Observing from beyond the solar system, a cultural outsider looks in.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Why I Will Support John Edwards through the Convention and Beyond

I've been away from my home for three weeks. I was in New Hampshire helping the Edwards campaign, then I went to Michigan for Christmas, then I was in Iowa for the caucus. It was a lot of fun, and a lot of hard work. Sometimes it was an emotional roller coaster. Many things happened during that time, but through it all, one thing never changed: I will support John Edwards through the convention and beyond, no matter what.

I was glad to hear him reiterate last night what I first heard him say on George Stephanopoulos’ show: that he plans to stay in through the convention and to the White House. I will support him all the way.

Here's a quote from his speech last night:

Because of those who have called, and knocked on doors, and worked tirelessly on behalf of this cause, this cause to create the America that all of us believe in, because of that, I want to be absolutely clear to all of you who have been devoted to this cause, and I want to be clear to the 99% of Americans who have not yet had the chance to have their voices heard that I am in this race to the convention, that I intend to be the nominee of my party. And I am in this race until we have actually restored the American dream, and strenthened and restored the middle class of America, and so I ask all of you here and all of you who can hear the sound of my voice, the 99% whose voices have not yet been heard in this democracy to join us in this grassroots campaign to create the kind of America that all of us believe in.

This is the first time in my life that I've ever had such utter, unswerving loyalty to a candidate. There are a lot of reasons for it, but I've been struggling as to how to distill it down to the essence so I can communicate the reason to others. It boils down to my principles.

There are certain principles I've held throughout my life, and my support for John Edwards is a vibrant and clear expression of every one of them, because he embodies these principles with his actions and his policies.

Liberty - All Americans, and certainly all American politicians, give at least lip service to Liberty. How many of us really believe in it?

How many of us really believe in freedom of speech, even when we disagree with what is said? How many politicians are willing to show their respect for freedom of speech by being willing to answer hard questions on any subject? John Edwards never tries to silence dissent, and he encourages tough questions.

Edwards is not just passively in favor of freedom of speech, he actively encourages it. Throughout this campaign, he has encouraged bloggers to create political dialogue on the Internet. He has stood up for net neutrality, speaking clearly about the importance of the Internet for our democracy. He has spoken in opposition to media consolidation, even sending a letter opposing media consolidation to the FCC during a public comment period at a time when the FCC was considering adopting rules that would allow further media consolidation.

When you have Liberty, Democracy necessarily follows, since if you are free, you deserve a say in your government. How many of us really believe in democracy, even when we don't like the outcome? How many times have you been told that you have to fall in line and support the front runner, even if you disagree with them? How many times have you been told to support the person with the most cash, because fund-raising is going to determine the outcome? These are profoundly anti-democratic sentiments, but some I've heard them repeated a lot in the past 6 months.

John Edwards has repeatedly stood up for the right of every person to have a voice in this democracy. He has repeatedly stood up for the right of all people to be heard, regardless of whether they have money to give to campaigns. He has supported public financing by taking it himself, and he has never taken a dime from a Washington lobbyist. He is standing up for our right to be heard now, by staying in this race and fighting for the nomination.

Edwards believes in freedom of religion, too. I heard him speak at the Sojourners conference in Washington, DC earlier this year. That was a religious audience, and he didn't pander to them, in spite of the fact that he is religious himself. In fact, he stated clearly that people of all religions and people without a religion all deserve an equal voice in our democracy.

At every turn in this campaign, it seems to me that Edwards has always sought to empower people -- to enfranchise us at a time when we have become so accustomed to disenfranchisement.

Equality - This may be the deepest of my core principles. I haven't always expressed it perfectly, and I haven't even always understood it perfectly, but I know that few things outrage me more than people being treated unfairly and inequitably by others.

I think perhaps a principle takes root more deeply when you have struggled to understand it. I know that when I was a child, the assertion that "All Men Are Created Equal" puzzled me. The first thing I wanted to know was, why was it men? I can still remember my mother telling me that in that case "men" meant all of humanity. Given the sexism of the time when the Declaration of Independence was written, I'm not sure that was really what it meant, but it is certainly the only acceptable interpretation now.

Beyond my concern about the use of the word "men," I was still puzzled. Surely some people are more intelligent than others, some people are more attractive than others, some people are more healthy than others, some people are born with more wealth than others. So what does it really mean?

The answer that I have come to, and which I have stuck with, is that the statement "All of Humanity Is Created Equal" is true at a spiritual level. Regardless of their personality, gifts, or abilities, each person is born with equal worth. Each person has the same rights by nature or, as the Declaration says, each person is "endowed by their Creator with" these rights. In other words, you have basic human rights simply because you exist. Each person is equal to every other person simply because they are human. Nobody is better than another.

I know that John Edwards believes this to his core like I do, because I have seen the way he treats other people. It doesn't matter who you are. You could be a farmer, a schoolteacher, a blue-collar worker, a white-collar worker, a lawyer, a doctor, a senator, a person who is struggling to get by, or a wealthy campaign donor. You could be a woman or a man, you could be white, black, yellow, or brown, or any other color. John Edwards will treat you exactly the same as he treats everyone else -- with utmost respect for your humanity – and no matter who you are, if you’re his opponent, he’ll be tough on you.

I know some will say that if Equality is so important to me, why not support the “first” woman candidate or the “first” black candidate (and I could have sworn I voted for Jesse Jackson in the '80s, but according the media, I must have imagined it). The thing is, when you really see people as equal, you evaluate them on their merits. JRE is the best candidate. His gender and race are irrelevant to me.

Compassion - I think it's rather simple. If you think of all people as being equal, how can you not have compassion for them? If they have as much worth as you do, how could they possibly not merit compassion when they are suffering? To me, compassion goes along with the idea that all are created equal. Equality seems to me to imply that we are all in it together, and therefore should have compassion for one another.

As the candidate who has put poverty back on the national agenda pretty much all by himself, Edwards embodies compassion. And if everyone is of equal worth and deserves compassion, then it seems to me that universal health care is a right. Edwards will give us universal health care.

Integrity - I’m tired of all the lies. I tell the truth. I want a president who will do the same. John Edwards tells the truth. I don’t want to go negative here, but I don’t believe that about any of the other candidates in this race. Time for some truth. I trust John.

Respect for the Earth – This is fundamental. We live on this planet. We need to respect it. It is not to be bartered away to the highest bidder. We need to take care of it.

JRE has the best plan to fight global warming and develop alternative energy and he is the only one of the major candidates who opposes nuclear power. His rural agenda supports family farmers and opposes big stinky factory farms. He is the only candidate to get an endorsement from a national environmental organization, Friends of the Earth Action.

This is the right thing for me to do.

I haven't often had a sense of purpose in my life. I've spent many of my years on this earth wondering what I should be doing. I’ve been relatively successful at times, but I admit that sometimes I have felt rudderless. Not this time.

I saw what kind of man JRE was during the 2004 campaign, and I know he would be a great president for our country. When he got into this race, there was no question in my mind what I needed to do. I have been volunteering on his behalf for just over a year now and for most of that time, I’ve been doing it at least 8 hours a day, 7 days a week.

During these last few weeks and months, I've had a deep sense of peace within myself and a feeling that I was doing exactly what I was put on this earth to do. No matter what happens in this presidential election, I know I have done the right thing by supporting John Edwards. I will always be proud of that.

This is the time to fight with all we've got for the candidate who will really change this country. America needs John Edwards.

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