It can be so easy to lose heart. We threw our hearts into the Gore campaign, only to see him fall to the unrelenting tide of smear attacks. Mischaracterizations, baseless accusations, and name-calling convinced the electorate to vote for . . . oh, wait, they voted for Gore over Bush, didn’t they? So the Supreme Court had to stop the recount and install George W. Bush as the unelected President of our great nation. As if this weren’t enough, we were then told to get over it and move on as if nothing unusual had happened.
It can be so easy to lose heart. The tragedy of September 11th overshadowed any other concerns, and united our nation behind the unelected President. I felt the hope, too, that this man whom I had blamed for so much would rise to the challenge and find a way to restore peace and safety to us all. I even wanted to forgive him for mishandling the immediate response to the disaster by flying all over the country and leaving a leadership vacuum just when we needed leadership the most. The invasion of Afghanistan featured a strong, international coalition. Despite my misgivings about the war, Afghanistan had been a haven for Al Qaeda, and this provided a measure of justification.
It can be so easy to lose heart. The PATRIOT Act was the first sign that all was not well. Featuring expanded powers for law-enforcement, and creeping infringements of our civil liberties, it showed that our government was willing to try the devil’s bargain, freedom for security. Then, the President squandered our credibility and moral standing in the world to launch the ill-fated Iraq War. Night was falling on the Democracy that the world had envied.
It can be so easy to lose heart when John Kerry, a man who fought in Vietnam and who has served his country since as a legislator, can be mocked with beach footwear at the Republican National Convention. When the level of political discourse descends into the troglodyte ridden caves of right wing talk radio, and rage takes the place of reason as the motivating passion of voters.
As time has passed, it has been harder and harder to keep heart. The night has grown darker, the evil pulsing at the heart of our government more bold and vicious. Every day seems to bring new scandals, like the NSA wiretapping scandal, or the Plame affair, that show how little regard the administration has for the laws, laws which were made by our representatives, on our behalf, to protect us from tyranny. Sometimes I feel powerless to stop it.
Yet night cannot last forever, and our government, battered though it is, remains one of the towering achievements of human political endeavor. We have the power to hasten the morning, by speaking out against Bush, or Cheney, or Rove, or any of the multitude of beasts who have taken up residence in our house in Washington, DC. We can find our representatives, or our senators, and remind them who they work for, and what those people value. We can find our local elections and volunteer, or contribute. Most of all, we can take heart, knowing that, in this nation, citizens are not bound to be the victims of history; we are free to be its creators.