I'm dedicating this blog to Tom Beck. Tom is one of my very best friends although we see eye to eye on very few things. I have no doubt that many of the things he reads in this blog will make him cringe, or seethe, or even pity me. He may rejoice that I am no longer able to produce others like me. Yet no matter how much Tom may disagree with what I write I know that he will still be my friend. He may tell me what he likes or doesn't like. he may even do it vehemently but we will still be friends. It is because we knothat each of us has value not just to eachother as friends, but to creation as a whole. Our backgrounds are different, our experiences are different.
Yet when we are together we are able to celebrate not the things that make us different but the things that we have in common. Like Trenton Titans hockey, West Ham United soccer, pets, Big Ed's ribs, good corned beef, Monty Python and his girlfriend Arlene ( he thinks she's great & I agree -- she's a total mitzvah). That we have things in common make him no less Jewish than they make me less Christian. The secret is summed up in two words "mutual respect"..
I am writing this on the Thursday after Election Day, 2004. George W. Bush has just been reelected to serve a second term as President of the United States. It may shock you to know that both of us voted for his opponent John Kerry. Both of us were surprised that Bush won re-election although as I reflect upon my own voting esperience and as I read and listen to the "post-game analyses" that have appeared on TV, radio, in print and via the Net I can understand to some degree not only why Bush won but also why the Republicans made gains in the Senate and House.
One of the differences Tom & I have is that Tom is much more ready to discuss his views openly than I am. Writing this blog is a big step for me. It is not because I respect the convention of never discussing religion, politics and sex in public as much as it is lack of self-confidence on my part. It is funny that I can discuss hockey theory with the cool clear analysis of a surgeon. When I sing either in choir or for uh um seduction, I want my voice to be as precise as if I were a mathematician. It goes the same for anything I feel deeply about. Heck one time I was with my friend Linda, my best female friend though strictly platonic, and I started a discourse on sexual positions and I related it the way they teach you to figure out which way a hockey puck will bounce off a dasherboard by imaginingthe line of flight and its tangent. Her reply was "too cerebral". Still, as important as my Christianity is to me, and as much as I try to keep educated on current affairs including reading opinions from different points on the political spectrum, I lack the confidence to express my views. Last night while reading Tom's new blog, Malvolio, i mentioned how if I set my thoughts on the election down in a blog, I'd probably make Tom have a piglet and have even more people annoyed at me than I do now. Tom replied that it was a free country and that I should just write what I feel without malice, and not be concerned about what people may say.
That aside I want to start by saying that while I voted for Senator Kerry, it was not an easy choice. I cant stand President Bush. I didn't vote for him in 2000. I find a lot of his actions and policies objectionable. In discussing him with others includng other Christians, I have used such terms as "war criminal", "charlatan", "arrogant doofus", and "pimp" ( "procurer" to those of more refined sensitivites). Yet, I was never able to fully embrace the candidacy of John Kerry either. Even as I stood in the voting booth with all the lights on my electronic voting booth activated, I had to pray to God that I made the correct choice even asking for Him for wisdom as I pushed the final lever to have the votes for Kerry and my Democratic congrssman, Rush Holt, made official. As I left the voting booth, I felt a sense of relief and a desire to get away from this election as soon as possible. To that end, I rented two reasonably mentally unchallenging videos and tuned out the world until yesterday at 6 AM.
I awoke to find myelf five dollars poorer as I had a friendly wager that Kerry would win going away. I found it inconceivable that Bush's record would warrant a second term. Moreso, the recent drives to register new voters seemed to have been enthusiastically reposnded to by the the type of young "hip" voters who'd enthusiastically vote for Kerry. The talk was of twenty-five million new voters. I couldn't imgine more than 2 million of those voting for Bush meaning a net gain of twenty three million for Kerry. It all pointed to if not a landslide then at least an enthusiastic thumping. Yet such was not the case and as I walked my beagle after seeing 10 minutes of news coverage I reflected on why I thought the results were as they were.
One of the things I found distatseful about Bush was how he approached Christians like myself as if he were our last hope in the USA. He brought up how a Kerry presidency would produce a government that is if not openly hostile to Christians or, in the new vernacular, "people of faith" or alternately "fundamentalists", then definitely unreceptive to what we hold dear. It was a well calculated move on his part as earlier this summer in a move that I'm amazed didnt receive more play in the news media, the Southern Baptist convenetion removed its blanket endorsement of any specific party and instead told its mmbers to treat each race individually, candidate by candidate. Bush needed to find a way to get this voting bloc, and in turn others likethem, squarely inhis column. He did it with an unwitting assist from Kerry and his supporters.
If someone is telling you that I'm a bad man and that if I'm elected I'll make your life miserable, I have really three choices. I can come back and repudiate his comments, I can say ththe's right or i can dismiss them gently. Kerry responded somewhere between the latter two. hile he didnt openly say that he was going to openly pursue an agenda contrary to most Christians, at no time did he make any overtures to assuage the fears Bush raised either. His followers spoke of making sure that Bush didn't pack the Supreme Court with fundamentalists or radical Christians.In one of the debates when Bush brought it up, Kery simply avoided the question. Had I been running as Kerry not as myself, I would've said that I would select judges who had the best overall rating and not tose with a given litmus test. It isn't the best answer BUT it is far less threatening than the scenario Bush drew. I recalled how in the hours after I voted on Tuesday, people asked me about the election and spoke in terms of "stopping those Christians" or "keeping the government out of the hands of fundamentalists". Now I like to think of myself as being rational but one of my character traits be it flaw or strength is that I dont take threats well. I viewed their attitude as not an insult, although they may as well have used the insulting "Bible-thumper" or "crossback". It seemed as if I and people of my belief were slowly but surely being painted as enemies of the country and people to be vilified.
The post-election media both conventional and unconventional has embraced that line to some extent. I like to see how people who are farther right and left ( I hate those terms) of me viewed the election results. On one side, there were people praising Christians for rallying to the support of President Bush, the Republican party , Jesus, and America as a whole. . It was almost condescending, like telling a dog "atta boy" or "Atta girl" or "good dog". Not the most positive way to put things but at least it was cordial.
On the other side are words that sometimes sound like they're being written by the guy who hypes pro wrestling matches. If Christians are not beng portrayed as rubes or dummies in the more distatseful sources we're now regarded as haters and barbarians. I have seen articles that paint all Christians a being like Nazis during the time of Hitler. They have stopped short of listing people like myself as being no less an enemy of the United States than Osama bin ladin. I never tthought of myself as being mentally inferior any more than I consider myself an enemy of my country. Yet whrther intentioned or unintentioned, that message came through loud and clear. My sense of angst over whether or not to vote for Kerry (as I repeat I ultimately did heck I voted straight Democratic for the first time ever) was not whether or not I thought Kerry was a better cjoice for president. I felt that he was Tuesday afternoon and I feel the same way this morning. But it was that nagging persistent feeling of being vilified and disrespected that had my finger hovring over Bush's name before I stepped back prayed and with faith in my God, voted for Kerry.
I do not have the best personality in the world. I have been called repulsive, annoying , an irritant and even the equivalent of salmon patties ( ie disatsteful at first but eventually in time regarded as harmless and in some ways beneficial). Despite that it has contributed to my being alone more than I'd like to be, I live by a few codes one of them being "I want you to like me, but if you don't you'd sure as heck better respect me". Even when Tom and I are at odds and he is, as is his perogative, explaining forcefully his opposition to Christian doctrine, Christians and even at times me, there is always that mutual respect between us that I mentioned above. Though I am Christian, I hve attended minion services (hope this is the right term) at the Temple Tom worships at and I have tried to be as observant and reverent as I would be at services at the church where I attend. A lot of the prayers Tom's temple prays, I've sung as anthems in various choirs. I respect his fellow worshippers ,again term, as I would worshippers in my home church or any church I visit in my travels. I wear a kipah that I received at my godson, Matt's bar mitzvah and address his rabbi and cantor with no less respect and authority as I would Pastors Haupt or Smith of my home church or any other man of God. Just as I know Tom would do the same should he ever visit where I worship for any reason. It all comes down to mutual respect even if there's a profound disagreement between the parties involved. It's there between Tom and me. It's something you can sense in our presence. It wasn't there for a lot of people in the Kerry campaign. It ultimately didn't keep me from voting for him but apparently it did for a fair number of people. It cost Kerry the presidency and it may ultimtely cost the country a great deal more. I feel that it is wrong to blame the Christians who responded to this insult whether correctly or incorrectly perceived any more than it woiuld be wrong to blame a dog that is being teased and or theatened from snapping at its threateners and the metaphor extends to wild animals, varmint pests, fish as well as to voters. To expand on it would just confuse the issue, but for now I say that before you blame Christians like myself,or any other griup for that matter for throwing the country into a morass from which we will possibly never escape, examine your own rhetoric and see if it acted as an unseen hand pushing the hands of voters to the side of George W. Bush, possibly even reluctantly so.
Again I dedicate this blog and its future posts to my good friend Tom Beck. May he and all those who read it accept my thoughts in good will and may their responses regardless of how contrary to my own they may be, be written in friendship and in a spirit of trying to understand each other's views. In the spirit of unity, let me close by saying three words that I know Tom and others will agree with:
"Drop the puck!!!!"