BOSTON -- Yesterday I went to a progressive convention in Boston attended by presidential candidates Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich, Tom Hayden (one of the Chicago eight and a masterful journalist), Medea Benjamin (founder of Code Pink), Granny D (who walked across the country at a ripe old age talking sensibly to people), congresswoman Barbara Lee, and others. Afterwards I made my way to the Fleet Center to watch balloons fall from the ceiling after Kerry gave his speech.
I was impressed with certain aspects of Kerry's speech. He made a few jokes. He acted like a rock star, pointing at the crowd and throwing big thumbs up to everyone. In the made-for-TV star-studded gala that is a National Convention, John Kerry played his role well.
I lost some of the wind fom my sails when he said, 'I will build a stronger military. We will add 40,000 active duty troops...'
For some crazy reason the passionate, excited speeches of Kucinich and Dean, earlier in the day, had convinced me that Kerry might take a stand for peace. Then the biographical video of John Kerry, shown half an hour before the speech, said: 'The [Vietnam] war was a mistake. John was the one who had the courage to say it.'
Yes! I thought. He is going to have the courage to say that the Iraq war was a mistake, that he made a mistake in voting for the war, and that he would promise an exit strategy.
During the progressive convention certain pacifist heroes of mine threw their weight behind Kerry. As Kucinich said, 'We are going to make John Kerry the next President of the United States.'
In the 2000 election, too many progressives were too idealistic and utopian, not stopping to see the realities of what their vote means. In this election, the stakes are high, and we do not have the choices we would like. Neither candidate is promising peace.
Laura Blubaugh, national organizer of the Kucinich delegates to the National Convention, said the 'different opinions and issues expressed by Kucinich delegates are something that will eventually strengthen Kerry and the Democratic Party.'
That is the key. Unity is not conformity. Unity, as expressed by Kucinich, means a diversity of opinions. That means continuing to speak one's mind is important and necessary. 'We are giving [Kerry] a mandate that he better pay attention to,' said Tom Hayden.
Unity behind John Kerry does not mean that we should not question his stand on issues. Unity means that we are working with him, to show him that he needs to find the courage, once again, to admit this war is wrong. It means showing him that universal, single-payer healthcare is the only option if, as he says, '[Healthcare] is a right for all Americans.'
Dr. Jim Zogby, founder and president of the Arab American Institute, spoke at the progressive convention about supporting Kerry. He said that there are those who believe it has to get worse before it gets better and those who believe it has to keep getting better, a little at a time. 'It's now about the only real choice we have and it's between George W. Bush and John Kerry. We have to make America better, even if it's only a little better.'
I cheered Kerry last night in the crowd at the Fleet Center. I allowed myself to be a prop, waiving a sign. I danced when they played, 'Celebration' as Edwards and Kerry flashed smiles and waved.
However, the progressive convention helped me realize that when Kerry is elected President of the United States, my work will not be done. As Medea Benjamin said: 'We all need to work together to make sure [Kerry] pulls troops out of Iraq.' Further, we all need to continue fighting for the things that matter: education, the environment, social services, etc.
The Kerry inauguration won't be the time to relax, it will be the starting point for progressives throughout the country to start rebuilding and recreating the parts of America that were stolen and destroyed during the presidency of George W. Bush.
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