Pigeon-holing is something we Americans love to do. It’s almost cultural for us and in our political realm it is pervasive to say the least. We seem to have this very strong need to categorize everyone into a group which we then give a name to. In political terms we are fond of using “Liberal and Conservative” as pigeonholes to separate many varied schools of thought into two categories. I guess it makes it simple.
In fact most Americans I have spoken to over the past twenty years hold views which, contrary to our pigeonhole culture, fall into the liberal as well as the conservative schools of thought regardless of the political persuasion pins they may give themselves. In that respect we are all models of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ronald Regan. We all love being citizens of The United States, and we all believe in certain inalienable rights. To a great degree we all love being the single greatest melting pot of people and cultures in the world and we all desire our children to enjoy the freedom, liberty, civil rights and equality as is articulated in our great U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Essentially then, the “what” is what we all agree to, but the “how” is where we begin to become unraveled, fragmented, divided and in some cases political enemies.
Because of my own life experiences, the era in which I was born, the things I have witnessed, both beautiful and horrible, and the lessons I have taken away from all of that, I have formed certain beliefs and principled thought regarding the world around me. We all have. Politically I identify myself with the Democratic Party and consider myself as “Political Progressive”.
After decades of watching the world around me expand and contract historically, in a political sense, I have come to believe that change is not only inevitable, but essential to our growing as a Democracy. It is also important to maintaining America’s position as a great world power. Change in a Democratic and free society, when accomplished by the electorate, illustrates the power of an individual citizen living within that society and is evidence that having the freedom to dream and to reach beyond one’s grasp, affecting change, represents the essence of true liberty which without those freedoms could not exist.
Rejecting change, for the sake of rejecting change, is not compatible with productive growth and the expansion of liberty in a free society. I am persuaded that my role in that scenario must be politically aligned with the beliefs and goals of the Democratic Party, with which I most closely identify.
Although I do not accept every precept announced by the Democratic Party, as most do not, my own school of thought does conform to the most Democrats primary goals in America. My own definition of the Democratic Party members and those likeminded is “those who believe that Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are actually rights equal to our 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech and our 2nd Amendment right to “Bare Arms” and that it would be difficult to factor how any of our enumerated rights and freedoms could securely be exercised without the others”. We recognize the melting pot and the diversity that is America and believe the U.S. Constitution actually accommodates and supports that diversity.
I remember being in my 4th grade class at Sunset Elementary school in La Puente California when, one day in 1963, our School Principal, Mr. Hackelman, came into my classroom and my teacher, Miss Walters, signaled the class as usual to stand up in his presence, out of respect. I remember that day so vividly and how Mr. Hackelman, with his tall thin frame, black hair, sharp chin and wearing a black suit, bore a striking resemblance to Abraham Lincoln. He was sort of crying, but it was a deep and manly cry, something a kid in my environment would rarely if ever hear, or see. He told us that our President, John F. Kennedy (JFK), had been mortally wounded in Dallas Texas that very morning. He asked us to pray for our president’s family and sent us home and our nation mourned.
As the next few years went by, we were all taught about the greatness of John F. Kennedy and how he had a dream for America where we would all be free to enjoy the happiness derived from the liberty we enjoyed as promised to us by our U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. He talked about a strong America, second to none; whose primary goal in the world was peace, freedom and prosperity for all. He welcomed all countries to join in the vision for a free and sharing world and warned those who would seek to hurt America, or her friends, that although our strength was meant for good, we would defend our free way of life and our friends in the world. JFK also warned us about excessive government secrecy.
I was taught that John F. Kennedy’s dream was for a world at peace and partnership led by the United States example for attaining order, peace, prosperity, individual freedoms and liberties.
He said we were all more alike than not, and we should concentrate on those likenesses and help each other to expand them. He also thought that brutal empires would someday be vanquished through peaceful means and by the yearnings of their citizens to be free. He was right and it happened in my lifetime.
Abraham Lincoln, a great progressive thinker, when discussing conservative thought once said;
“What is conservatism? Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried”.
Another time when discussing the emergence and influence of large capitalist business monopolies in America Abraham Lincoln also said;
“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money-power of the country will endeavor to prolong it's reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed” . “These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the people”.
President Lincolns understanding of human nature and how it would influence big business far into a future he would not live to see was remarkably accurate. His foretelling of the corporate influenced environment our society is experiencing today in America was as though he could see our present from his distant past era and it saddened him. He was warning us all to guard against corporate incursion into our government by powerful interests not concerned with preserving and protecting the rights and liberties of the people, or even the democracy they cherished. The manifestation of Abraham Lincoln’s belief regarding corporate power and greed is realized today in America’s political environment just as he predicted.
Although not exclusively led by Democrats, it was liberal and progressive ideals, principles and leadership paved by giants like Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt , John F. Kennedy , Dr. Martin Luther King and Susan B. Anthony , who against Conservative resistance;
Established the GI bill,
Won the women’s right to vote,
Established Child labor laws,
Desegregated our Public Schools,
Established our great National Parks,
Ended the Vietnam and Iraq wars,
Passed the Civil Rights Bill,
Secured the GI Bill for veterans,
Established Social Security & Medicare,
Passed the Affordable Care Act
Passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965
It is also the Democrats and Progressives who continue the fight to protect our environment against the powerful conservative Political & Corporate partnerships steered by forces who do not see our home, but only the material and economic value to be exploited from it, not for the common good, or even to positively influence a robust economy, but for their individual corporate interests devoid of any social conscience, or obligation to the greater good. President Theodore Roosevelt said of these corporate forces in politics.
“The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life. The most practical kind of politics is the politics of decency”.
On another occasion President Roosevelt said “Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people”.
Those ideals articulated by Republican President Roosevelt have been lost to the modern conservative movement and Republican Party in America. He was a great progressive thinker. Today’s conservatives in Washington serve an economic powerbase that recognizes no national boundaries and owes allegiance to no flag, or nation. Any venture which will realize capitol, or advantage for them, regardless of the consequences, is worth defying our entire national identity to obtain. They commonly leverage offending tactics like using religion and lawyering the Bible to make it seem that Jesus himself is one of them, an effective tactic of division. Outsourcing American jobs to China was perfected by the Republican champion, Mitt Romney, who acquired great wealth, in part, by destroying manufacturing businesses in America and moving them to China, selling our future one piece at a time. For that he was beloved and lionized by the Conservatives, Tea Party members and Republicans throughout America. Ultimately the average American did not buy Mitt Romney’s conservative mantra and did not elect him as our President; due in part to committed Democrats who exposed much of Mitt’s true belief’s and goals as being, in part, anti-American, racist, anti-poor, anti-minority, pro-China and out of touch with the average American.
John F. Kennedy, to a ten year old boy in the 1960s, was like superman. He even liked animals. I wanted to be like him when I was ten. I still do.
“An individual can make a difference, but everyone should try”.
JFK said that and I believe it. I have taught that to my sons and daughters.
Martin Luther King, another Democrat, was fighting for our freedom at the very same time JFK was President. The forces of hate and fear assassinated Dr. King. Bobby Kennedy took up the mantle of liberty, freedom and civil rights. Those same forces killed Bobby too. If our modern American history has shown us anything it has taught us that fighting for the rights and liberties of others in America is risky business and not for the faint of heart. Since then Democrats have continued the difficult fight for the rights, liberties and dignity of all Americans, regardless of their personal beliefs, or politics. To most committed Democrats it is a sacred duty.
In my adult life I have gauged just about every political event, on what I believe JFK would have been doing, or how he would have reacted, had he been President. I am sure my imagination has actually made JFK bigger than life than he actually was, if that is possible. He was probably more of a regular guy than a super human guy, but my image of him has given me a compass in my life that would, at least, point the way for me, a path to follow, and a direction with purpose. I believe it has served me well.
In a manner of speaking then, I became a Democrat when I was in the fourth grade.
I very much admired Jimmy Carter when he was President. I think it was the way he came to office. Eight months prior to his becoming President I did not even know his name. Only in America can a person of humble beginnings grow up to become the President of The United States. The initial euphoria of his victory inspired me. In 1974, as a young Marine Corps Sergeant, I remember looking at my beautiful wife and saying to her, “One day, I will be a United States Congressman from North Carolina”. The dream still exists in my mind and in my heart, however unlikely.
The American dream is a real and living thing that evolves, even as our Democracy is growing and evolving. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights are as relevant to our democracy and day to day existence as when our forefathers penned those great documents. These documents and our common agreement to respect the Rule of Law, having given us a steering mechanism, are solely responsible for the America that we live in today and will be the reason we grow in greater liberty and freedom still into the future. Democrats make up the great party that is the direct result of the power entrusted to the people, by our Constitution, who understand it and know its intent. Our Constitution was purposely intended to embrace, address, and include every person in America from the homeless, elderly and helpless to the mighty, but particularly those who, without its guarantees, would be helpless and hopeless in our great society. As a people, our champion is our Constitution.
The Constitution has become an inconvenient document for the extreme Republican agenda. It tends to get in the way of corporate dominance of our nation and ethical behavior of our elected representatives and leaders. Our Constitution’s presence in authority and law, superior to government, is the only thing preventing those who would lionize villains and villainies heroes from fully controlling every aspect of American life and obliterating our personal freedoms and liberties. Most Republicans from only two, or three decades ago would not recognize their extreme party of today.
Since our 9/11 2001 tragedy, an extreme Right Wing mentality in our government, usually, but not exclusively, led by the Republican Party, has made every effort to restrict personal freedoms and liberties in the name of “security” and the supposed “War on Terror”. They seized the opportunity that tragedy presented and used it as a tool to instill fear and insecurity in the American mindset in a real and ominous effort to secure an eternal hold onto our personal and professional lives. That contempt even allowed them to contrive false information in order to justify America going to war preemptively for the first time in U.S. History. They justified and legitimized torture and began to utilize friendly foreign countries with no aversion to torture to do their dirty work. Later they simply began to direct our own citizens to conduct the torture and boasted about its rightful place in our society.
Recently, in June 2013, it was revealed to the American public that our Government for over 10 years, beginning under the George W. Bush Jr. Presidency and without interruption into the Obama Presidency, has been spying on every single telephone call and internet action conducted by any American citizen anywhere in the world, in clear violation of the fourth Amendment of our U.S. Constitution & Bill of Rights. Under the very same program, known as PRISM, our government has also collected billions of communications of foreign citizens throughout the world without any provocation, cause, or legal reason. In the name of fighting an invisible “War on Terror” our government has begun to systematically erode the legitimacy and legal force of our own U.S. Constitution, via the Patriot Act, in essence accomplishing our enemy’s goals for them. Every Democrat should be appalled by this egregious assault on our U.S. Constitution, but sadly they are not. Most of the Democrats and Republicans in Congress not only knew about PRISM, but they supported it. Those few in the halls of power in Washington who resist this assault on liberty are simply being ignored and ridiculed. No Democrat or Progressive should accept this kind of Anti-Democracy conduct by our government representatives. JFK would not accept this, or condone this conduct. Theodore Roosevelt would not, Martin Luther King Jr. would not, Ronald Regan would not, George Washington would not, Abraham Lincoln would not, Thomas Jefferson would not, Bobby Kennedy would not and I will not. None of us should.
I learned the substance of the Constitution and Bill of Rights because I became interested in a Democratic leader John F. Kennedy (JFK). His life framed my view of democracy and freedom. His reasoning became my own consequently changing my life. Years after his assassination, his life and death, caused me to consider my own life and the contributions to mankind I could affect, however big or small.
As Democrats, we have the greatest opportunity and duty to do just that. Consequently I feel an obligation to be counted among those willing and ready to fight the good fight for liberty and freedom against those conservative political and corporate powers determined to curtail those freedoms, liberties and opportunities in America.
Being Democrats has taught us that Greater liberty will manifest greater strength in America’s people, its economy and its government and that greater liberty must be defended by the Democratic Party and likeminded unaffiliated Americans who fight the good fight.
The Democratic Party is not perfect. Great issue debates are taking place within our own party, as they should. We must all stand and add our voices and opinions to those debates. We must all raise our hands as those willing to serve our own towns, counties and states, who will try to make a positive difference for America and for the Democratic existence our forefathers hope we would continue after them.
In the end, it is I hope, “We the People” who will benefit the most from the life’s of American Democrats and their many contributions to our Democratic and free way of life.
We are Democrats because we believe in service. Being a “servant” is a badge of honor for Democrats. Defending the weak and helpless and standing in the gap defending human rights for those who do not have a voice in our society. As something unthinkable for conservatives to contemplate, Democrats stand with the poor, the homeless, senior citizens, the disabled, our forgotten veterans, and widows. Democrats stand firmly with our public schools and the notion that every American High School graduate should be able to attend college and graduate without a decade of debt following him/her into their new life. Non-High school graduates should be able to access additional education to attain their High school diploma and even fundamental vocational training. Democrats believe no citizen should go without the ability to access comprehensive medical attention and not be at risk of bankruptcy as a consequence.
We are Democrats because we do believe in individual achievement as well as working to achieve a common goal, for a common good, for a stronger, educated, driven, focused caring and compassionate society. Being a Democrat, willing to stand, has never been easy, or even a popular thing to do. Today is no exception. Democrats who stand against the conservative tide in America have to be willing to endure being mocked, ridiculed and even physically attacked just as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was mocked and attacked, hosed, beaten and jailed, or as John F. Kennedy was ridicule for his immense vision for America and ultimately assassinated. He dared promise that America would go to the moon and back and was condemned and ridiculed by the Conservatives and Republicans nationwide as small minded, out of touch dreamer, but he stood. JFK remains a target of conservatives and Tea partiers even today. During the 2012 Presidential primaries, prominent Republican Candidate Rick Santorum referring to a 1960 speech on religion given by President Kennedy, said “JFK’s 1960 Speech Made Me Want to Throw Up”. In his speech President Kennedy said of religion;
“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him. I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials; and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all”.
Rick Santorum was applauded by most conservative circles for his “Makes me want to throw up “attack on President John F Kennedy 49 years after President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. JFK spoke his words in front of a group of primarily Protestant ministers as the result of general protestant fear of having a Catholic President. They embraced JFK.
Democrats have a long and strong history of answering the call to service and sacrifice. I am so very proud of that fact. In my heart I am a JFK kid and I see the entire Democratic and Progressive movements in that light. We hope, we dream and we struggle for a more prosperous and perfect union where the words freedom and liberty are not just engraved into our statues and buildings, but also in our hearts and minds; a society where regard for the rights of the individual citizen, as articulated in our Constitution, is the base from which all other things are derived. All Americans should feel a sacred duty to support and defend our constitution, because it supports and defends each and every one of us. That is why we are Democrats. We love the freedom and liberty our Constitution has afforded us all and understand the price we must be willing to pay in order to preserve it as our own legacy to the generations following us.
We must be ever moving forward in the exercise and protection of our great liberties and freedoms with the understanding that the essence of our existence as a Democracy is in the “Rights of the individual”, every individual, and with the knowledge that is taught to us in the very nature of our planet; “Whenever anything in nature stops growing, it begins to die”. We are Democrats and Progressives because we swear to those principles established to preserve our truly Democratic Republic where government governs by consent of its citizens who hold the perennial balance of power. I am very proud to be counted among this group of citizens who have come together in agreement that the principles of our Constitution and its spirit must be preserved and expanded for future generations. We are Democrats, Americas Progressive movement.