Saturday, July 5, 2008

The State of the Union

The 5th of July seems as good a time as any to reflect upon American politics, policies, and patriotism.

Let me actually start with patriotism. I love this country. I love this country so much it hurts. As most of you know, I don't pray to a God, but I consider the Constitution and the Bill of Rights worthy of worship. I definitely consider myself lucky to call myself an American. I remember, back as a child, thinking that I most likely would've been locked up or killed at a very young age if I'd been born under another flag because, as you all know, I LOVE to use my freedom of speech! I also wonder how much of that is simply how I was born or because I was born here, but that's another post for another day. The point of this paragraph in this post is to say that I'm most definitely a proud patriot of these United States.

And, more than anything else, it is my love of this country that can make me weep sometimes. And I don't mean that as a figurative term. I mean, literally weep. I mean, rant and rave and scream and shout at some of the things I've seen and heard that I just don't feel should be happening here in this country (or in other countries because of us).

I'd gotten off my political bandwagon about a year or so into my relationship with my ex-husband. Particularly after becoming a mom, plus living with an addict kind of took most of my fight out of me. I stopped paying attention.

Oh, sure, I was interested in the election of 2000 (and I've voted in every Presidential election since I could), but I didn't hate W. I was disappointed Gore "lost," but I was even more irritated that he lost his home state! That may have really been the losing point.

But I digress. I'd also just given birth to Riley so I was a little busy then.

Then came 9/11. And for many nights afterwards, after the girls were in bed, I watched and I cried with the nation. I remember we came here for Xmas that year, and I was so proud of all the American flags flying everywhere that holiday season. I thought we were going to be okay.

And then W decided to invade Iraq. And I felt in my gut even back then (I know everyone says this now, but truly I did) that it was the wrong decision. I had supported, and still support, the war in Afghanistan, but I just thought getting into Iraq was not going to be worth what it would cost us. Although, I fully admit that I had no idea what that would end up meaning as it does today.

Still, I was not that involved. I was struggling in my marriage, and when that finally ended, I was struggling as a single mom.

So what made me feel involved again? Bush's proposal to amend our Constitution to ban gay marriage. That offended every fiber of my being. That a President, in the 21st century, would actually want to add discrimination against a certain group of Americans into our Constitution?!?

So I started reading again. And, as one of my favorite bumper stickers says, "If you aren't completely appalled, you haven't been paying attention." Well, I was appalled.

I was appalled to learn that our No Child Left Behind system was based on a system in Houston that has since been found to have cheated, deliberately leaving out certain students from even participating in the testing, and more elaborate schemes that I imagine took a lot more brain power to create than was needed to actually accomplish the teaching!!

I was appalled to learn that our administration thought it was okay to treat human beings the way they treat(ed) them in New Orleans, in Iraq, in Gitmo Bay.

I was appalled to learn that Bush was pushing his religious views not only on us Americans, but throughout the world; that he believed that being in the "majority" made it okay to dismiss others that believed differently.

So I got a little more involved. Now, my contributions have been slight by most standards (including my own), but it is what it is. I write emails to our politicians, and even occasionally, our President (not that I expect to change his mind, but because I want him to know I haven't changed mine either. Plus, I like to end them with "I look forward to Karl Rove's response. Sincerely...."), and I even wrote letters (yes, actual handwritten letters) to those voters in Florida that were not likely to go to polls, or were undecided. I even got a letter back from one of them, assuring me they'd vote for Kerry in '04. I also worked the phones for during the '06 election, and feel like I played a small part in helping get a Democratic Congress elected.

And now we come to that. To why I'm a Democrat. Well, really, I'm a liberal. Do I think they have all the answers? Of course not. Do they really make me crazy sometimes? Absolutely. Do I wish they'd get out of bed with the unions? Nearly every day. But, given our 2-party system (which, yes, I know should change, but it ain't gonna any time soon), they seem to me the only party worth supporting.

And in reading Obama's book, I am so very impressed with this man. Would you believe that he talks about balance a lot? He says things that I think and say all the time!! He believes, as I do, that he has thought about "the other side" and tries to take their concerns into consideration. He is passionate, like I am, but the biggest difference is, of course, he's way smarter than I am and I think he has some answers.

One of the greatest things I've read so far is when he talks about the Constitution as a living, breathing document. I love that. I love to think of it that way, too. And as a living, breathing document, it is worthy of our love and worship, even. And worth our time to learn about what people are doing to it today, and what they want to do to it in the future.

Look, I know we're all busy. Living lives, raising kids, and every now and then, just trying to relax! So I'll try to make it as easy as possible. Read the news online at least 3 times a week. Tape "Meet the Press" or another Sunday morning show. It's an hour out of your week. And don't think for a minute that they're telling you the whole truths, or any of the actual politicians are worthy of worship (even Obama - no, he's not perfect), but if you take the time to listen to them, and form your own opinion about who you think they are, how much they seem to say about what affects your every day lives, then maybe you will be motivated to write your own email or blog post, or send your own letters this election season.

And I hope this doesn't sound condescending to those who already do things like this, and in some cases, much more. It's just that I think 4th of July (or, really, the 5th of July and throughout the rest of the year - particularly a Presidential Election Year) should be not just about singing the praises of this country, or even bitching about this country, but about really truly taking part in all this country has to offer us.

United States of America, I salute thee.


Tara R. said...

That was fabulous! This year my oldest child will vote in her first presidential election. I've been watching her and how serious she is taking this process and it has made me more aware of what I'm doing or rather not doing.

We havc to affect the change we want to see...

Anonymous said...

An absolutely breathtakingly patriotic post...I so wish that more people in this country had the passion of which you speak and so eloquently wrote...

ALl we need is for people to truly PAY ATTENTION. Get past the God thing which so pulls everything down, and really pay attention to what is happening here and how easily we can lose what we have.

Great writing from a great mind, April!

Jen said...

Beautiful post, April. Extremely patriotic and right on target.

Shiona said...

You hit the nail on the head here in every way.

Anonymous said...

April, I have no idea how I've missed your last few posts. I'm sorry and I hope you know that YOU are not who I am ignoring.

This was a fabulous post. You should really give yourself some credit in the smart department. Because of you, I am going to go out and buy that book today. I might even start writing letters instead of getting frustrated in public discussion forums like Newsvine.

I am with you on every single one of the points you made. The reason I am a liberal is because liberals want the best for people, and conservatives want the best for themselves. I know that sounded offensive, but it's true. Not all conservatives, but the party as a whole. Bleeding heart is not a bad word in my vocabulary.

Anonymous said...

Amazing post, April. Absolutely wonderung and inspiring.

I think one of the things that really upsets me the most about W (I mean, the list is long but this one just drives me crazy) is that during his reign, Republican and become synonomus Patriot. That is, in order to love America you have to be a member of the GOP. ARRRRGHHH. I hate that.

Because, like you, I LOVE this country. And I am a Democrat. I am a liberal. I don't like the two party system, but -- you're right, not going to change any time soon -- so for now, I'm a Democrat.

Great post, April!!

Kori said...

This is a really, really good post. You are so articulate baout what you believe and why you believe it, and I admire and respect that about you!

Anonymous said...

Wow, right on! I wish I could drive the 8 hours to Denver and watch Obama kick ass on his convention speech.

Me. Here. Right now. said...

Bush's AIDS funding package to Africa - which is devastating multiple generations in the millions - has abstinence education included as part of the funding. Ridiculous.

An anti-gay marriage amendment? Write to your representatives in Congress TODAY. We love it when straight people speak up for us!

Don't want a dried up, nasty old wishy-washy NON-MAVERICK for a president? VOTE for Obama.

We're beyond the point where we can just say, "If you don't vote, you can't bitch." All of our voices need to be heard.

sybil law said...

God bless America - and this post.

Anonymous said...

So many people these days have mistaken patriotism for a blind following of a person - namely the president. Which is not at all what patriotism is about, it is about loving your country and doing all that you can to make it a better entity. The fact that we are able to and are in fact instilled with the right to question our elected leaders and call them to task for their mistakes is what makes this country a democracy and not a dictatorship. People need to remember that the president works for the people, not the other way around.
You are a true patriot.