Commentary: TOWARDS A MORE PERFECT UNION
by Cindy Hasz
American Reporter Correspondent
SAN DIEGO, Calif., Dec. 16, 2000 -- Listening to George Bush and Al = Gore both give the speeches of their lives on Wednesday night, I was struck=
deeply by one of the quotes. It was not the words of Jefferson nor even of= Lincoln that moved me It was the words of Al Gore's father that the son q= uoted when he said of his difficult loss that "defeat might serve as well a= s victory to shake the soul and let the glory out."
For both men and for the nation the past nearly forty days, like th= e biblical trial in the wilderness, have been days of soul shaping. We have= seen reflections of ourselves that are foolish (what else can one call tro= lling for dimples?) and ironic (examining ballots for pinpricks of light?).= One has to wonder how Bush the elder liked his "thousand points of light" = when they came back to haunt him.
Decrepit voting apparatus laid the loam of class and race inequali= ties bare for all to see. In spite of charges of intentional "disenfranchis= ement" in districts where there were proportionately large amounts of under= votes, still the African-American vote in Florida was up 65 percent from 19= 96. Nonetheless, conspiracy theorists and political ambulance chasers like = Jesse Jackson urged the offended into the streets. Even after the United St= ates Supreme Court's final decision, Jackson was still on its steps calling= for his version of Bastille Day.
It's strange that the Rev. Jackson failed to find inspiration in C= uban-Americans who protesters in the same passionate manner when their vote= s were disenfranchised by the Miami-Dade County canvassing board. Some only= appreciate the First Amendment when the speech is to their liking. Some wi= ll only fight for the inviolability of the vote if the vote is for their si= de. Efforts to disallow votes in Seminole and Martin Counties (not to menti= on the overseas military vote) were exercises in rank hypocrisy, as even th= e Florida Supreme Court recognized.
Thank God it's over. The face we saw in the mirror was sometimes u= gly. We as a nation, as well as the candidates faced both darkness and ligh= t. In our struggles to produce a leader not only the better angels of our n= ature have surfaced but our demons as well. It quite simply goes with the t= erritory.
For two men seeking the mantle of power came fiery serpents of ambi= tion, sandstorms of exhaustion and freezing nights of fear. One man's fear = was losing while the other man's crucible was victory. For this country, ol= d visions and divisions have tempted us towards the phantom comforts of sus= picion and hostility. Our ideal -- "one nation under God, indivisible with = liberty and justice for all" -- still seems to some a cruel mirage, just an= other illusion belonging to mythology of American privilege.
The speeches on Wednesday night though, began to cauterize the woun= d inflicted on the national psyche in the desert of partisan conflict. That= is as it should be. No matter what one thinks of George W. Bush, of Dick C= heney or of the Supreme Court, a new president has been chosen. Even if it= seems to half the country, as to Mr. Gore, that the choice was as if by "u= nforseen paths," it is our duty to rise above party spirit and serve the co= mmon good.
The words of George Washington in his September 17, 1796 Fare= well Address, warning against allowing Congress to be dominated by politica= l parties, speak to us above the sirens of division:
"The unity of government which constitutes you one people is the ma= in pillar in the edifice of your real independence; the support of your tra= nquility at home; your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of= that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee = that, from different causes and from different quarters much pains will be = taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of t= his truth; it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the i= mmense value of your national union to your collective and individual happi= ness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment= to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as the palladium of= your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with j= ealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever (and whoever) may suggest even a = suspicion that it can, in any event, be abandoned; and indignantly frowning= upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our cou= nty from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together t= he various parts."
Though temptations to cynicism may be strong, may we never forget t= hat just as men and women are defined more by the tenacious hopes and dream= s they hold in their hearts than the tawdry and banal realities that often = belie them, this nation's soul is not just defined by its ironies and failu= res -- which are many -- it is defined by its incorruptible promise. = Our founding fathers had no illusions about the shadow lurking in the hear= t of man or in the heat of party politics and they so triangulated the bran= ches of government to tame the beast. They also suffered no paralysis of wi= ll or failure of nerve to seek the best and the highest in themselves and f= or the nation.
Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green -- we are Irish, Cuban, Af= rican, Jewish. We are Russian, Italian, Serbian, Chinese. A land of many pe= oples, many tribes but do we not all share one heart? A heart craving peace= , freedom and justice for ourselves and our children? We may have different= deserts to cross and certainly varied interpretations of the promise but w= e all make the same journey to the future. Since it is the same future, we = can and must be gentle with each other.
America's glory is found in her faith and her creativity, in the te= nsion between her passion for big, eternal ideas and her tolerance of ambig= uity and diversity. It is found in our stubborn hope and "steady character.= " It is no less found in a constant shedding of the past and reaching out f= or what can be.
"America," as Lyndon Baines Johnson said "is the uncrossed desert= , the unclimbed ridge, the star that has never been reached and the harvest= that lays sleeping in the unplowed ground." All that diminishes and divide= s that glory, all that tarnishes it with malice and lack of imagination sho= uld be set aside. It is this promised land we must continue to seek through= victory, through defeat and "through all that shakes the soul and lets the= glory out."
Vice President Gore and President-elect Bush have taken the first = steps. Now it is up to us to follow.