Sheila Samples: Dear John...
By Sheila Samples
A recent exchange with my new best friend, John, forced me into some serious soul-searching as to why I remain a Democrat. John suggests that the two major parties have morphed into one blundering, inept, very destructive and divisive entity. He maintains that, through aggressiveness of one side and acquiescence of the other, our Constitution and Bill of Rights are being dismantled with arrogant impunity by both Republicans and Democrats. He offers me a way out -- his Neither Party, which he says welcomes with open arms all of us who would demand democracy and accountability of our elected officials and who seek to rid ourselves of the cancer within that eats away at our values, rights and freedoms. What's not to like about that? Below is my answer to this very nice man.
Dear John: To paraphrase the old Ferlin Husky/Jean Shepard hit...
Oh how I hate to write -- especially after all the nice things you said about me and about my recent article, "Last ManTo Concede," wherein I chronicled the heroic actions of that colossus of Democracy, Michigan's John Conyers, during the recent Ohio vote-fraud fiasco.
Thank you for your concern that I may have allowed my emotions to take over my brain. Although I like to think my brain is always in control of my emotions, sometimes I'll admit they work in tandem to "tag-team" an opponent, so I guess it depends upon which of them is in the ring at any given moment. But then, again, sometimes it depends upon the opponent...
Your taking exception to my comment that if I'm ever proud to be a Democrat again, it will be because of John Conyers has merit. I can see where you might get the idea that I am currently ashamed to be a Democrat, yet am too weak to seek something new and different. You're absolutely right. Not about me being ashamed, but I should have expressed my pride a bit differently.
Quite simply, John, when I looked back and saw Conyers' lonely battle, not only for democracy but for the principles that are genetic to his -- my -- wonderful party; when I saw him continuing to hang in there in spite of Republicans throwing everything they had at him, I recognized that this is what it means to be a Democrat. The dedication of this single man -- the relentless battle waged for Democrats even as his back was against the wall -- is what makes me proud to be a Democrat again.
You asked why I remain in a party that appears to be as corrupt as its counterpart. You asked how I can continue to support those who voted to relinquish their most serious of Constitutional responsibilities -- to decide whether to send our soldiers into an unnecessary and avoidable war. You want to know why I can continue to be a Democrat.
That's a fair question, John. However, sometimes when people ask me why I remain a Democrat, it crosses my mind -- if they have to ask, they probably won't understand my reasons. For me, it was never a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils or, as you suggest -- choosing either Republican or Democrat -- and I do not believe the solution to curing the world's ills depends upon my choosing your party, which you have very aptly named the Neither Party.
I concede that both major parties seem to have lost their way. Those in control appear to be dangerously out of control. But the millions of sincere Republicans who are appalled at the destruction wreaked by the rigid, neoconservative right-wing evangelical cabal which has gained control of their party -- and the millions of sincere Democrats who believe that, ultimately, opportunity, understanding, and hope will prevail -- are not out of control.
They are waking up to the fact that both parties are broken -- at the top -- and, because ultimately, both Democrats and Republicans are all Americans, I believe they will work, together if need be, to fix it. It's the old Pendulum Rule. It's universal; unbreakable and, although I agree with you that we are at a crossroads as a civilization -- I believe it will prevail.
I am a Democrat because, as Virginia Governor Mark Warner so eloquently put it in May 2003 -- "the greatest and most noble political experiments of our time had their birth in our party."
I am a Democrat because of Thomas Jefferson and his Declaration of Independence; because of our wonderful Constitution; because I fervently believe in equal rights for all.
I am a Democrat because I believe in the essential goodness of the human race. Because I believe in the New Deal, the Peace Corps, affordable health care, equal education for all our children, fighting for working men and women, fighting against discrimination, racism and bigotry; fighting for a safety net for those most vulnerable among us -- the poor, the homeless, the elderly, our veterans.
And I am a Democrat because I believe that each citizen in this country has an inherent right to vote and to have his or her vote counted.
I find your evident pride that a plurality of eligible voters in our last election who, by not voting, chose by default the Neither Party a bit curious. Are these your constituents -- Americans who choose to do nothing? Stephen King's explanation of why good people allow evil to prevail; why they avert their eyes, remain silent and do nothing is worth noting here. King says good people know if they recognize evil for what it is, they are morally bound to do something about it. Most want evil defeated, he says, but feel it is "somebody else's" job to do it.
Somehow, thinking of the voters who disenfranchised themselves by choosing not to vote, I am reminded of a little ditty, "We Didn't Know," released by Tom Paxton in 1965:
"We didn't know", said the puzzled voter, watching the president on TV. "I guess we've got to drop those bombs if we're going to keep south asia free. The president's such a peaceful man, I guess he's got some kind of plan. They say we're torturing prisoners of war, but I don't believe that stuff no more Torturing prisoners is a communist game, and you can bet they're doing the same! I wish this war was over and through, but -- what do you expect me to do?"
For starters, the self-disenfranchised can educate themselves and get involved in the democratic process. They can go to demonstrations; they can call, fax, write and email the entire network of elected corporate toadies at the top who seem to have forgotten for whom they work. And they can go to the polls...and vote them out. They must vote, John, or the Neither will soon become the None.
I visited your Neither Party site and I'm impressed. Your stated goal to "change the face of American politics" is a noble one, and I agree the whole sorry bunch in this administration could use a facelift. The '"Neithers" are talking the talk. But a critical part of walking the walk to achieve your goal is voting . How else can you force the other two parties to lead, follow, or get the hell out of your way?
You say it is time for me to move on and search for a new party. You say I should lock the door and not look back. You assure me that there's no need for me to worry too much about my political party for the future. I can always join the Neither Party.
You have a point. I hope your party is a roaring success. Perhaps one day I might even take you up on your generous offer.
I wish I could do that now, John. You make it sound so easy and, after the battles I've lost over the last four years, I could use a little easy. However, I cannot turn my back on my old friend, the Democratic Party, because you see, John, he is wounded -- he has lost his way and seems to be floundering around in a political morass. He needs me. I cannot abandon him.
Because, like George Bush is wont to say -- I know his heart and soul. That's why I remain a Democrat, Dear John...
© 2005 Sheila Samples
Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma freelance writer and a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer. She is a regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites. Contact her at email@example.com