Out in Left Field
Surely after such a disastrous Presidency, marked by an unpopular war, a sluggish economy, and intense disregard for every minority imaginable, we could win. Surely after we won all three debates, we could win. Surely, after the young people of America suddenly became engaged in the national dialogue, we could win. But we didn?t.
Now, there are some important questions to tackle. What are our values? Why are those values so unappealing to the majority of Americans? And most importantly, how have we lost ? twice ? to a man we perceive to be the most unqualified, dimwitted, and hypocritical man ever to be called President? The pundits agree: The Democratic party is headed for a serious identity crisis.
As a result, I am having a similar crisis of identity. For the past four years, I listened to all the hype. I thought of myself as a crusader of the people, a man who?d help make the people?s will known, this time. The people?s will was made known. But it scares me like I never thought it could.
So what am I? A crusader of some people? Or just an expatriate in my own country?
My intention is not to sound melodramatic. My feelings are not based solely on disagreement with Bush?s policy. They are based on Bush?s entire concept of America, endorsed on Novermber 2 by the majority of voters. This is makes me seriously re-evaluate my place in such an ?America.?
First, as a gay American, I am simply too disheartened for words. The President has endorsed a constitutional amendment with the potential to ban not only marriage but also civil unions and partner benefits. Exit polls show such ?moral values? motivated people to vote Bush more than anything else. Eleven states passed bans of their own, including liberal Oregon, where thousands of marriages will now be nullified.
Second, as a peace-loving American, my life won?t get much rosier. I knew Kerry?s plan for Iraq was not much different from the President?s, so what was I hoping for? That Kerry might be able to execute that plan with results other than fiasco. That we might get out of there soon. That Iraq might not continue its descent into terrorist control. That my president might be honest with me about how bad it was getting.
It was my hope that our relations with Saudi Arabia might seem less corrupt, that our attitude toward Sudan might have some substance, that this nation might once again see the respect of the world as essential to our greatness.
I had a lot of hopes.
Ideologically, it was hard not to feel an abyss open up between my feet and the rest of this nation when I saw these things happening. So as an American voter, I was challenged to see the majority of Americans so firm in their belief that my dreams of a husband, kids, and picket fence must ? in the least ? be put on serious hold. And I was challenged to see the majority of Americans think that the President was right to risk the lives of my peers for reasons that Colin Powell himself admitted were misleading.
But most challenging is realizing that the majority of Americans think that gay marriage and terrorism are the two biggest issues confronting the people of this nation.
These two issues provoke the most emotion in me as well, but I am aware that health care is a bigger deal for America as a whole. I am aware that education is. I am aware that civil liberties are. Most Americans do not share that awareness, and that is why part of me is wondering what happened to America?s ability to imagine itself in someone else?s shoes.
But all is not lost. Just look at Massachusetts, where every single politician who supports gay marriage was re-elected, and three who oppose it were voted out of office. In Illinois, the brightest new star in the Democratic Party won when he did exactly what they say Democrats can?t do anymore: connect with people?s values. Senator Arlen Specter did my vote proud this past week by warning President Bush about Roe v. Wade and the Supreme Court.
Regardless, I am still American ? just as American as anyone else. When I arrived at first-year orientation, I was a closeted kid who?d never voted. When I graduate, I?ll be an openly gay man who?s in a fraternity and has dreams of public service. In these four years, things have certainly changed.
Things will continue to change. I?m just as driven as ever. It?s the potential I have to do what?s impossible now, possible later, that keeps me so proud to be an American. Sure, I?m scared of being openly gay without a fraternity, and an entire university community, backing me up. But am I about to hide from the real world because of people who don?t even know me? Hell no. Bring it on, America. It?ll be one hell of a battle, but I?ve got to be on the front lines. Will I see you there?