It’s tempting, very tempting, to talk aboutwhat’s going on in the Senate in terms of tactics or the upcoming elections or as a symbol of what Democrats and Republicans really are all about, and it’s not exactly hard. Let’s face it, it’s been until today a pretty stark demonstration of what the past six years have wrought: the Republicans wage war on the Constitution and win, Democrats show up in time to shoot the wounded, and everybody goes home feeling sticky and vaguely pissed off.
But this is one of those moments, is the thing. It’s one of those times when it’s got to be about everything else. I live and breathe tactics and strategy, you know that, and most of this stuff that we talk about here is exactly all that.
This is about what kind of country we are.
And we are better than this.
We are better than murderers. We are better than torturers. We are better than those who would tell us the only way to beat the terrorists is to inflict far greater terror. We are better than those who would tell us the only way for us to live now is to live in fear. We are better than those who say, “Build yourself a tower, build yourself a wall, dig yourself a moat.” We are better than this. I believe that with every shred of my soul or I wouldn’t be up tonight, trying to think of a way to put this to make people understand something I only half understand myself.
We, as a country, are better than this. And if the weakness and fear of a cowed Republican Congress allows them to lose faith in the conviction of America to preserve its ideals while overcoming any foe, that is the fault of the cowed Republican Congress, because I saw Democrats all over the place standing up this week. Russ Feingold, Tim Ryan, Louise Slaughter, Dick Durbin who got beat on so bad over this once before, even Barack got off his snobby ass and joined the fight. Kerry. Dean. They all got up and said no, this is wrong.
Tomorrow my senators, at least, are getting e-mails and phone calls asking them to filibuster, because we don’t need to torture, in America. It doesn’t work, it doesn’t help, it makes us evil and it makes us small. It reduces a great nation to the level of some tin-hat dictatorship and we, cats and kittens, are better than this.
And that conviction, that this is not the policy of a great nation but the demented expression of the fear of a nation’s corrupt leadership, that this is not the course America will chart for years to come, that this is not what my fellow Americans want, will not waver should the unprincipled, undisciplined, unscrupulous Republican Congress pass this moral abortion of a bill tomorrow.
I’m not going to join the crowd of about seven people saying they’ll just quit politics, quit the Democrats, quit the world, whatever, man, if this goes down the way I think it’s going to go down. And I don’t think any of you will either.
We are better than this.
And I know that because I know all of you. I know my family, my friends. I know my neighbors and the writers for my local papers and I know my senators and congressmen. I know people who get up every day and fight like hell against incredible odds to do what is right, be that making somebody a lunch to take to school or writing legislation. I know Americans, and we are better than this.
We are better than this. Look at the past three years. Look what we’ve done, bloggers and activists and writers and singers and rank and file Democrats who are making a 50-state strategy practical and real, so that Republican districts are fighting grounds where they should be quiet pastures of acquiescence and fear. We’ve made it a fight, don’t you know what that means? It’s impossible to explain to somebody who hasn’t seen it, I think, the incredible sight that turning back the inevitable is.
It’s a little like this: When the universe says fuck you, you feel the weight of it. A death sentence, a terminal diagnosis, everybody with good intentions telling you to shut up, sit down, go home. Good people, maybe even people you thought were friends of yours, telling you to give up, that it’s over. if you’ve faced down somehting like that, you know what I’m talking about. That’s not an uphill battle. That’s an uphill battle on ice in the rain with ten tons of cats in sacks on your back.
A lot of people sat down after 9/11, said that’s it, this country’s Republican and scared until the day we die. A lot of people sat down after the 2002 elections, said there’s no way to beat them, we’d better just let them walk all over us and pretend their spikes feel like flower petals. A lot of people sat down after 2004 and said seriously, guys, this time it’s really, really, really over. A lot of people sat down a lot of times since then.
We’re still standing up.
Do you see what I’m saying? I’m not talking about a moral victory. A moral victory and a sack gets you a sack. I’m talking a little bit about whatKos is saying here, though really I’m talking about what it is inside of you that you repeat over and over and over that lets you get up every time they knock you down. You have to have some kind of something to get up after beatings like we’ve been taking, and yet we get up. WE GET UP.
We are better than this. We are better than the torturers and murderers in charge of our country. We are better than the condescending, xenophobic, homophobic, confederacy-fetishizing, lying sons of bitches who sleazed into office by dint of having R’s after their names at a time when that was the hip new craze, and we are better than the shallow talking heads who enable them, and we are better than the fearful, hateful, desperate throng that believes them. Which excludes about two-thirds of the country right now, in case you’re tempted to blame “sheeple” or “Americans” or everybody for the fault of a batch of creeps with microphones. We are, as a country, better than this. Even the polls say so.
Dick Durbin, who not too long ago got the full-on GOP assraping for daring to remark that our prisons’ torture summer camp kind of sucks, stood back up. John Kerry, who got called a liar and worse, whose wife got run through the wringer and whose past came rushing back in technicolor because Nixon’s bagman had nothing else to do that week and missed the warmth of the TV lights, John Kerry got back up. Louise Slaughter, who gets called things by the Freepers that even I won’t type, got back up.
A dear friend of mine once said to me, during a very bad time, “They kept pounding on you and you kept getting back up.” He was trying to make a boxing analogy, and his tone was somewhere between encouraging and “Jesus, you’re a fucking idiot,” but here’s my point. We are better than this, and here’s why:
Tomorrow, starting with the first phone call to the first senator on the list of every single one of them, WE GET BACK UP.
We call them all, even the Republicans. Even the John Cornyns and George Allens and Rick Santorums of the world. Even those creeps who’ll be out of office real soon. We call them and we tell them, yes, in fact, we are constituents. We’re AMERICANS.
And we’re better than this.