Well, it's over, and it's all beginning again.
I know I'm not the only one who was getting tired of the endless campaigning. Even though I had (and still have) a great deal of faith in my candidate, the whole election process had worn me down and I feel that I can heave a huge sigh of relief now that it's over, but I've been thinking about this year's election and I'd like to share those thoughts with you.
Last weekend, I spent some time in Columbus, OH, at the Ohio Valley Filk Fest, a convention for people who enjoy the music which has grown up around Science Fiction conventions over the past 40-odd years. Fans of this music, or fen, as we call ourselves, are usually quite left of center, politically and culturally, and pride themselves on their inclusiveness and tolerance, but there wasn't much tolerance for George W. Bush last weekend. The vitriol that flowed through the halls and from the stage was astounding. Judging from the number of deragatory remarks and rude songs hurled in the President's direction, I suspect that every family represented there must have had a soldier wounded or killed in Iraq. Even after 15 years as a part of this 'fannish' crowd, I've never seen anything like it. It offended me so deeply that I walked out of several concerts and spent most of the time in my hotel room watching movies or practicing on my guitars. It was difficult to hear a man that I admire and support being used so abominably; it was doubly difficult because many of the people who used him so were friends of longstanding.
Now that the election results are in and the nation as a whole has truly spoken, I cannot help but wonder how my friends are reacting. It is somewhat tempting to gloat over the disappointment they may feel. After all, with well over 70% of eligible voters casting ballots and over 59 million votes to confirm his work to date, the President's victory cannot be attributed to voter suppression or sloppy accounting. Considering the efforts made by the mainstream news media, the Kerry campaign and their allies, including dozens of entertainment figures, voter ignorance of the President's flaws, real and imagined, can also be ruled out. All that's left is the stark realization that nearly 60 million people not only rejected the message of John Kerry and the Democratic Party, but made a point of rejecting it in the voting booth, suiting their actions to their beliefs. Not only did liberals fail to regain the White House, they lost seats in both houses of Congress and saw 11 states pass legislation that tears the heart out of another liberal priority, gay marriage. Nearly 60 million people made it clear that they do not identify with the platform of the Democratic party. That's a pretty serious slap in the face and I'm sure some of my friends are feeling it as deeply as I felt their attacks against 'Dubya' last weekend. The desire to say, 'I told you so,' runs deep in my veins, but, upon reflection, it's the wrong thing to do and now is the wrong time to do it. There's something more important to be said here.
I cannot help but think that these past few months have been a time of learning for many of my countrymen. It certainly has been one for me. And, as anyone who has ever paid a tuition bill can tell you, education isn't free. There were millions upon millions of dollars spent on producing and airing campaign advertisments (Want to lower a deficit, provide healthcare or feed the world? Here's an untapped source of funding!), but I believe each of us also paid something individually. The price I paid for the lessons I've learned since January is found in the sense of disappointment I felt in seeing so many of my friends, fine, kind people, mocking and reviling President Bush as though he were lower than a common thief. (One songwriting buddy of mine even set him on par with Adolf Hitler, although I believe Der Furher is ahead in the bodycount by well over 4 million and never attempted to set up free elections for the French, Poles, Czechs, Slavs or Belgians. How anyone can blithely overlook those bits of reality and thus trivialize The Holocaust is beyond me.) As much as I love and respect my friends, I don't know if I'll ever be able to look at them again the way I did at last year's convention. Pundits and politicians alike have chanted 'divided country' like a dire mantra, and perhaps, for once, they're not too far from the truth. I can see that divide yawning between my liberal friends and myself and I know that this presidential race has deepened it. The accusations hurled by both candidates and both parties were of the most serious nature and some, perhaps most, have not been laid to rest. I certainly continue to have doubts about Sen. Kerry; I'm sure my friends have doubts about President Bush. But we have had, and continue to have, the opportunity to test those accusations and prove those doubts and that is a Good Thing. We are also called upon by our culture and our form of government to set aside as many of our differences as we can to focus on those things we agree upon, and this is another Good Thing. It is time for all of us to approach one another in a spirit of respect, humility and charity. It is time for the winner to magnanimously reconcile with the loser; it is time for the loser to acknowledge the loss and re-evaluate his position, drawing a greater wisdom from it, rather than a bitter determination for revenge. It is time to put away our quarrels.
In a sense, we recreate the United States of America every four years. We tear it apart, piece by piece, from the time that the Presidential Primaries begin until election day, and then we re-assemble it the day after. We give our nation a new birth every four years and no birth is without pain and cost. For the freedom that we enjoy, even this year's election, as painful and costly as it was, remains a small price to pay to maintain our America.
Posted by Pete
at 9:50 AM EST