Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A New Day in America

My fellow progressive activist, Rob Dickinson, sent this out late last night. I found it reflected a lot of what was on my own mind at this auspicious moment in America.

Dear friends,

Within a few short hours, the national nightmare of the Bush presidency, if you can call it that, will be coming to an ignoble and much awaited end. For eight long years, we've endured assault after assault on our most deeply held values while the most dangerous President in history chipped away (and in some cases dynamited away) at fundamental civil rights, the rule of law, social justice and the safety nets protecting the most vulnerable amongst us, the environment, workers rights, human rights, international law and our nation's standing in the community of nations. We witnessed a regime that believed in torture, extraordinary renditions, overseas gulags, warrantless wiretaps, and Abu Ghraib-like abuses and believed little in the Constitution, if it was considered at all. Our eyes and ears stung and our hearts sank when watching and hearing the hypocrisy and dishonesty that this administration spewed forth on a regular basis, making even Orwell turn in his grave with freshly branded policies like the Clear Skies initiative that would increase acid rain and dangerous pollutants, and Healthy Forests initiative that would lead to unchecked logging of old growth forests. "War is peace", "freedom is slavery", "ignorance is strength". "Mission accomplished". To watch a Bush press conference was to willingly leave the reality-based universe for one entirely based on bad fiction and distortions, misrepresentations, and outright lies.

With two terms worth of evidence and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as the enduring imagery, our eight year ordeal is the ultimate in reckless experiments to finally, once and for ever, answer the question - "Does it really matter who leads our country?" Some suggested in 2000 that it would be all the same whoever was elected, and surprisingly some still believed that in 2004. We've seen how a government run by incompetents and scoundrels can squander what is great about our country in a fraction of the time that it took to create and earn, and in a smaller fraction still of the time it will take to regain. With a country in shambles, an economy on life support, industry after industry collapsing in ruin, and workers across the country suffering, we all know better, and hopefully we won't forget this lesson any time soon. I fear that we will, but hope that the searing memories of the Bush years will create of legacy of civic awareness and engagement and perhaps more prudent voting. Those who thought that government could never be more than "the problem" realized after Katrina that we look to our government to be there in times of need and to solve those problems bigger than we as individuals or that the private sector would be able to or be willing to solve. And as the retirement savings of the nation were halved, those who didn't already believe that regulation protects us from fraud and abuse learned it the hard way. And those who believed that someone as simplistic and ill-equipped as Bush could attend to the difficulties of an increasingly dangerous and interconnected world are forever relieved of that foolish viewpoint. Unfortunately, the price we will pay for these lessons is staggeringly high.

But like even the most horrific hurricanes that leave a wake of destruction in their path, even this terrible storm has dissipated and will soon be over. And what a mess we will be left with as the Bushco. gang departs back to their comfortable nests. The wreckage will take years and in many cases decades to rebuild and recover from, if that is even possible at all. How do we gain back the eight lost years in the battle to address global warming when so little time remains. Will the debt created by the Bush era be paid off in the lifetime of my three year old son? Who knows.

But, lest you think me a total pessimist, that is not the true intent of this note. In fact, I am extremely hopeful. It is incredible that we have elected a President in Barack Obama who possesses such great intellect and leadership and is poised to skillfully navigate the political and policy landscape to bring about real change. How refreshing it is to see someone who generally makes very thoughtful decisions and surrounds himself with qualified, committed, and experienced advisors and staff. It is equally amazing to watch how so many people have become inspired and activated by Obama's campaign and his Presidency that our democracy feels invigorated. Within hours, my fifteen-year-old niece (with my sister's whole family) will be in D.C. watching the inauguration, after doggedly working for the grassroots campaign for Obama in North Carolina, a red state that was won for Obama by diehards like her. And in her first election ever to be deeply involved, in a state won by only 14k votes, even before she herself can vote, she has seen how every vote matters, and every door knocked and every call made can make a difference. What could be cooler than that!

But my note is really not to remind you of the pain of the Bush years, as you may be trying to put that behind you. Nor is it to remind you of the challenges of the Obama presidency or the reasons why I am looking forward to it. Instead, in reflecting on the worst of the Bush years, I was reminded of some great things that it caused to come about. It is with great pride and satisfaction that I know that I joined together with all of you to fight back against the wrongs being done to our country and and our neighbors in the world. It is inspiring to me to reflect on how so many people from so many walks of life took so much time out of their already busy lives and made great sacrifices to take a stand, to "show up", to protest, to call, to write, to campaign, to go to Iowa or Florida or Columbus, and do whatever they could to protect and preserve their country. From the moment I became involved in the Dean campaign in 2004 until tomorrow when I join our DFA group to watch Obama sworn in, I have witnessed true patriotism in each and every one of you, and for that I am profoundly thankful, and forever changed. Who would have thought that a reckless, selfish, anti-intellectual, smirking little twit like George W. would have been able to give me such a wonderful gift. And for that, again I am thankful. And beyond that - good riddance to the bastard for good! But to you, my friends, I hope that you will take a brief moment to reflect on all that has happened in the last 8 years, and to savor the victories that we've achieved and what you've stood for - even when victories eluded us. You showed up. You made a difference. And tomorrow is a new day.

With fond regards and much appreciation,

Rob Dickinson


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