by Andreas Harsono
American Reporter Correspondent
December 25, 2000
A BLOODY CHRISTMAS EVE UNITES DIVIDED INDONESIA
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 quoted when he said of his difficult loss that "defeat might serve as well as victory to shake the soul and let the glory out."
For both men and for the nation the past nearly forty days, like the 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 trolling for dimples?) and ironic (examining ballots for pinpricks of light?). One has to wonder how President 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 inequalities bare for all to see. In spite of charges of intentional "disenfranchisement" in districts where there were proportionately large amounts of undervotes, still the African-American vote in Florida was up 65 percent from 1996.
Nonetheless, conspiracy theorists and political ambulance chasers like Jesse Jackson urged the offended into the streets. Even after the United States 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 Cuban-Americans who protesters in the same passionate manner when their votes were disenfranchised by the Miami-Dade County canvassing board. Some only appreciate the First Amendment when the speech is to their liking. Some will only fight for the inviolability of the vote if the vote is for their side. Efforts to disallow votes in Seminole and Martin Counties (not to mention the overseas military vote) were exercises in rank hypocrisy, as even the Florida Supreme Court recognized.
Thank God it's over. The face we saw in the mirror was sometimes ugly. We as a nation, as well as the candidates faced both darkness and light. In our struggles to produce a leader not only the better angels of our nature have surfaced but our demons as well. It quite simply goes with the territory.
For two men seeking the mantle of power came fiery serpents of ambition, 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, old visions and divisions have tempted us towards the phantom comforts of suspicion and hostility. Our ideal - "one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all" - still seems to some a cruel mirage, just another illusion belonging to mythology of American privilege.
The speeches on Wednesday night though, began to cauterize the wound 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 Cheney 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 "unforseen paths," it is our duty to rise above party spirit and serve the common good.
The words of George Washington in his September 17, 1796, Farewell Address, warning against allowing Congress to be dominated by political parties, speak to us above the sirens of division:
"The unity of government which constitutes you one people is the main pillar in the edifice of your real independence; the support of your tranquility 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 this truth; it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; 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 jealous 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 county from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts."
Though temptations to cynicism may be strong, may we never forget that just as men and women are defined more by the tenacious hopes and dreams 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 failures - which are many - it is defined by its incorruptible promise.
Our Founding Fathers had no illusions about the shadow lurking in the heart of man or in the heat of party politics, and so they triangulated the branches of government to tame the beast. They also suffered no paralysis of will or failure of nerve to seek the best and the highest in themselves and for the nation.
Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green - we are Irish, Cuban, African, Jewish. We are Russian, Italian, Serbian, Chinese. A land of many peoples, 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 we 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 tension between her passion for big, eternal ideas and her tolerance of ambiguity 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 for 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 divides that glory, all that tarnishes it with malice and lack of imagination should 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.