I Should Have Kept The Receipt
I started to write this post at least ten times over the past week. Something was always holding me back - either an unwillingness to share these thoughts or the worry over what would happen when I did. Ultimately, I remembered that the most important reader of this blog is me. Amid all the posts about movies and music and the weather, there are personal stories that read like diary entries because, in a way, they are. I write to purge, sometimes. Which is what I finally do today.
My impetus to finally spit it out was this.
Thatís right, personal responsibility. I still believe in that and Iíll be holding myself as well as all my republican friends responsible for getting that guy elected. At the same time, in my defense, I still donít think Kerry was a viable alternative. Not because heís a dem. (I voted for Clinton and would have done it again if I could have) but because I just donít like the guy.
Similar words have been spoken/written by me several times in the past couple of weeks to close friends. Some have reacted with dropped jaws, some have just nods sympathetically.
I've also left similar sentiments in comments on various blogs and, for the most part, they were met with a flurry of clenched fists and righteous indignation, with calls for me to go out and start protesting (or something like that) to prove my regret.
Well...no. It's not like that. First of all, I am not sitting here admitting to the world (ok, just the minuscule part of the world who reads this) that I regret my vote so I can, oh, get a pat on the head or a clap on the back or a wide-armed welcome back to the fold. I'm not going back to any fold and I don't seek anyone's approval.
So what is it that's causing my "buyer's remorse" as it's been called? It's a combination of things, and most of it stems from the fact that I was a one issue voter in 2004. And now, the issues I ignored in order to give my support to the war on terror are coming back to haunt me.
Social Security. Bankruptcy. The insistence of the far right that they have some kind of religious mandate now and we need to revert back to our Christian roots and morals. And yes, Iraq. I know all about the good things in Iraq. I know about the schools and the hospitals and elections. And I love that. I love the slow spread of democracy. I love the trickle down effect of taking Saddam out of power. But more and more, I'm thinking, at what price? Every time another soldier dies, another bomb goes off, another hopeful Iraqi policeman is murdered, another hostage is taken and another day looms on the horizon with no end in sight, I think at what price?
I'm not about to go stand on some street corner and protest the war. It's not like that. But my all-out support has certainly waned. I see no clear exit strategy. I just see more of our men and women dying. I just see more innocent Iraqis dying. Every day, first thing in the morning, I bring up my Command Post editing page and look through the morning news. And the stories are always the same. Car bomb. Roadside bomb. Death. Dead. Soldier killed. There used to be much more good news interspersed with those reports. But my hope for seeing this work has dissipated.
I know some of you are ready right now to send me links, to lecture me on why Iraq will turn out ok, why the spread of democracy will come about, why Syria and Iran and North Korea will all fall eventually. That would be great if it was my only gripe with this administration. But it's not.
And it's my own damn fault. What did I think would happen down the road as a one issue voter? I didn't think far enough ahead, I guess, to see how those other issues - with me as gay rights supporting, fiscally conservative atheist - would affect me later on. That once the smoke from the war on terror cleared, so to speak, I would have to deal with the fact that I voted in an administration that stands for a lot of things I'm against.
Not that I would have voted for Kerry. Just because I'm experiencing this regret doesn't mean I'm going to go running back to the left. I abandoned them with good reason. So I'm back where I was right around September 11, 2001. Standing firmly in the middle, getting a little flogging from both sides. I spent years on the left side of the line and discovered I didn't like it there. And now I spent a few years on the right side of the line and, frankly, I hate it here. I thought the "big tent" of the Republican party would be home. Turns out it was just a temporary shelter, given to me by the party who knew damn well that I was only as good as my support for the war on terror.
There are others out there like me. I talk to them at work. I talk to them in the parking lot of schools, waiting for our kids. I talk to them in email or instant message, people from across the country who feel that twinge of regret. What we all have in common is this: we feel used. We feel taken advantage of. We feel manipulated.
This is where some people are going to expect an apology. Donít hold your breath. Thatís not what this is about. When I made my vote, I did so with the best interest of my family in mind. I honestly believed I was making the right choice. I wasnít the one who voted a certain way just because I hated the opponent. I believed in the war on terror. I believed in the war in Iraq. I believed that the other issues werenít as important. So Iím not looking for forgiveness for anything. And this doesnít mean that Iím going to suddenly sign up for the Democrat party and start carrying around No Blood For Oil placards. There are people who have seen this ďconfessionĒ from me already who assume this means I think George W. Bush is an evil person, that Iíve finally joined the BusHitler crowd. No. Hardly. I donít hate George Bush, much as I donít hate John Kerry. I just donít think that either of them is what America needs.
That opens up a lot of questions, most of which donít have ready answers. What does American need? Who is the right person for this country? How do we fix Social Security? Who will make our future fiscally sound? How do we stop the bleeding in Iraq and at the sam time, keep Iran and Syria at bay, without losing more and more of our good men and women in the armed forces? How can we learn to accept people who are different from us? How can we stop trying to legislate someone elseís idea of morality? How can we teach the people of this country to start taking responsibility for their own lives instead of expecting the government (or trial lawyers) to do their decision making for them? How can we make our education system better for our children?
I placed my wager and lost. Unfortunately, there was no real winning wager this time around. Is there a person out there who will make us all feel like winners? Or is that just a pipe dream? Will there every be a candidate who will please mostly everyone?
Iím not looking for absolution from Democrats and Iím not looking to be reviled by Republicans. Iím just voicing my opinion that I think things have gone steadily downhill since November. I find myself in more and more instances slinking away from the right. But I stop at dead center because thereís no place for me to go. Maybe I just donít know how to make a commitment. Maybe the fact that Iím a gay rights supporter who drives an SUV and is against gun control, who doesnít believe in God, who is an un-P.C. person that hates the NEA, who thinks faith based initiatives are wrong and the government should stay out of our bedrooms, who is no longer so gung ho about things in Iraq, means I should do some soul searching.
Or maybe it's not up to me where I go from here. What does your party or your candidate have to offer me? I'm up for grabs.