Last week, as I briefly reported, I attended the John Edwards 2008 Presidential campaign kick-off here locally. While it certainly started and sputtered at times, the delay beforehand of Edwards' arrival and then his introductory speech gave me some time to meet and talk to some other citizens...many of whom are far more informed about particular sets of issues than I will ever hope to be. About four of these people even exchanged emails and/or blog addresses (remember when one exchanged phone numbers?) and we've all sent introductory hellos these past few days. Most, with the exception of myself and another's wife (she was not in attendance at the rally, though), seem to have their minds made up and have decided they will volunteer and campaign for Edwards. I may regret this later if I do decide to volunteer again (I helped with his Senatorial campaign years ago as a student), but right now I believe signing on wholesale to one candidate before others have even announced is perhaps jumping the gun. Not to mention there is this slightly nagging feeling that I should delve a little deeper this time into what triggers me to actually vote for one person over another.
It's not that I don't understand, to a limited and troubling degree anyways, of where this fine country called the USA stands right now...I do. Or perhaps the better word to explain it all would be stumbles. Regardless of the change of power in Congress to the Democrats, regardless of a bullish economic surge on Wall Street, regardless of new changes forthcoming in Iraq ...the fact remains we are a house divided, and horribly frayed at some points. President Lincoln predicted divided houses cannot stand, and one can only pause now and wonder what drastic measures the great Abe would have done to right the foundation of his beloved home. We are a country in desperate need of leadership...and frankly, this may be blasphemy, but I don't particularly care which party as I'll vote for the best candidate regardless of affiliation...but our leaders, our future generations, even ourselves now, will not make the hard choices to help ensure this nation's continued success and survival. And I'm not hearing anything from the campaign trail, Edwards included so far, that encourages me about any of the Presidential hopefuls.
In short, we need someone who is willing to 'take one for the team' to get us back on course and we can only hope that he/she will implement enough changes in their first term to somehow get re-elected for a second. In truth, though, the actual person who did such courageous acts would be committing political suicide...which begs the question, which is worse: political suicide for an individual who makes the hard choices or national suicide for a country unable to maintain itself? Truly, what Dubya et al has got us involved in so far will require many, many years to get us back 'close' to where he assumed office in 2000. Some things, like a trust in the government to protect, look after, and work for its citizens, have been lost forever in certain classes, neighbourhoods, and cities. And so many of these things have not a damn thing to do with Sept. 11 or Osama bin Laden or that all-encompassing 'war on terror'. Widescale mismanagement of both international and national problems, though, have shaken the basic guarantees of what we Americans expect from our leaders, our country's plentiful resources, even from our fellow taxpayers.
I may not have been in New Orleans and in Hurricane Katrina to know now that I shouldn't depend on any kind of help...financial, food, shelter...should another such emergency (even minor) hit here. I may not have to follow the political news shows every day to know the separation between the two major parties here is only widening...and leaving most moderates like myself dissatisfied and unrepresented...and also know the work I'm paying these same people to do on my behalf is not being done. I may not be fighting the war against terror in so many international hotspots to know our military are overstretched, exhausted at the separation from friends and family, and woefully underpaid (we should be ashamed so many military families have to survive on government food and housing subsidies just to survive). And that list now goes on and on. In short, so many don't care anymore because the previous sacrifices we did make went for absolutely nothing. Yet, we don't have the 'political power' to change the status quo on a daily basis. Good money is perpetually chasing after bad, as are our intentions.
Yet sacrifice is exactly what we need to be encouraged to do, and, no, I don't mean Iraq. We need to be educated, and plan, and prepare for a new retirement system as Social Security in its current form will die in a short time...taking its contributions with it. We need to redefine what our work base will be...are we service-based or industrial...and then plan educational and immigration goals from that starting point. (If so many Americans won't 'do' low level labour jobs anymore as widely reported but we still have so many businesses that need that type of labour, then of course we may need to redefine what kind of immigrant workers we need.) Depending on what our job needs are will determine our immigration and border control policies. We need to understand...on a massive, across-the-board scale...why borrowing on massive amounts of credit, both as a country and as individuals, can be disastrous to our future endeavours. We need to recognize and acknowledge the homeless, the poor, and the uninsured in this country...the millions of them...and readdress the whole process of 'helping' them. We need to rework a health care system so that treatment can be given to anyone who needs it, without a credit check and without bankrupting them. We need to withdraw our dependence on foreign oil and start paying farmers to make our fuel...diesel engines were designed to run on vegetable oil, folks, not petrol...helping save our checkbooks and farming industry in one program. We need to set a series of goals...and not just markers on the goals that make us 'feel good' and we want to meet, but all...and implement plans to meet them, or at least constantly reevaluate why not if we failed. We need to respect and adhere to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights again (something I'm ashamed to even be writing about here). And here comes the kicker...we need to analyze what our national identity should be in the generations to come, and whether we want to be a strong nation with shared global duties or a strong international entity that originated from a sovereign country. We clearly...financially, physically, philosophically, spiritually...cannot be both a great independent nation and a great international police force and arbitrator. This next election is going to start us, hopefully, on a path where we have to make some hard choices.
I guess I'm waiting...and I acknowledge that I could be waiting indefinitely...for the candidate to come up to the podium and say we have some hard choices to make and not be talking about one party or another, but instead some of the issues above. I guess I want to hear that someone 'gets' that our issues are far bigger than the Iraq war or what Bush's infamous legacy will be. I don't need the candidate to be glamourous, or fabulously wealthy, or even well-connected within the cultural elite...but to get elected these days, I guess I'll get that package nonetheless. I'm wanting to hear someone say we're in a swamp right now, and all he/she wants is 4 years to try and get us back on solid ground...and has a sensible plan to do it. I'm willing to meet them halfway (hell, more than halfway) if the plans have some merit.
Even though I may never have a family of my own, I'm willing to make the sacrifice so many others are willing to, too, for the sake of their children and the children to come...and for the sake of this country surviving as the glory we acknowledge it can still be. But an economic and political sacrifice is going to be necessary soon, folks, in some ways similar to that of "The Greatest Generation" of the WWII era. It could be Edwards that leads the way, it could be Giuliani, who knows. But in the meantime I'm sadly thinking as an individual and not as a community citizen with my own plans for the future, expecting the sad status quo in Washington to continue.
And I'm waiting for Abe's triumphant reincarnation.