The Case for John Kerry
At the beginning of last year, it was hard to see that anyone could prevail against George W Bush. And many of us knew long before there was a Democratic candidate that the 2004 election would be one of the nastiest and most destructive elections Americans have known. (Yes, there have be a few that have been worse: like 1860 when the election resulted in a civil war, nevertheless, this election is up in the top 5 at least.)
One of the reasons that the election is so close is that there are a number of people that are convinced that they cannot vote for John Kerry. Today, when I hear people use the Republican talking points to say they cannot vote for John Kerry because he is a flip-flopper or scary or mean, I know that these impressions are the result of Karl Rove's poison. Fortunately, this poison has not completely paralyzed the electorate and it looks like Rove's gamble is succumbing to reality. Bush's bad policies are finally coming home to roost and it is hard to not recognize how his decisions have led to the bad news that is so prevalent today.
Yet, the Rove poison has infected many of those who plan to vote for Kerry even if they have to "hold their nose" to do it. Well, I'd like to make the case that even if John Kerry was not your first choice, he is a remarkably able candidate and the right candidate for these times.
Our country needs someone who has courage and will use his courage to help others tap into their own courage. John Kerry has demonstrated courage -- under fire in Vietnam, as a returning vet who decided it was necessary to do whatever he could to end the Vietnam war, as a Senator who did not stop his investigations even when the high and mighty were looking for reasons to stop him and as a candidate for President knowing that Rove would seek to destroy him if he could. And John Kerry is someone who helps others be brave.
Last year before Bush started his war, I wrote that I thought that courage would be one of the most important things a real leader would show and draw out, and this was one factor that would garner my support.
One thing I believe is that we have to stop being cowed by those who believe that Americans betrayed the military when we finally ended the Vietnam war. The military was not betrayed by the American public, but by the leaders that took them into war, and Vietnam was always a mistake. No matter what people say or believe today, this is still true.
The other thing we need to show is that it is possible for Democrats to show real courage and to help the American public to find their own courage that they need for these unsettling times.
The Republicans and this White House expect Americans to sit back and let them handle all the difficult problems. They also purposely terrorize the public so that they can move their unpopular agenda while saying that this is the only way to gain safety.
But there is a different type of leadership and a different type of courage that we need the Democrats to show and for them to ask the public to also try to display. The British people during the blitz showed real courage because Churchill asked this of them. And the civil rights organization called forth remarkable courage from ordinary people, because they were asked and also trusted by those who were leading the movement. Ordinary people can do extraordinary things and they can face down the most horrific events when there is a need to do so. And they can do this without losing their humanity and compassion for others.
The key to this is that someone with real integrity and whom people trust must challenge them to show courage (even when they are afraid) and to be willing to stand with them when they take up that challenge. Martin Luther King knew this. Robert Moses of the Voting Rights movement in Mississippi, 1963, knew this. Gandhi also knew this. Today, when there is so much to be frightened about, we especially need to find ways to draw out the good and brave part of the American public rather than having them succumb to fear, resentment and a belief that they alone are entitled to a world without trouble. And we need to have leaders that will ask people to display courage and compassion.
The Democratic candidates and leaders must first find their own deeply held convictions (and courageously opposing the unjust war is a very good place to begin even after the war starts) and then find a way to call forth that best and most courageous part of the American public. I believe there are times when it is more important to fight and lose than it is to hang on so you can fight again. Most Americans would agree that Germany in the early 1930s was one of those times. And for Frodo in Lord of the Rings, waiting until things weren't as scary was also not an option. I think we are facing one of those times now. We all need to show courage and try to overcome our fear.
And we Democrats need to make sure that we help support our Democratic leaders when they take courageous stands. We need to make sure that the right-wing radicals will not destroy them when they act courageously.
For too long we have allowed those who believe that it is only through military power we gain security go unchallenged. We've allowed the right-wing zealots who hated the legacy of Vietnam and who worked to sell war as the solution to problems to assert that they had the high ground. We've allowed them to glorify war and to belittle institutions such as the United Nations that were setup to provide a forum for nations to collaborate on shared problems. Their idea of leadership is the lone gunslinger who comes into town and shoots up the bad guys. Knowing when to use power and when to use diplomacy is something we should ask of our candidate. And I'd want our candidate to realize that real courage and real leadership is finding ways to encourage people to be brave and compassionate even when things are desperate. I know I'd vote for any Democratic candidate who understood the limits of force and could show that type of courage and leadership.
John Kerry is such a leader and I am proud to support him. We will need all the courage and wisdom we can drum up as we face the mess that Bush has created.
[Ed: I did some editing of the text from last year to fix for grammer and flow.]