We are entering a dark valley, it is true, and we will not escape it without paying a terrible toll. I fear that the thousand lives and billions of dollars we have already expended in Iraq are just a down-payment. The coffins will continue to pile up, unseen, and many more parents will bury their children under American flags. Being a soldier is never an easy occupation, but we have a responsibility to those who place their lives in our hands not to expend them unwisely. We have failed in that responsibility over the last few years and we will fail again for the next four. I wish it were not so.
We cannot allow ourselves to become depressed or complacent. Just because the other side won doesn't mean that it was right or that those of us who believe in things like an open and honest government or that America should never start a war can stop expressing our principles. I think we can take heart from the fact that the right side has been in the minority many times in the past, and has often emerged triumphant. When George Washington and his allies took up arms against the British in the revolutionary war, they were in the minority of public opinion. Most people in the country wanted to stay under British rule. It did not matter, they were triumphant. When Martin Luther King Jr. and his allies took to the streets against a racist and corrupt regime they were in the minority. Fifty years later he has his own holiday and is venerated as a hero throughout most of the country. Adversity is the fire that forges strength and character.
What we have to do now is be loud. Not necessarily obnoxious, though we certainly will be to some, but loud. We can't stop shouting and writing and TALKING to people with different point of views. I have moved on from my initial anger at those who voted for Bush and now think that what we need to do is differentiate those who voted for him on nutty religious grounds from those who voted for him because they didn't understand the issues. We need to target the misinformed and those who didn't vote and try to build a coalition. We need to let the world know that not all of America supports the reckless misbehavior of our terrible government. They are but a slim majority. There is a large minority angry about the hijacking of our country.
I see a lot of people talking about how the Democrats need to reach out to religious people or just stop talking about politics and grin and bear it. Others are hoping that Bush will change his spots and be a mature responsible conservative like his father was, at times, over the next four years. I think all of these are the wrong answers to very difficult questions.
We should reach out to religious people, it's true, but not by compromising our beliefs. If we do that then we become just as bad as the Republicans, who for years now have lied about their faith in order to take advantage of the faithful, while cutting back room deals with important religious figures in order to garner their support. Instead we should remind these people that even though we don't agree with what they believe, and at times are angry with them for believing it, we fully and completely support their right to believe it and would not do anything to compromise that. We are not like the French, making laws preventing personal expression of religion in schools, and indeed I think that liberals should be more liberal when it comes to public faith. The state should not fund religion, but if individuals want to pray in school or put up religious decorations in public we should allow it. Religious tolerance means tolerance for not only the minority point of view but the majority belief system as well. None of us want the state to interfere with religion, we just don't want religion interfering with the state.
We should also remind them that we share many of their moral beliefs. There are disagreements, sure, such as over when life truly begins and whether language use can truly be immoral, but for the most part we believe the same things. I think that the media gives a lot of religious people the idea that all secular folks believe only in a "if it feels good do it" attitude. That's not the case with me, and with a lot of other people I know. Personally I agree that a high-functioning heterosexual couple is probably the best atmosphere for children to be raised in, but I think that a loving gay couple is a hell of a lot better than foster care or a state home, and can be a very constructive and positive environment. I'm pretty sure that if middle America knew more gay families they would agree. Most of us are at least conflicted about things like abortion and euthanasia, however we believe that it should be up to individuals, not the state, what they do about them. These values are not in conflict with most religion. In addition there are many religious values that the Republicans are in conflict with as well. Jesus was strongly anti-wealth, any reasonable reading of the bible makes that abundantly clear, and yet the Republicans want to use the state to increase the concentration of wealth. Jesus said "Turn the other cheek" not "Attack the neighbor of the guy who attacked you." Democrats and liberals have not done a good enough job of pointing out that while we don't believe in government interference in moral issues, we do have a strong sense of morality and hope that other people do as well. It is quite possible to bitterly oppose the drug war AND drug use at the same time.
On the other hand we should not lie and claim that we can accept things we find morally reprehensible just to appeal to those who have a pre-modern mindset. It is fine to include scientific arguments against evolution in the classroom, but they must be reasonable ones only. Evolution is just a theory at this point, we have a lot of circumstantial evidence but not any direct evidence (at the Macro level at least.) That can be brought up. On the other hand it is not okay to ignore the theory of evolution, something that's critical to understanding modern biology, or to offer religious counterarguments. If religion is as robust and truthful as it claims to be then it should not fear argument and discussion. Neither should science. Both sides should be willing to listen to each other, even if they simultaneously argue against the ideas the other holds that they consider pernicious.
Our most important appeals must go out to the apathetic and the ambivalent. We must convince them to care, and that we have the ideas and policies that will best serve them in their lives. Over 40% of the eligible population did not vote. Over 40%. That's a huge untapped resource.
Now is a time for reflection and contemplation. It is a time for caution and for openness. While I will never forgive George Bush for the atrocities he committed during his first 4 year reign I think we should pay attention to what he does now, and if he makes a serious effort to be a better leader then we should respect that and give him credit. At the same time we must remain suspicious and cautious when it comes to this government's behavior. We must continue criticizing strongly even while we are in the minority and must not allow them to be even more secretive about what they do. We must be loud and let our voices be heard around the nation and the world. We must brainstorm for alternatives. We must be funny and interesting and use satire and strong rhetoric. We must be confident and specific, outlining the logic behind our positions rather than just shouting them over and over or wearing little ribbons that show a position but not why it is taken.
America is the strongest country in the world and it is becoming the most dangerous. Those of us who live here and see what is happening must make a real and concerted effort to reverse the tide and get the country back on the right path. It is our duty as human beings and as caring moral people not to let this happen without a powerful struggle. Not to concede the country to the path of darkness because the majority wishes us to. We have suffered a defeat and are in a time of great adversity. This is when courage and strength of character shows itself. We must remain strong in the coming weeks months and years and not allow ourselves to give in. If we surrender or leave the country then it will be decades before the sun rises again over a free and true America. If we fight and struggle and continue our efforts without slacking, it may be as little as two years. This is a crossroads, a time of choice. I see the path I want to walk, and though it look rocky and difficult at least it might lead to the promised land. The other path, the low road, that will lead us only to ruin.