Thursday, September 23, 2004

Montani Semper Liberi

Mountaineers Are Always Free . . . .

You might want to sit down for this.

The handful of readers who have been with me from the beginning know that John Kerry wasn't my guy in January. My guy was Howard Dean. More plain spoken, different, anti-war, passionate - he was the one I voted for in the California Primary in spite of his "no longer actively pursuing the presidency" at that point. John Kerry didn't move me as I watched him in cramped firehouses, large school gyms, working the crowds, and stumping. Disgruntled, I frequently criticized the campaign, frustrated more with the shortcomings of my party than with the shortcomings of one man - but making him pay for it anyway. Why isn't John Kerry making Democrats come together? Why doesn't he fight harder to save the world? Then I realized something.

I, like so many Americans, Democrats in particular, had long ago stopped asking what I could do for my country - or my candidate. I only wanted to know what John Kerry was going to do for me. Multiply that by the millions of loudly whining Democrats and you have all the reason you need for lousy polls and lackluster performances. Do for us, John Kerry, but don't expect us to do much for you. We'll play the victim, and leave you hanging.

When I shook Kerry's hand last month, I thought later of the many questions I'd wished I'd asked. Foremost among them: how does it feel to know we're counting on YOU to save the world. How foolish a question. I hope, if I had asked, he would have replied, "how does it feel knowing you must help."

This election is about more than one candidate. It's about more than the man we've allowed to be painted into a corner by savvy foot-wear wavers to the point where he can't unspool his Iraq war vote. It's about more than our parents' generations fighting out their 1968 anger or re-fighting Vietnam and its aftermath.

It's about the thousands of lives lost, impaired, wounded, or imperiled by President George W. Bush - and the thousands more he'll happily hang like fly-paper, twisting in the desert, while we hang out to dry here at home. It's about lost capital, good will, cooperation, and diplomacy. It's often said that you can't win an election based on voting against the other guy - fine. I'm voting for someone - John Kerry, and for myself.

I, a former Dean voter, will vote for Kerry because I believe he will not lead us unnecessarily into war with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, or North Korea (though war with those countries may have been more necessary, and may be more necessary now than pre-Iraq). I will vote for Kerry because, as a Democrat, he still represents the party of the poor, the working and middle classes, the underrepresented, the truthful, and the hopeful. Irony and cynicism are soooo Pre-9/11 - I choose to believe in the American Dream: hard work and one vote can save the world.

Therefore, as of Monday, I will no longer be silent about the things that matter.

I'm moving to West Virginia for the remainder of the campaign, to be a field organizer for Kerry/Edwards. As I've told people today, as my plans went from semi-sure to definite, almost all were supportive, saying they wished they could do something like this. To them, I say two things: 1) You can. Though it's a bold, and some will surely say, foolish move. 2) There's a lot you can do here. Think of me and what I'm doing when you think you just CAN'T take 3 hours to work a phone bank - when you just CAN'T spare $20 for a low-dollar fundraiser, when you just CAN'T take a weekend to drive to Reno or Vegas or New Mexico to work where it really counts.

This is the first time in my life I've strayed from a very linear, sensible path. But if you're going to go - go big, I suppose. I'm terrified of moving to a state where I know no one to do a job I've never done (at least not in that particular role) for people I don't know. But it's also exciting. If everyone who thought "no, no, I couldn't possibly" take time/volunteer/go vote/tell their friends why this is so damn important just did so - we'd win handily.

In the end, no matter how things turn out, I wanted to wake up on November 3 and not wonder what I could've done differently, what I could've done more. And so, though it really changes things, delays them, reorganizes them, alters them forever, I'm going. I can no longer ask of others what I'm unwilling to do myself.

"In the end," the quotation goes, "we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

If Bush is reelected in November, what could be truer than that.

Wish me luck, pray for peace, and get your ass to a swing state at least for a few days.

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