Friday, Jul. 30, 2004 | 4:19 p.m.



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Still More Coolness

Our Best Days Are Still to Come

I didn't get to see much of what I wanted to yesterday because Gab had a sleepover with two friends. I did make it back to see Kerry, and today I've been watching video scripts on C-SPAN and hunting down transcripts. Honestly, I don't think I missed much -- Kerry was obviously the most important speaker of the day. The other two who stood out to me were his fellow statesmen, the Honorable Edward Markey, and Delaware's Senator Joseph Biden. Someone yesterday remarked that the scheduled seemed to be designed so that the more liberal faction of the party speaks early, with the centrists speaking closer to the keynote speakers. Maybe that's why I've been so hooked into watching the whole convention. Anyway... After reading the entries of pandionna and my friend Lady Avalon, I'm almost tempted to just leave those links and say, "Me too!", but I really want to talk about the Kerry/Edwards ticket, why I'm supporting it and what I'm still concerned about.

As I mentioned in my first entry about the convention, Kerry wasn't my first choice. Neither was Edwards. I liked -- and still do like -- Kucinich. Dean was my second choice, though his behavior during the primaries gave me pause, and by the time it was over, I wasn't really sad that he had dropped out. I didn't like many of the candidates who were currently serving in Congress because I felt they had too much to do with the way things are. Coming to peace with Kerry means finding a peace with the need for the military and a deeper acceptance of the fact that no one works alone in our government -- and it's meant to be that way. And it's not insignificant that a mostly Republican Congress didn't stand in the way of a far-right Republican President.

So many things in the past 3.5 years have happened to screw things up. Losing liberal leaders in the Congress and in the Oval Office are just a few, though they are, perhaps, the biggest contributers to the largest example of Murphy's Law I've ever seen. I don't mean to take credit (or blame) away from anyone, but seriously, have you ever seen a better case of anything that can go wrong, will? Starting with the election in 2000? I guess it's either Murphy's Law or the biggest conspiracy ever perpetrated by the Republican Party. Either way the time to change is now and, in the words of Massachusetts House Representative Edward Markey, "Let it begin here."

Watching the whole convention and doing my homework by reading the wealth of information offered at JohnKerry.com definitely had an impact on my full support for his campaign. Looking further into issues that bothered me, such as Kerry's stance on the war in Iraq, made a difference. I was able to put my mind at ease on several points, though there are still issues that concern me. I have also been impressed, as I have mentioned, by the tone of Kerry's campaign ads versus the tone of the Bush campaign's ads, but that's another topic.

I needed to muddle through my position on the place of the military in our government. I'm not an idiot -- I recognize that a nation needs a defense, especially a nation with our resources. However, I still find it beyond ridiculous that we spend as much on the military that we do. Most of you probably already know these facts, but let me share a little for those who don't. If you'd like to see a nifty demonstration with Oreos, click here. The next closest military budget is that of Russia. They spend seven times less on defense than we do. And with the reforms in their country, they are now allies. The next in line is China, who spends eight times less than we do. They could take at least a quarter of that money and use it for social programs, for programs that help our young and our elderly, which frankly, is at least as important a role for government as defense. The money is there for the programs our country needs -- it's a matter of fear-mongering and priorities.

Every politician that stepped up on the podium talked about war and its necessity, the overwhelming majority spoke about the lies that were told to engage our country in the war on Iraq. I don't believe anyone mentioned the war in Afghanistan, however, and that disturbs me, especially considering troops are still there, still dying and the government we installed there is also in shabby shape. The Taliban is coming back into power. It's another glaring example of the Bush Adminstration going to war without a plan for peace, but it seems untouchable. Maybe because it's not as easy to stand and talk about how the war shouldn't have happened in the first place. Maybe it's because we completely missed our objective, which was, obstensibly, to crush Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Maybe it's because we never hear about it in the news media anymore. Whatever the reason, the part of me that doesn't like many of our country's military and foreign policies is still a little uneasy.

On the other hand, I've already said I understand the necessity of a strong defense for our country. I understand the need for intelligence. I understand the threat of terrorism. I just wish Kerry or Edwards had said something about the need to address the situations that lead to terrorism. I wish there hadn't been such an obvious desire to address the Bush campaign's charges that Kerry is "weak" on military, and that by "weak," they meant, "hesitant," or maybe, "not hot-headed, like our candidate." And while so many speakers said war should only be a last resort, I wish for a more thorough discussion of what that means. Maybe in the debates.

I had already thrown my support in with Kerry, because hey, anyone but Bush. But I made a point of being home for his speech last night because I wanted to be moved to a place of wanting Kerry to be my president not just because he's not Bush, but because I believe in him and his vision for our country. I don't expect to agree on every issue with any politician, but there are some key things I needed to hear -- and so I'll share just a few.

"We are here tonight because we love our country.

We are proud of what America is and what it can become.

My fellow Americans, we are here tonight united in one simple purpose: to make America stronger at home and respected in the world."

"I saw how different life was on different sides of the same city. I saw the fear in the eyes of people who were not free. I saw the gratitude of people toward the United States for all that we had done. I felt goose bumps as I got off a military train and heard the Army band strike up "Stars and Stripes Forever." I learned what it meant to be America at our best. I learned the pride of our freedom. And I am determined now to restore that pride to all who look to America."

I am somewhat ashamed and certainly sad to admit I have let the actions of the current administration make me hesitant to claim to be a patriot. After all, I hardly wanted to be lumped in with the flag-shaking, science-blind, America-Bless-God bumpersticker-bearing "patriots" I have seen in the wake of the September 11 attacks. That is not my America. My patriotism was denied in the weeks following that event every time I tried to speak of other solutions to terrorism, or of reasons why terrorists behave the way they do (which is NOT the same as suggesting their victims deserve to be victims). I did this in defense of my country -- using the privilege of free speech guaranteed to me by the Constitution, which is an amazing document that has stood the test of time better than many others. What is patriotism if not speaking up when something seems gravely wrong? My heart began to lighten with Teresa Heinz Kerry's speech, and by the time I got to John Kerry's speech, I felt happy to be a patriot again -- appreciated, and, like my friend Lady Avalon, I wanted to put a flag on my car right next to a Kerry/Edwards sticker.

Unexpectedly, watching this convention and listening to the future First and Second Families speak has restored my hopes for our country -- has returned a pride to me that I didn't even realize was aching to be restored. So you're on the right road, John Kerry.

" I will be a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war. I will have a vice president who will not conduct secret meetings with polluters to rewrite our environmental laws. I will have a secretary of Defense who will listen to the best advice of our military leaders. And I will appoint an Attorney General who actually upholds the Constitution of the United States."

I puncuated the last sentence with a loud grunt when I heard it, causing Jeff to come into the room to see if I was choking or something. I really loathe Ashcroft. The Constitution is a sacred document and he has defiled it. I don't know what else to say. I wish there had been more discussion of the Patriot Act and what will happen with it.

"As President, I will fight a smarter, more effective war on terror. We will deploy every tool in our arsenal: our economic as well as our military might; our principles as well as our firepower.

In these dangerous days there is a right way and a wrong way to be strong. Strength is more than tough words. After decades of experience in national security, I know the reach of our power and I know the power of our ideals.

We need to make America once again a beacon in the world. We need to be looked up to and not just feared."

This alludes to some of my concerns about going to the root of terrorism -- addressing the cause. I believe that Kerry will work to do that. I have to.

"And tonight, we have an important message for those who question the patriotism of Americans who offer a better direction for our country. Before wrapping themselves in the flag and shutting their eyes and ears to the truth, they should remember what America is really all about. They should remember the great idea of freedom for which so many have given their lives. Our purpose now is to reclaim democracy itself. We are here to affirm that when Americans stand up and speak their minds and say America can do better, that is not a challenge to patriotism; it is the heart and soul of patriotism.

You see that flag up there. We call her Old Glory. The stars and stripes forever. I fought under that flag, as did so many of you here and all across our country. That flag flew from the gun turret right behind my head. It was shot through and through and tattered, but it never ceased to wave in the wind. It draped the caskets of men I served with and friends I grew up with. For us, that flag is the most powerful symbol of who we are and what we believe in. Our strength. Our diversity. Our love of country. All that makes America both great and good.

That flag doesn't belong to any president. It doesn't belong to any ideology and it doesn't belong to any political party. It belongs to all the American people."

Yes, yes, and... yes. Just reading this again makes me want to wrap myself naked in a flag and... oh, sorry, wrong diary!

"My fellow citizens, elections are about choices. And choices are about values. In the end, it's not just policies and programs that matter; the president who sits at that desk must be guided by principle. For four years, we've heard a lot of talk about values. But values spoken without actions taken are just slogans. Values are not just words. They're what we live by. They're about the causes we champion and the people we fight for. And it is time for those who talk about family values to start valuing families."

Let's say it again, because repetition is a great way to learn -- repetition is a great way to learn: "Values spoken without actions taken are just slogans." Take that, you who profess to "compassionate conservatism" and "family values."

" And when I'm President, America will stop being the only advanced nation in the world which fails to understand that health care is not a privilege for the wealthy, the connected, and the elected it is a right for all Americans."

Yes -- it is disgusting that we live in a country where people have to chose between food and medical care. It is disgusting that parents who have sick or injured children have to fight with the people who are supposed to be providing them with insurance to pay for their children's treatment. The bottom line should be health, not profit.

"My friends, the high road may be harder, but it leads to a better place. And that's why Republicans and Democrats must make this election a contest of big ideas, not small-minded attacks. This is our time to reject the kind of politics calculated to divide race from race, group from group, region from region. Maybe some just see us divided into red states and blue states, but I see us as one America red, white, and blue. And when I am President, the government I lead will enlist people of talent, Republicans as well as Democrats, to find the common ground so that no one who has something to contribute will be left on the sidelines."

Oh what a novel idea -- that an election be decided on ideas and platforms, rather than negative campaigns and lies. Of course, taking away negativism and lies pretty much takes away the Bush platform and ideas, so I can see why it's all they've got.

"And let me say it plainly: in that cause, and in this campaign, we welcome people of faith. America is not us and them. I think of what Ron Reagan said of his father a few weeks ago, and I want to say this to you tonight: I don't wear my own faith on my sleeve. But faith has given me values and hope to live by, from Vietnam to this day, from Sunday to Sunday. I don't want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side. And whatever our faith, one belief should bind us all: The measure of our character is our willingness to give of ourselves for others and for our country."

Nice. I think maybe Kerry would hesitate before making statements, as Bush has, about what does and does not constitute a "real" religion, and that he would also make sure the people in his employ would do the same.

" Never has there been a more urgent moment for Americans to step up and define ourselves. I will work my heart out. But, my fellow citizens, the outcome is in your hands more than mine.

It is time to reach for the next dream. It is time to look to the next horizon. For America, the hope is there. The sun is rising. Our best days are still to come."

Even at home, I wanted to cheer and clap until I lost my voice and my hands were chapped. I want to work for Kerry's campaign. If things are not completely insane after this move, I will. And the very least I will do is to make sure I register to vote as soon as I get to Arizona, so I can be sure to vote in November. I would love to know that all you readers out there have done the same. I don't care if you agree with my politics, just vote for something.

Courage, America. Have the audacity to hope. Hope is on its way. Help is on its way. And yes, the sun is rising.

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