Saturday, December 04, 2004

A Response From a Red State

This whole thing was started when I read A Letter To The People in The Red States. Suffice it to say, I didn' think she was the only one who was misunderstood and I wrote the following response. If I were doing it again, I'd clean it up a little bit, clarify pieces of it, and cut some of it. I've seen other responses say similar things much more eloquently.

Oh well, here's the original anyway...


I am writing this letter to the people in the blue states on the coasts of the country -- the people who voted for John Kerry. I am writing this letter because I agree that we don’t know each other.

So I'll make an introduction. I am a resident of Delaware County, Ohio who voted for George Bush. Yes, I am one of the 6,000 new Delaware County voters that voted for Bush in 2004. I used to live in a small town in northwest Ohio, and if I still lived there, I would vote for Bush. I used to live in Cleveland, and if I still lived there, I would vote for
Bush. Bush won in two of those three regions.

Maybe you want to know more about me. Or maybe not; maybe you think you know me
already. You think I am some homophobic religious nut because I dislike John Kerry. You think that I am uneducated and indoctrinated, because I support the right to life and believe in the sanctity and tradition of marriage. You think that I am dangerous, and even
evil, because I do not agree with your enlightened viewpoints.

Maybe you are content to think that, to write me off as a “zealot” - - the dreaded “Z” word - - and despair that your candidate has lost to evil, simple-minded, ethnocentric, bigoted people like me. But maybe you are still curious. So here goes: this is who I am.

I work in Columbus, Ohio. I was there, on the 31st floor of my office building, on September 11th. I watched the Towers burn on TV as we grouped around whatever TV’s we could find. I was on the 31st floor as reports came in that a plane had come up missing, last seen heading toward Cleveland before it veered off course in some unknown direction. I had a friend and co-worker who had a business meeting scheduled for the morning of the 11th at the Trade Center. I sat with his wife as she tried desperately to get a hold of him while watching people jump and fall from the Towers. Ten hours later she heard from him. I hope you don’t believe that my feelings don’t count because he wasn’t in the buildings when the planes hit. And yes, there are folks here who also can't sit in a restaurant without plotting an escape route.

I am a worker. I work in a 38th floor office building attached to a 30 story government building, which we have been told is also a “target” of terrorism. We are not immune to bomb scares, evacuations, or even terrorist threats to our malls. We used to think that since we weren’t in New York or L.A., we must be safe. We don’t think that any more. Even with our increased security, we don’t have soldiers and bomb sniffing dogs on a daily basis. But I have seen them - along with street closures, circling helicopters and lockdowns - when someone reports a “suspicious” package. Please don’t think that because you live in New York, you have a monopoly on fear, nervousness or the related security measures.

I am a neighbor and a co-worker. A neighbor and a co-worker to families of our troops overseas. Families who believe so strongly in protecting our country that their loved ones are at risk on a daily basis. Families who are so proud of their loved ones, and to whom I am indebted to such a degree that neither words nor actions can ever express. Families who collect school materials and toys so that their loved ones can hand them out to Iraqi school children. Families who show pictures of their loved ones surrounded by smiling Iraqis who appreciate what they are doing. Families who show letters talking about some of the evidence of absolute unimaginable atrocities that their loves see.

I am a taxpayer. I worked my butt off to get where I did, and so did my parents. My grandfather was a migrant worker, my father a laborer earning $15K per year, but
still they saved and borrowed and sent me and my siblings to college. My father was the first in our family to graduate high school, my siblings and I the first to graduate college. I got through graduate school with a combination of scholarships and part time jobs.

All for the privilege of also working 2,600 hours last year. That still works out to a 50 hour week, every week, although I took a week off last year between Christmas and New Years. I get to work by 7:30 am and rarely leave before 7 p.m. I work through lunch but eat dinner at home. My wife and I paid over $50,000 in federal income tax last year. I’m sorry if you believe that because I didn’t pay the same amount in taxes as you did that my opinion is less valuable. I believe that everyone’s opinion is valuable, even yours, and how much I, my parents, or anyone else pays in taxes doesn’t change that.

I am a religious conservative. The funny part is, religious conservatives have this eputation for being inflexible, being ideologues, not being open-minded. But let me tell you how I see the world: I see America as one nation in a world of nations. Therefore, I
think we should try to get along with other nations. But I also think there are times when we have to protect our own interests, even if other countries don’t agree. I see that gay people exist. I also think they should be allowed to exist, and be treated the
same as other people. But I also believe that marriage is a religious sacrament, not a civil ceremony. I believe that being treated the same does not mean that the traditions and sanctity of marriage should be change. I can support civil unions, but the word marriage has a specific powerful meaning to me. I believe life is precious and also that it begins at conception. Therefore, I feel that I have a moral obligation to support that life and prioritize it over other rights. If you believed that, you would too. I respect your opinion, but please don’t disregard mine.

I see that people have awful diseases. I also think we should enable scientists to try to cure them, but I also believe that sometimes the ends don’t justify the means. I see that
we have a Constitution. Therefore, I think it should be upheld but not expanded or reinterpreted by non-elected judges who want to inflict their agendas on all of us.

I see now that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Three years ago, I thought there were. I also knew that Sadam was offering rewards to the families of suicide bombers, mass murdering and torturing his own people, and wanted to raise his stature in the Arab world by picking a fight with the US. So did George Bush, Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Britain, France, and Germany. Therefore, I still believe that Iraq was an imminent danger to all of us. It seems so pragmatic to me.

How do you see me? Do you really think that I believe that voting against
gay marriage will keep people from being gay? Do you really think I want people to continue to die from Parkinson's disease, etc. etc. I believe that we live in a complex world where complex questions can’t be answered with a yes or a no. I believe that the only way to understand me is to listen to me, not ask me pointed yes or no questions designed paint my positions into simple black and white caricatures that make you feel superior.

I am an American. I have an American flag flying outside my home. I love my family
more than anything. I love that I grew up in a small town in northwestern Ohio. I rode my bike to the local library weekly during the summer before 3rd grade. I loved walking to high school football games on a Friday night. I loved eating dinner at 5:00 every evening with my entire family around the supper table. It is because I love this country so much that I argue with my political opponents as much I do.

I am not safe. I used to feel safe. Like I said, I used to think that because I didn’t live in New York or L.A., that I was safe. I don’t any more. My parents live in a small town in Ohio and worry about my safety every day. They worry when an alleged terrorist was arrested on the east side of town. They worry when plans to hit a Columbus mall hit the front page of their hometown newspaper. They worry when an unknown sniper is shooting at cars on our outer-belt, an outer-belt that I travel every day to work. I work in a skyscraper attached to a government building. Please don’t talk down to me and think you have a monopoly on fear and nervousness.

I am lonely. I feel alienated from my fellow citizens, because I don't think you want to understand what I am thinking or feeling. You are so convinced that my opinions are baseless and without merit that you paint my opinions in what you think of me instead of what they really are. You think I based my vote on such lightweight factors such as how personable or macho someone appears. It’s easier to do this and write me off, than to listen and maybe have to admit that I can reasonably disagree with you.

You don’t let me explain that I think that there are times when we need to act in our nation’s best interest, even if the rest of the world disagrees. You don’t let me explain that I don’t believe that any candidate it perfect, but I would rather vote for someone who has a clear position on Iraq, clear values, and clear direction instead of one who’s opinions have changed with the political winds. Someone who is fooling himself if he thinks he is going to get France and Germany to help us in a war that he himself described as “the wrong war at the wrong time”. Someone who knows through experience that war is hell and that in a war mistakes get made, but still plays the Monday morning quarterback instead of explaining what he would do differently going forward.

You won’t let me explain that when I see a major network news organization rush a story denigrating our president based on - at best - suspect evidence, it makes me question everything else they report and question their motives.

I believe that people can love whomever they want, but that doesn’t mean that I should have to change my definition of an institution that I view as sacred. I believe that life is precious, and unprotected life is even more precious. With that being said, I believe that there are some things worth fighting for. It’s a tough choice in an imperfect world. I believe that life is not fair and sometimes no matter how much I don’t want it to, bad things happen to good people. Because of my faith, I believe that God gives all of us the strength to get through these times in our lives.

I am afraid that you truly believe that 51% of this nation thinks that there is no place for diplomacy or international cooperation, instead of understanding that reasonable people can disagree on the amount of diplomacy that is appropriate before acting to protect our nation. I am concerned when your opinions are based on a film that is clearly biased and inaccurate.

But mostly I am bothered by the tone of you message, which seems to imply that my opinions are not valid. That I have no right to be afraid, to think that my family’s life isn’t at stake. My opinions are deeper and more thought out than your over simplified caricatures of me. Do you want to listen to me or would you rather continue to portray me in your oversimplified manner.

I don’t think you want to listen. I think listening to me scares you. And I don’t think you realize that if you continue to regard me with contempt while pretending to open a dialogue, that I see through it. And all it really does it make me want to disregard all of your opinions, even the ones that I could learn from. If you want to become a national party, you will have to listen to what I think, not tell me what I think.

PS. I pray to God that nothing happens to the people you love. Whether you believe it or not, I believe that my vote reflected that. You can blame me if something happens if you like. Rest assured, no matter who won the election, if something happened to my family, I would not blame you. I would blame the bastard who was flying the plane.