Saturday, September 06, 2008

Flashback -- Post-Election, 2004

I used to belong to belong to a really great message board originally dedicated to the Whedon-verse (i.e., Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly). The members of the board are known as the Buffistas. I don't remember exactly when I started reading the board; it was probably around 1998. I have found this group to be extremely intelligent and witty, willing to offer well reasoned arguements for their positions, be they political arguments or (more frequently) if re-souled Spike deserves to be redeemed or not. I never posted much (believe it or not, I tend to be rather shy, even online), but I genuinely felt these people were friends.

Over the years, as the Whedon shows ended and other shows took their place, the group became more fractured and diverse, and it became harder for me to keep track of all the various threads. Over the last several months, as my life has taken some difficult turns, I've mostly lost interest in following the Buffistas. I may go back to reading them once the new TV season starts, but I find I'm not really missing them.

The Buffistas as a group are mostly left/liberal leaning. Although political discussions happen, they aren't a big focus of the group. When they do happen, there's generally a lot bashing of conservative ideas and demonizing of Bush. But, again, it hasn't been a hot bed for these discussions.

After the 2004 election, I wandered over into the Natter thread, where most of the political discussions happened. I understood the complaints about Bush, but I wanted to understand why people thought Kerry was such a better alternative. I never got a satisfactory answer, but I saw what I considered to be a lot of uncharacteristic nasty attacks on "those idiots" who voted for Bush. I ventured out of my comfort zone to issue one person's reasoning for an unpopular decision. I actaully received a lot of support and thanks for it, although a few people continued to be nasty.

I offer an edited version of that post here today, to try to lay the ground for some future posts.


First, I want to give a little background and context for my view. I beg your indulgence.

Politics played no real part in my life until I was an adult. I vaguely remember Carter being president and listening to my mom and grandma complaining about Regan in 1980, but really my family was pretty apolitical and didn’t even watch the evening news. From 1980-1983, we lived in Sicily, and I went to a DoD school on base. I learned patriotic songs and we said the Pledge of Allegiance every day, and I learned to be proud of being American. I still am. I still cry when I hear “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

My parents divorced when I was 13, and I started picking up my mom’s and grandma’s Democratic leanings. I couldn’t tell you exactly why they are Democrats, and I’m not sure they could either. They just are, because It’s Right.

In high school, two of my teachers, a married couple, were unabashed true blue Democrats. They made no secret of their beliefs. The man was my history teacher, and he had a giant poster of the World as Ronnie saw it. It cracked me up.

But one day, I started thinking, and I realized I didn’t see things as clearly as those around me did. I saw that progress was being made with the US relations with the Soviet Union, and I was excited and happy. I wanted to see that progress continue. I was six months too young to vote in 1988, but I would have voted for Daddy Bush, because I believed it was important that Reagan’s foreign policies continue and that they would through Bush.

Between 1988 and 1992, I continued to become more aware of the world around me. I returned to a more extreme “justice for all and leave my body alone” position. I voted for Clinton in 1992 because I truly believed in his domestic policies and believed it was time to focus on the situation at home.

Something for me changed between 1992 and 2000. When I was in college, I happened to hear a statistic on the news that something like 1 in 5 pregnancies in the US were aborted. 20%. It seemed like such a high number. It made me sad. Sometime after, maybe a year later, there was a pro-choice rally on campus. I didn’t go. I don’t like crowds. I don’t like crowds with a cause, whether I agree with them or not. The next day I read an article in the campus paper about the rally One young woman was quoted as saying, “Abortion isn’t a choice. It’s a fact of life.” Another was quoted, “It’s no big issue, it’s just like my period.”

I completely disconnected with the pro-choice movement the moment I read this. I am pro-choice. I believe in safe, legal abortions. I know the official pro-life argument is “Safe, Legal, and Rare”, but the “Rare” seems to get lost too often. Personally, I believe every abortion is a tragedy, a waste, and a loss of potential that shouldn’t have to happen. More on this later.

I chose not to vote for Clinton in 1996. I felt his re-election was guaranteed. I was satisfied with the status quo, but not so satisfied as to cast a vote of confidence for Clinton. If the results were less certain, I probably would have cast that vote.

I realized I was disconnecting with the feminist movement soon thereafter. I felt like (and still feel) that feminist movement promotes a culture of victimhood and abdication of personal responsibility that I cannot relate to and do not understand. I do not believe that all feminists share the “official” view, and some may even agree with me.

I saw the same group of people that championed Anita Hill vilify Paula Jones, Juanita Broadrrick, and other women who spoke out against Clinton and his alleged treatment of them. I couldn’t understand. Certainly all women deserve to be protected from predatory men, not just Democratic women from Republican men? Granted, there should be strong evidence, because I try to live by “Innocent until proven guilty”, but that didn’t seem to be the case. The Monica situation was dismissed as being none of our business, in spite of the fact that it was originally brought up in Paula Jones’ civil lawsuit as evidence of a behavior pattern. It seemed to me that everyone was happy to give Clinton a pass because he was doing a good job.

I was in favor of Clinton’s impeachment and removal from office. I saw Clinton’s high crime and misdemeanor not as a crime of tawdry adultery but as a gross abuse of power and professional misconduct at the very least. Clinton, the Democratic champion and man of the people, conspired and lied to deny a woman her civil rights. Many people gave him a pass for that. Whether you agree or disagree, Martha Stewart is serving jail time for less. I cannot understand the continuing adulation of him. Now he may want the position of Secretary General of the U.N. Given the current state of the U.N., Clinton could fit right in.

I changed my party affiliation from “Democrat” to “Independent” during the Impeachment hearings. I didn’t then, and don’t now, wish to be associated with either party.

In 2000, I was baffled that Al Gore would be considered a good president. I couldn’t understand why those who championed free speech would want Senator and Mrs. PMRC in charge of anything. I disliked his hypocritical bashing of the entertainment industry as he stroked them for money and endorsements. I didn’t feel he had any real goal for wanting to be president, other than the title itself. I voted for Bush then, and I was proud to do so. I thought he would be a good leader.

On 9/11, my world changed. People to whom I was connected, albeit only tenuously, died horrible deaths. I realized, really for the first time, that people hate Americans for simply being American. It shook me to my core. I realized that there are people in this world who want me dead simply because I am a free, educated, opinionated, strong woman. They want my husband dead for approving of this fact. They want my family dead. They want my Buffistas dead. And I have no intention of standing for it.

But then, and I remember this very clearly, I read, right here in this community, fears that Bush was going to start a war. I was simply boggled, flummoxed, confused. Hadn’t a war already been started? By somebody other than Bush? What was I hearing? Where was the All-American desire to fight back? Why did the same people, who applauded the destruction of the Mayor and every other Big Bad on BtVS, not want to fight back? I still don’t quite understand what the anti-Bush side thinks should be done as a response to 9/11. I don’t believe reason will work with the likes of Al Qaida, and I still dislike going to the mall at Christmas time.

I cannot put my positions in convenient nutshell. I am an Extreme Moderate. I champion freedom and civil rights for all people, regardless of nationality, and I believe all people want these basic rights. I believe America has an obligation to help those who cannot help themselves gain these freedoms, if not in action then by example. I believe we have the obligation to defend those liberties from those who want to take them from us.

I am not Christian. Christian morality plays no part in my own personal moral code. I believe in a higher power; you can call it God if you want. I think of it as that force that is greater than myself, that inspires Dante, Mozart, Michelangelo and other great human achievements. Mostly, I naively believe in humanity, flaws and all.

I am pro-death penalty, but only for the most extreme crimes. I cannot feel badly for Tim McVeigh.

I believe that gun control laws are useless if they are not enforced, and I believe that most people who want to do Bad Things with guns will find a way to do so. Really is someone not going to rob a bank with a gun because they are afraid of being prosecuted for breaking gun control laws?

I am pro-choice, but I believe the pro-choice movement would be better served to more vocally promote sex education and personal responsibility. It seems the “pro-abortion” camp gets all the press and publicity. I believe that if the movement conceded some ground on abortion issues such as parental notification for pregnant minors, they would have more credibility with people in the middle. I believe that a simple acknowledgement that sometimes a man does have an emotional and/or financial stake in a woman’s decision regarding her pregnancy would also lend credibility to the movement. Conceding ground does not have to lead to a slippery slope. Some does not equal all. These are my wishes. I don’t expect everyone, or even anyone, to agree with me.

I am pro-gay rights. I see no good reason why such rights should be denied. For this election cycle, however, this was not a primary concern for me. Yes, I considered it before making my decision.

I am in favor of stem-cell research and other scientific endeavors. I don’t know that it is government’s responsibility to fund scientific research any more than it is government’s responsibility to fund the arts. Both are equally important to humanity, but I believe that more and better results are produced faster and more cheaply when financed privately by organizations who believe in the project at hand. I also believe that unused fertility clinic embryos should be used for this research. The waste of their disposal saddens me.

Yes, I voted for Bush on Tuesday. I have real concerns about a second Bush term, and I face it with my fingers crossed and hopes high. I had actual fears about a Kerry administration. I would have faced his presidency with the same attitude, although I might not feel the need to write all this.

I fully support the war in Iraq. I truly believe there was a massive international intelligence failure with regard to the WMDs. Why do I say this? Because there was also a massive international intelligence failure concerning a nuclear program in Libya. Nobody knew Libya had weapons. We invaded Iraq, and suddenly Ghadafi is turning over weapons and being cooperative. As intelligence failures go, I want to err on the side of caution.

I do not believe our troops are sacrificing their lives for nothing. I believe that the cause of freedom is never without sacrifice. I don’t believe our country should be responsible for gaining the freedom of every oppressed people, although I truly wish we could. I believe Saddam was a genuine threat, and the timing and degree of that threat was uncertain enough to warrant clear and decisive action. I wish things had happened differently, but I don’t think diplomacy was ever going to be possible. I wish things were going better, but I believe pulling the troops out would be a moral failure. We have committed, rightly or wrongly, to give freedom to the Iraqi people. We cannot leave until they are ready to shoulder that responsibility for themselves. To do otherwise would truly make the world a more dangerous place.
This brings me to my fears of a Kerry administration.

Kerry lost any chance he may have had to win my vote when Iraq’s Interim President Allawi came to the US. Kerry had the opportunity to attend a joint session of Congress, which he failed to take advantage of. He did not bother to arrange a meeting, publicly or privately, with Allawi. Kerry, who says he wants to rebuild our international relations, instead shit all over this man who has risked his life everyday for I don’t know how long—Allawi, who was, yes, picked by the US but also approved by the UN. The same UN Kerry holds in such high esteem. This is not the kind of behavior I expect from a man who wants to be president.
Now, I don’t trust the UN. I believe the UN is about as corrupt as an organization can be. The examples are too numerous to catalogue. The fact that the UN Oil-for-Food program was probably being run as a money-laundering scheme for Saddam reinforces this belief. I believe that the Weapons Inspections were being run in such a way that we could never know if Iraq had WMDs. My fear is that Saddam would have used his connections with the Oil-for-Food program to lift sanctions and would have restarted his weapons program.

I fear that Kerry, with his professed internationalist tendencies, would have placed the interests of the international community ahead of the best interests of the US. I do not ever want to see the US in that position. We have fought too hard, with other countries and with ourselves, to allow that to happen. I am afraid that Kerry would have allowed our troops to be tried for war crimes in an international court. I believe that the soldiers who abused prisoners at Abu Graib were punished sufficiently by our own court martial procedures. I see no reason to believe that an international court, which is accountable to no entity but itself, should ever decide how to punish our people. Given Kerry’s anti-war efforts in the Viet Nam era, I feel that is a real concern.

On healthcare, Kerry would have had more credibility with me had he not chosen a man who has made millions of dollars suing doctors. Healthcare costs are going up for a reason, and Edwards hasn’t helped any. I see the need for healthcare reform. I don’t believe either candidate will/would do much beyond pay lip service to the issue.

Finally, I never saw Kerry DO anything. He has no substantial record of accomplishment in 20 years as a Senator, except the accomplishment of being repeatedly re-elected. I heard so many comments about how presidential he looked during the first debate. On the day of the first debate, Kerry relaxed at a spa and got a manicure. Bush spent the day passing out ice and water to victims of yet another hurricane in my beloved state. It may have been a photo-op, but he did it nevertheless. On that day, Kerry may have looked presidential; Bush was presidential.

I hope Kerry uses the remainder of his senatorial term, and perhaps his future terms, to work towards the agenda he pushed as a presidential candidate. He has the attention of the public; even if he fails, I would love to see him work for those goals, whether I agree with them or not.

I know a Bush presidency could be ugly. I feel a Kerry presidency would have been equally, albeit differently, ugly. I cast my vote in the hotly contested state of Florida with no knowledge of the outcome. I reassured myself by reminding myself that we are Americans. We are resilient. We bounce back. It’s what we do.

In the show Assassins, by Sondehim, there is a song called “Another National Anthem”. The various assassins enumerate their complaints against the country and the reasons for their attempted or actualized assassinations. The Balladeer explains to them that their actions make the country hurt, but it always heals itself: “You forgot about the country…/And you forgot/how quick it heals.”

Sometimes, I wish I were less moderate, less ambivalent. I wish I could see things with such utter certainty as some here seem to. I can’t. I’m just not wired that way. The only thing I think I’m certain of is that nothing is as certain as we would like it to be.

I don’t embrace the Republican Party any more or less than I embrace the Democratic Party. I made my vote using all the knowledge and ability to reason I had and all the faith in humanity I possess. It may have been a bad decision, and bad things may come of it. I will not regret it and I will not apologize for it. If bad things happen, I have faith that the people of this country will work to set it right, and I will hope the work will spur great radical changes that I can support. If bad things don’t happen, or if good things happen, I will breathe a great sigh of relief and thank humanity for its inherent collective wisdom.

Ultimately, I never trust my “leaders”. Their time is limited and temporary. I trust the people who elect them, as well as those who don’t, to lead us all. I hope we can be united in our similarities and in our differences. I believe that those who do not want to be led by fear and intolerance will not themselves lead with fear and intolerance.

I would be lying if I said the comments I have read here have not been painful. I continued to read, because, like many of you, I wanted to understand how “the other side could make such a terrible choice”. I’m still not entirely sure I understand, but I keep trying. If it’s any consolation, and I’m sure it’s really not, I understand the pain and disappointment and heartbreak. I don’t blame those of you who have lashed out in anger. It hurts to feel you are being demonized and called a moron by those on the other side. I honestly hope the release of negative energy allows you to move forward in a positive direction.

I hope this has cast some illumination on why one person cast her vote for Bush. I don’t expect anyone here to like it, I hope someone understands it, and I hope everyone here will respect that it is mine and truly made in good faith for the reasons stated.

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