We Are Many

From the Kerry blog, that’s what 30,000 people in Kansas City looks like. Hot damn. Atrios has more on the rallies and the numbers and what they might mean.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Kerry/Edwards and the latecoming bounce and the booing of hope and optimism that Holden posted about earlier. When you get right down to it, we’re in this war on terrorism, and we’ve been given nothing to do as a country but be freaked out and shop.

During the Second World War, Americans bought war bonds and planted Victory Gardens and saved cooking grease, and maybe all of that was necessary and maybe it wasn’t, but it gave non-military, non-governmental people a way to feel a part of the struggle. It gave them something to do besides sit in their houses, listen to the radio and worry. It gave them a direction for their energy, and it gave them, most of all, the feeling that they had power over world events. Suddenly the war didn’t seem so big anymore, my grandmother told me once, because we were doing something to win it.

For three years now, those of us lucky enough not to have to go to war ourselves have been told by the government that there’s nothing we can do, really. Go on with your lives, Tom Ridge and John Ashcroft tell us, but be very, very afraid. They’re telling us terrorists hate us for stuff we can’t or shouldn’t change, that peace isn’t possible, that the only thing people of good will can do to help matters here at home is to buy, buy, buy.

But shopping doesn’t give people a sense of power over their lives. It doesn’t help them feel they’re doing something to support their son or daughter fighting overseas, it doesn’t give them a way to help the neighbor who just lost her job and can’t pay for her medication. Leaders, in the end, should tell us about ourselves as a people, about the kind of country we are. Apparently, in Bush’s America, beset with all of its problems and struggles, we are a country that buys shit.

We have two men on the trail right now, across the country, who are telling Americans to have faith, have courage, and have hope. They’re telling Americans they can fix a health care system that is broken, they can re-declare war on poverty, they can cure disease through scientific advancement and combat terrorism with the support of others so our men and women in uniform will not be alone out there. They tell us we can do this by voting and working and volunteering. Republican or Democrat, after three years of listening to a shaved chimp in a suit scream about evildoers, is it any surprise that people turn out by the thousands to hear them?

A.