Monday, August 30, 2004

Veterans of all wars

I've never been much impressed with John Kerry, though if I lived in a swing state I would certainly be planning to vote for him (if Bush is anywhere close to winning Vermont, then Kerry will have bigger problems than me not voting for him).

I've seen enough politicians speaking at trade-union events to have a sense of how good politicians connect with working people. They don't speak in broad platitudes; they speak to us about the concrete, material struggles of our daily lives: health care, jobs, pensions, our children's schools. They speak in a way that demonstrates that they understand what it's actually like to have to balance a family budget. They propose solutions that are bold, universal, and make sense, not half-measures that reform some tiny corners of systemic problems without pissing anyone off. Needless to say, John Kerry, who I imagine has never had to sweep a floor, clean a grease trap, run a plastic-molding machine or answer a phone call from an irate customer in his life, does not do this.

But last weekend, while staying at the house of a friend who has cable, I was impressed with a Kerry speech for the first time: on CNN, I saw a rebroadcast of his speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Clearly, these are Kerry's people. He spoke to veterans about concrete, material struggles — not only being under fire while serving, but being denied adequate medical care by their country when they returned. His promises were not tinkering with the system, his promises were universal - ALL veterans will get high-quality medical care, ALL veterans will get adeuqate pensions. I saw tears in the eyes of the VFW commanders standing behind him. For the first time in this election, I thought maybe George Bush is in trouble.

I just wish Kerry would at least campaign on a program that addresses the concrete struggles of those of us who keep the floor clean, the food cooking, the machines running (I'm beyond hoping for a politician who might actually ENACT such a program). Veterans aren't the only Americans who have fought to defend (or establish) democracy. I want high-quality health care and retirement security for:

every woman who has lost a chance at promotion (or her job) for pursuing a sexual-harassment claim;

every one of the ten thousand workers in the U.S. who are fired every year for trying to organize a union;

and the victims of the 1979 Greensboro Massacre (and their families), shot by Klansmen who were colluding with FBI and police to disrupt a civil-rights march.

And while I'm at it, I want everyone to read this analysis of the bickering between the campaigns about military service: Dogfight: the Gendered Degeneration of Politics, written by veteran Stan Goff.


Anonymous said...

"beset phalli"? (in the Stan Goff piece)

plasticdoc said...
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