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Friday, December 31, 2004

 Reflections on 2004

Last year I wrote my family a letter about how I was concerned over the future of democracy in America. That concern has been replaced by a longing for a democracy that once was.

I began the year optimistically, working with the Howard Dean campaign. With his bumper sticker on my car and his sign in my front yard (both firsts for me) I met regularly with other local activists to expound Dean’s message: we wanted our country back from the kleptocrats that had hijacked it. We wanted out of Iraq not because we were anti-war pacifists per se – in fact most “Deaniacs” I met had supported the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan – but because our cold calculating realism told us that it was against America’s best interests.

As the background investigation for my security clearance progressed (I work in the intelligence community), a friend in the neighborhood phoned me to say that the investigator had stopped by his home asking questions about me. “Does he support any organizations that advocate the violent overthrow of the US government?”

“No,” my friend responded, “but he used to have a Howard Dean sign on his lawn.”

The investigator apparently laughed, and said that someone else had mentioned that. Not that it mattered: in the end my clearance was granted. I was free to continue working for a defense contractor staffed with people that worship Chimpy McFlightsuit. Yee-haw.

A Dean presidency was not to be. Every four years the national news media collectively destroy the democratic frontrunner: Kennedy in ’80, Hart in ’84, Biden in ’88… 2004 was no exception, as Dean fell and Kerry became the nominee. Good man, lousy candidate. Grassroots support withered, and, of course, Bush “won.”

The outcome was predictably depressing, but I was more saddened to learn that according to our European allies the election “did not meet democratic standards.” This third stolen election in a row (evidence strongly suggests that 2002 was also stolen) was nicely summarized in the headline of the London Daily Mirror: “How Can 59,054,087 People Be So Dumb?”

What has become of us? I am so very ashamed to be an American right now. The last time religion crowded out reason it was called the Dark Ages. Is a theocratic police state the new American dream?

With so much evil being perpetrated in my name, I have been hard-pressed to find joy during this year, much less this holiday season. My solace has been to focus on the small pleasures that come from having an amazing wife and four loving and joyful kids. Becoming lost in the moment is healthy. But although we continue to thrive, we all have passports and stand ready to find freedom elsewhere should the vise of authoritarianism tighten further.

I know many of you feel the same way. Together let us hope for a more humane 2005.


Blogger Electro said...

Well I feel good about the future. I try not to look back except when it will help me in the strugles of today. America has changed a lot in the 200+ years She has been around. I will be living outside the U.S. more in the future, in China. I wonder if you have lived outside the states for an extended period, I enjoyed my time away but missed the beauty of the wide open spaces of the west. I don't get out to the places I like the most as often as I would like. For me I am going to continue letting others run the world while I simply enjoy it. What saddens me most is the people of this world not respecting the life of others and it happens in so many ways and in so many places. I have so much and wish that I could only help others see how much they have. 2005 will be awesome for me I will be getting married to an awesome woman.

10:27 PM  
Blogger Brinstar said...

I wish it was that easy to simply move to another country. Had it been so, I would never have returned after living abroad for six years for my studies. As a non-US citizen (permanent resident), it's even harder to leave the US, and the other option (my home country) is not an appealing one.

Let's hope 2005 is better than 2004.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Nanovirus said...

Electro: congratulations on your upcoming nuptials. While in China I hope you can serve as a goodwill ambassador. It will take a lot of individual effort to convince the world that not all Americans are obese gun-toting fundamentalists.

11:29 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

I, too, was a first-timer in the bumper sticker declaration, although by the time I arrived at that point, the Dean campaign was finished. So I have a Kerry-Edwards sticker on and intend to leave it up, unlike the ones that disappeared in my city. Now I think there are about 3 vehicles in this area of 250,000 that still espouse the opposition. But I'm leaving mine up until the Bush/W stickers come down.

I haven't had the opportunity to visit a non-Western nation, but understand the point Electro makes about appreciating this nation. I think some of us can comprehend the differences in the world without traveling, or can at least intellectually appreciate them. Something the ultra-conservatives don't understand (and I'm not putting Electro in that group) is that we want change because we love this nation. We truly still see America as a great experiment in building a nation of nations, even with the reality of what we did to the Native Americans. We reject stasis, always seeking instead to maintain a dynamic nation that permits necessary change.

I still have hope for the future, but it's tempered by a healthy fear of the Bush doctrine run amok.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Dave S. said...

That neighbor of yours sounds like an asshole!

7:39 PM  

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