority rights. There is much in the country to love, much to be proud of. So I plan to go out and buy a huge American flag and hang it from my flagpole. Then I will hang some Buddhist prayer flags along side it and get a huge lawn sign that reads: NO BLOOD FOR OIL. It’s my flag. It’s my country.
This is a time for stout hearts. This is a time for a long view. This is a time for courage, my friends. Invite a bunch of people over to your house and tell them to bring their best story of the campaign of 2004, their most hopeful encouraging story. Share food, share music, share Bush jokes. And keep planning the revolution.