This is an email I received from my friend John. It was so good I asked him if I could post it here in its entirety.
Friends and family,
As you might imagine, it's been a very rough day for me as I'm sure it has been for some or most of you. I think most of you know that I and some others here bought plane tickets and hotel rooms to work for the volunteer effort in Florida, and my feet were still aching from the hard work on the streets when the gut punch came this morning. I had to put my feelings in writing to get rid of them, and I thought I'd share in case they either give some voice to your own feelings or spark a kind of productive response. If there's anything controversial here, I mean it all to be the foundation of change for good. And I still love the idea of America. But today, for practical purposes, I'll take Sweden, the deeply flawed (and not without shitty Prime Ministers) United Kingdom, or even the utterly dreaded Canada until we can get our house in order. However, emigration/work permit constraints will probably keep me fighting from within for a while. Now, the editorial . . .
As I think through and try to comprehend the circumstances of the election, I am constantly reminded of what I count as the most offensive thing ever said to me. Someone I work with once asked me what religion I was, and I replied that I don't have one. His incredulous response was "well then, where do you get your morals from?" Of course it was a stupid, poorly considered comment, it should have vanished into the air. But I've carried it with me for years. I think about it at least once a week. You might think I'm very lucky if that's the worst I've ever heard, and you're right. But it has provided a way for me to understand a kind of person that is completely unlike me.
The fact is, this person was probably as offended by my part in the conversation. I certainly could see the shock in his eyes - and yet I had said nothing to question him at all. For people who count on an organized religion to keep their fabric from unraveling, I guess there is a very deep threat implied by a way of life that finds moral guidance from within as opposed to without.
I don't mean to criticize organized religion as a whole; many great people find many very valuable - and essential - gifts in their church. But where religious belief is equated with moral certitude, there are problems.
On balance, George Bush was re-elected by millions of people who stared John Kerry in the eye and saw the threat that I've described. It is quickly coming out in the exit poll data that these were the folks responsible for the record turnout as much as voters driven to the polls by George Bush's willful arrogance and incompetence. They won. We have to accept that the democracy has spoken louder than ever, and fair enough.
As I've said, where religious belief is equated with moral certitude, there are problems - chief among them the neat substitution of belief for behavior. I hate nothing more than that. Now, these people have voted a man into office who has sent people to their death on a bed of bald lies, who has mortgaged the country's financial future beyond all comprehension, and who has made plain his goal for a feudalist society where the poor are to be fed with scraps from the rich - so best provide the rich with enough to have some left over. His disrespect for his peers is appalling. The cross is his prop, but his behavior is as un-Christian as they come.
My morals come from within; I write my own commandments by simply acting the ways I think are right. And these people have committed the cardinal sin: endorsing belief over behavior, even when the difference is clear as day.
After 9/11, this is the 2nd saddest day of my life. Yes, again, I'm very lucky, but here's why I'm crushed: I have quietly loved the heartland for most of my life. The salt of the earth, the real Americans - the talk, the music, the tractors and horseshoes and ballgames and casseroles. And that will go on. But there was always an undercurrent of moral menace that I had to ignore, and I can't any longer. I believe in the essential goodness of people, the benefit of the doubt, a kindess extended until abused. But where love is betrayed, hatred comes to stay, and this is the way I feel today. I hate these people, and I suspect they have always hated me. They are sitting out there in the heartland - with plenty of wonderful innocents - leaching poison into the ground, and they have ruined it. I hate them, and I can't bear what that means.
It means I could not hold back the tears today, and I have finally found the words that go with them:
I don't love my country anymore. Some day, I would like it back.