Thursday, September 08, 2005

I Owe You An Explanation ...

My friend Gretchen is fabulous. Beautiful, smart, worldly. We met in our Thomson days and something clicked and we've been friends ever since.

She reads my blog regularly (bless her heart). This morning, she sent me the longest e-mail I've ever received from her. It challenged me and what I've been writing, but what she wrote was thoughtful and kind. She said she hoped she didn't offend me, but she was very clear in her positions.

And I respect her greatly for that.

I won't publish all of what she wrote, but the crux of her note was this: "To sit in your lovely house ... surrounded by people that love you and not being active in politics for you to sit and write and judge the people in charge seems, well, hypocritical."

Fair enough.

I wrote back to her at equal length, ending my note saying, "I really appreciate you taking the time to write to me and question me on what I've been writing. Perhaps I owe my blog audience a fuller explanation of what drives me. I'm a journalist. I should tell the story better."

So I started thinking about what I should say in this space, and realized that I should just say here what I said to her. So here's the story:

"Yep, I hate Bush. I think he's a dangerous idiot. I can't believe that 59 million people voted him back into office. He is the most polarizing force I've ever witnessed in politics. I think he's divided this country to a brink that may be irreparable. He lied to this country to take us to war in Iraq. He lied. The Downing Street memo says it: Statements were arranged to support a decision that had already been made. Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11. The fact that Bush continues to assert that, to justify the bloodshed and the billions, sickens me.

We are much less safe now than we were 2 1/2 years ago. We have pissed of legions of people who may have previously hated us quietly, but who now will fight back. We invaded a country that posed no immediate threat to us without an adequate strategy for success or even adequate troops. We're in a quagmire, and no one in the government seems to know how to get out of it. Worse, some of them don't seem to understand how we got there. Or they're not owning up to it. Which is worse still.

Katrina has brought out a lot of good in this country again, a la post 9/11. I hope this time that we can sustain the feelings of humanity toward one another, but then someone like Barbara Bush says that since those people were poor anyway, this is working out quite well for them, and I just about fall off my chair.

As for me sitting in my house judging people in charge? Well, yikes, Gretchen, aren't we supposed to question what's going on? There are debates on the floors of the House and Senate. There are lots of people in the government who question Bush, and that's as it should be. We can't all be in Congress, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't all speak out when we see something that seems gravely amiss.

Incidentally, many people, with increasing volume over the years, have encouraged me to go into politics. It's something I'm always mulling over. On the one hand, I think politics in this country has gotten so filthy that I wouldn't want to descend into that world. I think the idealists of the world are swallowed up whole in Washington. Then again, I also see that the ONLY way that the political system in this country will change is people like me, people who care and who haven't become corrupted by the system yet, get in there and try to make a difference.

I struggle with it, really. It feels like a calling, a huge calling, and I'm terrified to answer.

My friend Linda referred to me once, after I had met with a group of her students, as the 'elder stateswoman,' and said, 'Oh, come on, Beth. We all know you're going to lead a march on Washington someday.' Prescient? Maybe.

As for who I believe is a great politician? Well, there's certainly no perfect candidate, right? I fully backed Kerry in the last election. I contributed to his campaign, I wrote letters to editors. I didn't get as involved as I could have, and I regret that now. Sadly, too often, elections become contests between the lesser of two evils, but I believed Kerry would be a good president. Still do. And not just a better president than Bush. I think almost anyone could be a better president than Bush. But I think Kerry would have actually cared about the majority of people in this country and not catered to his rich friends and the religious right, since we don't live in a theocracy. Religion shouldn't shape government, not if we espouse to welcome everyone.

You didn't offend me at all, honey. And I hope I didn't offend you, either. That's part of the problem these days: Dissent is viewed with such hostility. Like with Cindy Sheehan. I don't agree that we have to pull out of Iraq now. We made a mess and we have to clean it up. But in my mind, it's entirely possible to support the troops and not support the war. The troops are doing what they've been told to do. It just that what they were told to do was, in my opinion, wrong.

I wish everyone could be level-headed and intelligent enough to be able to have these kinds of discussions, to dig down deeper and understand what drives people and the way they think."


Blogger Lone Ranger said...

You think engaging in the shallow, non-thinking sewer level of political hatred "I hate Bush" will make you a better person?

If you are going to engage in politics, it would be intellectually dishonest of you not to view BOTH sides of the political spectrum with equality. I don't think you're mature enough for that.

Let me clue you in on something. Leaders don't divide. President Bush didn't divide this country. Those who refused to follow his leadership did. In the military, people who don't follow leadership go to prison. In business, people who don't follow leadership get fired. In every aspect of our society, people who refuse to follow leadership are considered freaks and non-contents. It is people who do NOT follow their leaders who divide. It is YOU and your ilk to are dividing this nation. Of course, I don't expect you to understand or agree with what I have said. Both you and your Gretchen are too immature to understand.

10:36 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Mr. Ranger:
As ever, I welcome everyone's comments to this blog. The fact that some feel the need be so vitriolic is sad.
"President Bush didn't divide this country. Those who refused to follow his leadership did"?
REFUSED to follow his leadership?
Something tells me that you refused to follow Clinton's leadership. We live in a democracy, not a dictatorship, sir. We are not commanded to follow the leader of the country. That is why we have to opportunity to vote him out of office. Or impeach him, if need be.
If people belived that Bush was acting in everyone's best interests, we wouldn't be experiencing the chasm that's grown in this country.
People hate Bush because they think he is creating policy that's destroying the country we love.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

So, Mr. Lone Ranger, you accuse Beth and her friend of being "intellectually dishonest" because they don't view both sides of the spectrum equally, and then contradict yourself by blasting those who don't follow (i.e. agree) with President Bush as basically being un-American because of that. Talk about immaturity. Listen, without the regular, non-elected citizens of this nation speaking out, at times against their leaders and the law of the land, Beth here may not be a voting member of this society. Kids all over the country could still be toiling for long hours in sweat shops rather than attending school. And I, with my dark complexion and all, may still be in bondage (virtual or otherwise) working for my mastas with humility and humiliation. (I guess you would have considered Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and company "freaks and non-contents" for boycotting the buses and defying the law in Montgomery.)

And, by the way, since your grasp on American history seems a little lacking, I will remind you that this very nation was formed by "freaks and non-contents" such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson who felt that the rule of the King of England was, oh, not quite fair and equitable.

If you think that descent is such a poisonous and dangerous part of the tapestry of the United States of America, may I suggest that you head to places that fit more into your paradigm. I hear North Korea and Iran are lovely this time of year.

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Ethan said...

Too much to squash into your comment box, so I wrote a response here.

I have been enjoying your blog ever since I found it, and look forward to more!

2:14 PM  

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