What Kerry Should've SaidHow about a break from the movie reviews? Especially since this site seems to be turning into a movie site -- which it was not intended to be. But it evolved into that because movies are one of the few things I feel confident about commenting on with some smidgeon of credibility.
But I can't let this one go. Folks, two months before this election, when the polls suggested President Bush was making a comeback in the polls after John Kerry got his post-convention bump, I told my ardently Republican dad to prepare.
"Get your Tums and Rolaids ready," I said. "If Bush wins in November, you're going to hear non-stop bellyaching."
I had reason to be concerned for the nation's gastronomical health. I'd read letters in the L.A. Times from people who had picked up on the Bush poll lead, whining about how Americans could be so g---damn stupid. It's one thing to take shots at a candidate's intelligence. We've been doing that for years. But when you start attacking the voters, the people who have every right to make one choice versus another, it really gets under my skin.
Democracy is founded on choices -- independent choices -- choices made of our own free will and formulated by our own criteria. That criteria comes not from superficial, shallow ideals of who should be sitting in the White House. People didn't vote for Bush because he had a nice-looking plane, as a Doonesbury cartoon suggested a couple of years ago. They wanted a leader with consistency. They wanted a leader they could trust in the War On Terror. They wanted somebody who connected with their values. Bush was their guy. Kerry wasn't. Shame on the person who believes Bush voters are lowering the national I.Q.
Kerry gets major props from me for doing the right thing and doing it quickly. Only hours after the networks began lamenting another long, drawn out fiasco of a presidential race, and lawyers began salivating at all the potential suits and challenges, the Democrat contender shut Pandora's ballot box with a gracious phone call to the president. Kerry did the math. The numbers wouldn't add up in Ohio. He didn't need an army of attorneys to futily attempt some December miracle.
The Massachusetts senator told the crowds at his concession speech elections were to be determined by people, not lawyers. He also said it was time for America to come back together. President Bush echoed those sentiments in accepting victory.
But Kerry could've gone further. He should've gone further. Decorum and a gracious demeanor prevented him from saying these words I wanted to add to his speech. But some high-profile Democrat needs to say them soon.
"My fellow Americans, I know many of you are not happy with the way things turned out. I know you did not want to see four more years of President Bush. But this is what we have. This is what your fellow citizens have chosen, and if you love democracy, if you love your country as much as I do, you will respect it. You will not treat the president's re-election as the re-ascension of some bastard stepchild. You will not mumble disparaging words about how people of faith vote. You will do your best to minimize your grumbling and and groaning, even though you have a First Amendement right to, because constant carping on the past will not help us in the future. You will 'learn to deal,' as young people are fond of saying. You will continue to stand up for the things you believe in. You will continue to support candidates you believe in. There will be more elections, more opportunites for victory. Just because your candidate doesn't win doesn't give you a license to start questioning the patriotism or mental faculties of your neighbors.
"We have become a nation divided because people can't accept other people making reasonable, legitimate choices we don't like. I realise this is a time of war and lives are at stake. But I would also remind you there was once a country where those who dissented with the ruling political party were thrown in jail or sent to mental institutions. That country was the Soviet Union. We live in America. We don't do that to our citizens. But I am deeply concerned that we are headed in that direction if we do not begin to re-embrace what it means to be Americans. And that means dissent, discussion, and debate are all welcome and encouraged, but at the end of the day we can share a common identity as human beings who have the greatest system of government in the world."