2004-07-14 - 3:42 p.m.
It has rained all week. It has not let up. I don’t believe I’ve gotten a good look at the sun, or at least as good a look as one can get without boiling your retinas, in five days. Keep in mind that all it takes to flood the city’s corners is a few inches of rain. Suddenly you’re playing a sloshy game of hopscotch.
When the mood strikes me, I take a walk down to the diner by my old job: a good ole dollop of food for a light stack of bills. It’s about ten blocks away, so the journey isn’t always worth it, but the absolute comfort of walking in somewhere where they know your order before you’ve even plopped your butt in a chair is hard to contend with.
The half-mile walk wasn’t well timed, seeing as the skies had opened up once again, but the drizzle was a nice alternative to the steaming heat of the last few days.
As I walked past the Public Library, I saw the front step covered from forty second to fortieth street in construction workers gnawing away on sandwiches and soda, on break from the remodeling of the back wing of the towering building behind them. The color scheme ran constant down the entire row, so much so, I thought they had on uniforms. As it turns out, a grey shirt and torn jeans are just a quietly understood standard. I watched them as they watched the people walk by, holding back on cat-calling, but certainly taking notice of the Mid-town cheesecake passing by.
A cherry topped “hello” broke me out of my trance.
I turned to see a pair of dimpled cheeks lined with auburn ringlets gone slack with rain. The hood on her clear rain slicker protected most of her head, but a few unwilling locks had been forced up to the front. Beneath the parka a blurred American flag stood out on her bright red T-shirt. My eyes caught hers and she brought her clipboard into view. Against rolling bars of red, white and blue, it read: Beat Bush.
“Can I speak with you a moment?”
I nodded my assent and prayed the rain wouldn’t pick up any.
She started off with a speech she'd been trained to give. I looked over her shoulder to see another patriot reading off his clipboard, so I gave her a few points of credit for having memorized it, even if it did roll off the tongue with all the intonation of a stoned Ben Stein. I used to work in retail, and no matter how emphatically you tried to repeat the same few sentences you’d said enough times to rival Jack Nicholson’s “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” count…it always feels forced.
The history of the organization was rolled out, with the words “grass-roots” and “fueled” heavily accentuated, then the mission statement, and finally a tally of Dubya’s faults. This particular jam-packed paragraph might well have started with “Forgive me father, for I have sinned…”
The facts I had mostly heard before, but I was happy to hear her case. Georgy isn’t exactly a gleaming bucket of lovely to my eyes, so I didn’t really mind hearing the fire and brimstone.
My favorite Bush Quote remains his comment on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s gubernatorial run before he was elected. Pres. Bush stated that he had met Arney and thought he might make a fine governor. He then said he’d been watching the campaign closely, adding, “I’m a big follower of American Politics.”
A big follower of American Politics? You’re the fucking PRESIDENT, ya doof!
The close of her pitch was a request for donations in order to “fuel” their “grass-roots” effort to unseat this unfit potentate. I would have considered it, if my creditors weren’t leaving a slew of messages on my phone begging for payment.
I tried to politely decline, offering my help, possibly volunteering, which led her to mention that contributions could be made at a later date on their web site. I told her I’d take a look.
Walking away, in the rain, the construction workers looking on as she stopped someone else with her smile, I thought over the conversation we’d just had. Three minutes, discussing the ousting of the incumbent in the up incoming election, his faults, his policies, but noticeably absent from the conversation, was his opponent.
In three minutes discussing the November election, there was not one mention of Kerry’s or Edward’s name. Not one. I didn’t even hear the word Democrat.
I recognize that now in the age of McCain-Feingold finance reform any grass roots organization has to maintain some distance from the actual campaign or their fund raising efforts will get what is called in political circles “The High Holy Bitch Slap.”
Still, it feels like it’s everywhere. People trying to tear down Bush left and right. Telling us what’s wrong. Showing us what needs to be changed. But what form that change should take is less clear. The solutions we so crave don’t seem to be in the limelight. It feels like our two candidates are simply trying to toss matches at the pyres they’ve built below each other.
I don’t understand politics, and I am probably ill informed to make any judgment on these kinds of issues, but I cannot escape one thought that echoes around in my head.
It isn’t negativity that inspires. The defamation of Bush’s already tarnished name will only add to the fires of those already seething. The ones on the fence might feel their confidence slipping in our commander and chief, but if Kerry is simply the acting definition of Not-Bush, they still might pull Dubya’s lever because the alternative is a nothing. This isn’t a nation wide referendum where we all vote “Yes” or “No” to Georgie’s second term. We will either elect him, or we will elect Kerry.
We don’t need a naysayer. We need a hero.
(Cue the music from Short Circuit 2: “He’s gotta be strong, and he’s gotta be fast…”)
The last time we found ourselves in a war that became more and more tangled and complicated, it wasn’t the arms of a senator that the nation’s dissidents fell into. It was Martin Luther King, and John Lennon. We need someone to stand up, and say what he wants to do, not what he thinks is being done wrong.
“I have a nightmare” is not a good opener.
Mr. Kerry, you do not need to remain on the defensive. When the question comes up about your choices about the war, about how you’ve gone from voting for it last year to opposing it now, you don’t need to dance around the question. Three words might make you the most imposing and impressive politician recent memory.
“I was wrong.”
One year ago, we were told we were going to be fighting a nation tied to a terrorist faction responsible for the deaths of more than three hundred thousand Americans. One year ago, we were told we were going to war against a nation that was building a vast armory, bent on dismantling out way of life. A lot has changed in a year. You are allowed to change your mind.
You don’t need to skirt your earlier protesting days. You cared enough about the troops and the war to make a stand, after you’d done your duty. You felt it was your responsibilty. This was not meant to disrespect the honor of those who fought, only question those who led them to battle. This might sound familiar.
Stand up with humility and the recognition of the mighty challenges that you will have to face, rather than bandaging the past, or pointing to the failures of those before you.
If we keep screaming, we’ll lose our voices.
We may be out to Beat Bush, but instead of tightening our fists over what is, imagine what could be. Imagine what could be, and let those words drift from your mouth. Someone will hear them.
I’m not a fan of Al Franken but, “Washington didn’t stop Nixon or Vietnam. The Beetles did.”
(I do not intend to use this place as a means of political venting, but this has been bothering me for some time. If anyone wants to help me understand any or all of this better, I’d welcome it.)
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