I've been surprised lately to find a lot of divisiveness and defeatism in the places I least expected it. Those of us who should be standing up for Kerry are either bickering behind his back, or simply defecting to third parties. Rather than uniting in spite of our differences, we are standing apart and shouting at each other. We have become our own greatest enemies. In the process, we are undermining the exact goals we are trying to achieve.
It makes me think of the old-fashioned practice of barn-building. The whole community would come together to build one person's barn; they may not have gotten much out of it and may have disagreed on some things, but they had a goal, and banded together to get it done. If one person did not hold up their end, the whole building would come crashing down. Perhaps more accurately, I could compare it to a soccer game, where our team is too busy telling each other how we're doing it wrong to come together and do it right. The other team is winning because we're worrying only about ourselves, about what we want out of the match, not about the fact that we share a common enemy. Our real purpose is obscured by our nearsightedness.
But I'm not writing this to join in the civil war and inflame it more.
What one person can't do alone, many people can do together. It takes a certain degree of selflessness, of groupthink, to do it. Though we glorify individuals, the people we remember would not be great if it weren't for the masses who supported them. People like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, while amazing individuals, would not be important to us today if they hadn't been supported by thousands of others, who saw the purpose of the vision enough to join as one to fight those they could not fight individually. Like them, we must overcome our differences and find what is the same about us. We must speak with one voice and act as one body. We must stand behind others with whom we disagree somewhat in order to stand against those with whom we disagree completely.
Each individual may not gotten everything they wanted, but they lifted everyone just the same. Rather than distracting themselves with their singular hopes and desires, those who have successfully fought back have found common hopes and desires to fight for, and stood stoically behind them. Rather than turning themselves into a thousand disagreeing splinters, they united themselves into a force far stronger. They knew, whether consciously or intuitively, that they became synergistic, that by coming together they were creating something greater than if they stood apart.
I, for one, want unity amongst us now more than I want to see any of my pet projects happen. It isn't that I want to have to wait longer to see my homeless friends get the psychological and financial help they need --or to see my gay friends as happily married as I am, or an honest and decent government for Iraqis, or any of the other subjects that I hold very close to my heart-- but that I know these things will not happen if we don't take that vital first step. In the long run, today's consolidation of unity will make attempts to deal with these kinds of issues a little more reachable, a little more possible. John Kerry may not have said he supports all of the things that my ideal candidate would support, but I have no doubt that electing him this year will be stepping closer to these issues than we have in the past four years.
It is true, as I'm sure some will argue, that in order to have a strong following, we must have a strong leader. But it also takes a strong following to make a strong leader, and the more united we are, the stronger our leader's foundation will be. We must make the choice of standing solidly together in order to give Kerry a platform to stand on, or to waver and risk letting him sink into the quicksand of internal disputes. We must fulfill our own roles as decisive supporters before we can demand more decisive actions from those we support. Or, to steal a little from John F. Kennedy, "Ask not what your party can do for you, but what you can do for your party."
It isn't just John Kerry who needs a firm base to stand on. It isn't just this election, either. The party, the country, the future -there are a thousand reasons we could name to unite. But we have to start somewhere, and I propose we start right here.
This means more effort on our parts. When our fellow falls, we must help him back up or be ready to take his place. What others who share our views cannot do, we must do ourselves. Instead of endless criticism of each other, we must find the best things about each other, and show only those faces to the world. We must find the bonds of commonality and hold to those, rather than the weaker bonds of anger and frustration. We must save our barbs for those who would attack us, not those who would stand with us.
I am not proposing an end to all debate or doubt, but an impenetrable front. I learned from my family that we could fight amongst ourselves all we wanted to in private, but to never allow others to ridicule us as we could each other, or even to see that there was discord amongst us. In public situations, it was us against the world, even if in private it was us against each other. Considering the treacherous effects of our incredibly public second-guessing, I don't view the Democratic Party much differently. Because of the importance of this election, we are not free to lash out against each other. We have influence over those we come into contact with, however insignificant it may seem. We must show ourselves united, in our homes with our relatives and friends, in our schools and workplaces to our peers, in the world to our fellow humans, and even here, on the Internet to those whom we are aware of and whom we are not aware of. We must be more aware now than ever of who we denigrate or compliment, who overhears it, and how we go about it. We must know when to raise our voices against each other and when not to, and now is not the time.
Those of us who are completely convinced that Bush needs to be thrown out must focus. We must take our eyes off of the those relatively minute things that we want individually, and concentrate on the goal that we want collectively. We must not take our eyes off of it until it is ours. We must want it badly enough that we will sacrifice almost anything for it. If we don't, we will lose this fight.
United, we will stand, but divided, we will surely fall.
(If you can think of any other places I should send or post this, please let me know. I wrote this with broad hopes and would hate to see it fade away into oblivion.)