Monday, November 3, 2008

With Love and Concern

Yesterday, Sunday, November 2nd, 2008, I received an e-mail from my second cousin Pat, with a series of statements taken from Barak Obama’s books. These isolated statements, taken out of context, were selected to show that Obama hates white people and supports Muslims, with the implication being that he supports terrorists and opposes decent, God-fearing Americans. Unfortunately, I reacted in anger and sent off an email telling Pat that I was ashamed that she was a member of my family. I deeply regret this. Fortunately, Pat did not allow me to close the door completely, and responded with an e-mail telling me that she didn’t mean for me to get that particular e-mail, and that she herself, when she gets something she disagrees with, simply deletes it and keeps quiet. What follows is my response to her. I’m copying all of you on this because I truly fear for our country and I’ve been fighting with myself for over a month now as to whether I should post such an overtly political blog. With what I’ve seen in the past week, I dare no longer keep quiet.


Dearest Pat,

First let me say that I have been terribly upset ever since I hit the send button on that e-mail. That said, I can accept, and even welcome the fact that people disagree on political issues. That, to me, is what makes this country great. What I dislike, and indeed what makes me so angry is when people blindly follow what is being said around them without bothering to look at the facts objectively.

In the case of these quotes, I have no doubt that they are accurately reported. I have no doubt that they are, indeed, what Obama wrote. But without the context, the selected quotes are meaningless. I could say to you that the Bible tells us to smash babies’ skulls against the rocks, and I would be correct. (Psalm 137, verse 9) But I know that is not the total message of the Bible. Obama's books have been out in print for over a year now. Surely, if these quotes represent the final message of the books, someone would have long ago shown that the man is not fit to be President. But that is not what we have seen. Millions of Americans have bought and read these books and have found hope, courage and love in them. Millions of Americans are not wrong.

You say that you didn't mean to send me this. The fact is that every day I have received an e-mail from you with similar idiotic fear-based lies, half-truths and innuendo. I remained quiet when I got your e-mail saying that the economic meltdown in this country was because we had elected a Congress controlled by Democrats two years ago. That is just blind ignorance. The roots of this world-wide situation go much further back than two years ago and they can largely be laid at the feet of those people, both Democrats and Republicans, who got rid of all regulation and oversight of our fiscal institutions. Deregulation has been a key part of the Republican party's agenda for many years now.

I remained quiet when I got the e-mail saying that no one really knew what "Change" meant. That is an outright lie. I could sit down and write a long essay on the change that is needed in this country, point by point, as others have done.

I remained quiet when I got the e-mail saying that we should pray that God would protect us and see that Obama is not elected. That is just foolishness. If we believe that God is all-knowing, ever present and all powerful, then why would we think that he doesn't already know what is going to happen? Why would we think that God is so weak that he can't make whatever he wants happen. This is indeed what scares me so much about Sarah Palin. When someone belongs to a church that teaches us the world is about to end, and that we need to do our part to make sure that Armageddon happens, I don't want a person with those beliefs having the nuclear codes that can end the world. Ending the world is God's prerogative, not ours.

When your e-mail with the quotes from Obama's book came, I had just read a news article that a local man was fired from the company he himself founded. Why did his Board of Directors ask for his resignation? He supported Obama. That is just un-American. Every American should be able to support a candidate without the fear of losing his or her job, or in this case, his company. If that is not the case, then we do not have a democracy, but rather a dictatorship. I had just come from a conversation with a neighbor I dearly love who told me, with no doubt in his mind whatsoever, that if Obama is elected, we will lose our Constitution. I can't even begin to understand where someone would come up with an idea like that. Especially since under the current Administration Americans have seen one Constitutional guarantee after another taken away from us. George W. Bush, when confronted with the fact that the Patriot Act went against provisions in the Constitution, replied. "Stop throwing the Constitution in my face. It's just a goddamned piece of paper." Well, I for one, take the Constitution of the United States very seriously. I believe that it, and the reasoned process behind it, are what set this country apart from most of the rest of the world. And when our own President calls it a "goddamned piece of paper," then I have to believe that that President is a criminal and should be tried for treason.

The same neighbor told me that if Obama is elected we will surely have a depression in this country. I replied that whoever is elected, we'll have a depression in this country. It's already starting. People are losing their jobs, they are losing their homes, their savings and retirement funds have been decimated, and this is happening not just in the US, but world-wide. I can't imagine how anyone elected on Tuesday will be able to turn things around. The situation is just too dire.

In the past I have admired John McCain. He has a record of service to this country that everyone should respect. Had he been the Republican nominee in 2000, he would have had my vote. But what I have seen in the past three months is anything but admirable. His choice of Sarah Palin is nothing more than a cynical attempt to appease the religious purveyors of fear and hatred who have attempted, with some success, to take over the Republican Party. The only advantage that I see in her run for Vice President is that no one can claim that Obama is too inexperienced to be President and at the same time support the McCain/Palin ticket. Not without being extremely hypocritical that is. But then hypocrisy seems to be the unwritten plank in the Republican party platform these days.

Mind you, I don't hold the Democrats blameless. The last time I saw politics as vicious and deceitful as we are seeing today was in 1964 when the second-worst President in my lifetime, Lyndon Baines Johnson, destroyed the reputation of an honorable man and another Barry, Barry Goldwater, saw his campaign go down in flames. Unfortunately, elements in the Republican Party learned from Johnson's Democrats how to divide the country using lies, half-truths and innuendo, and they've adopted those techniques with a vengeance in the current campaign. I have to wonder just how much of this venom springs from the racism that still taints America's soul. Although, the same kind of dirty tricks were used against Al Gore and John Kerry, neither of whom would have been my choice for President were they running against anyone other than Bush, but neither of whom deserved the calumny heaped on them by operatives within the Republican Party.

In the past three months I have heard nothing positive come out of the McCain/Palin campaign. I know what they're against. I don't know what they're for. I have not heard a coherent economic plan from McCain, nor have I heard any talk about bringing the country together. Rather we have had Sarah Palin divide the country into "the Real America" and someplace where the rest of us live. We have heard ignorance praised and erudition slandered. We have raised "Joe the Plumber" to hero status despite the fact that "Joe" is unlicensed to practice in the community where he lives and, presumably, works. Despite the fact that this American "hero" is not paying his taxes. Despite the fact that his name isn't even Joe. We have taken the progressive income tax that this country has had in place for almost one hundred years and called it "Socialism." What we have seen coming out of the McCain/Palin campaign is a vicious attempt to further divide an already deeply divided people using fear and hatred.

This has to stop. If we are to survive as a country, as a people, we have to work together. We have to agree to disagree and not call those who disagree with us traitors. We have to reach out in love and hope, and try to understand each other, or as Benjamin Franklin taught us, "We must all hang together, or else, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately." This does not mean that we all have to agree. It does mean that we have to respect each other and respect ourselves enough to reject the kind of slander and hatred that is pouring out of the political arena like foam from the mouth of a rabid dog.

Finally, were everything equal, if the McCain campaign were putting out positive statements of what it stands for, rather than telling us what's wrong with the other guy, if Sarah Palin were truly capable of taking on the reins of government in the all-too-likely scenario of John McCain's death or disability, I would still support Barak Hussein Obama in this election. Why? Because the world we live in is an incredibly complex and difficult place. If America is to regain its standing as leader, we need a President with the intelligence, wisdom, and capability to listen to and talk with our friends as well as our foes. I will put my trust in someone who graduated at the top of his class at Harvard Law rather than someone who barely made it through Annapolis.

The one thing I ask of you, and indeed of all Americans, is that you look at everything you're being told carefully and thoughtfully. That you examine it with your heart AND your mind. And that you please, please do not send out or pass on statements that are negative, slanderous, and just plain dumb.

I'm sorry that Larry isn't working and that you didn't get the house. I know how much that house meant to you, or at least the idea of having your own place. I fervently pray that we, as a country, come through these trials and that we as a people are able to get back on our feet and live with dignity. I'm keeping you in my thoughts and prayers, and I deeply regret responding to you out of my own anger at the ignorance and intolerance I see all around me. My greatest fear, at this point, one day before the election, is that Barak Obama will be elected President, and by a large margin, and that because of the hatred and fear that the McCain/Palin campaign has elicited, we'll see violence in the streets. In my mind that is not, or at least should not be, the American way!

Love and Peace to you and yours,



One final note for those of you who live in Arizona, Florida, and most especially California. Please, please do not give in to those who would have you enshrine my status as a second-class citizen. I have heard over and over that allowing gay people to marry will destroy the institution of marriage, but I have not heard from anyone how that will happen. It seems to me that Brittany Spears has done more to destroy marriage than all of the gay couples who, after ten, twenty or even fifty years together, have finally been able to “make it legal.” In the state of Montana, where I live, should I end up in the hospital, my partner would not be able to visit me or get information from my medical team unless we draw up extensive legal documents. Should I die, Kevin would have an enormous tax to pay on property that I own, but on which we have worked together and in which we have lived together. Married couples have over 1,000 rights and responsibilities that are guaranteed under law, but which are denied committed gay couples. Please, PLEASE, vote NO on Proposition 8, and do not allow discrimination to be written into the California State Constitution.


cascadecub said...

That was wonderfully written, and holds my "exact" sentiments in this time of election and hopefully with the luck of the world and God at our side, Obama will be our next President because I am one that is tired of listening to the fear mongering that has haunted this country since 9-11.

hotproof said...

Bryan, thanks for sharing this personal experience.

I have a past history of too often being non-confrontational when relatives, friends, or clients say something that doesn't sit well with me. Or sometimes I react badly if something is said that is extremely offensive or unfounded.

That was good advice from you that we should all question the credibility of certain statements, even if it seems agreeable to one's current thoughts or ideology.

Reason for that is, sometimes it's just a deceptive ploy used when statements are repeated often enough by a source. Eventually, some people will just blindly accept the info as true.

It's really important for people to
engage in intellectual curiosity. If we rely mostly on one or two sources solely to shape our opinions or supply info, then we're possibly perpetuating the myths by accepting it or expressing it.

Also, we shouldn't put blind faith in figures of authority or iconic status. Skepticism is a healthy thing, right?

Our leaders are human. They will make mistakes or bad judgements, just like anyone else. While it's important to give some people the benefit of the doubt, or even give our support, let's not keep handing the wheel over completely to someone that has a history of crashing into the wall, only to blame it on others. Our leaders need to accept responsibility, just as we must.

Leaders must earn our trust & support. Apparently, the President-elect has earned that,thus far.

Alicia Billings said...

I couldn't agree with you more. All very good points and well-stated.

I too liked McCain in 2000 but his VP pick was really careless at best.

I'm greatly disappointed with a civil rights issue (prop 8) being placed on a ballot in the first place. Obama's win, however, gives me hope that things will change state by state for my gay friends and relatives. Hopefully in the very near future. Keep the faith.

PS-If you reside in MT as I do and ever learn of someone running for state office who supports gay rights, please let me know so I can offer my support.