NORTHAMPTON, MA (Elizabeth R. Albertson) June 15, 2001 - In response to Adam's query about what to say to those who don't understand why we care about the coup, I thought I'd share some of my personal understandings and tactics.
One practical lesson I've learned is that I cannot possibly sum up every single wrong done by the coup in ordinary conversation, or as a brief answer. If I try, I'm vague, or I blither. Instead of trying to cover everything, I've taken to using the example of the wrongful purge of voters from the rolls in Florida as a prime example. It is clear-cut, it is substantiated, and it is not very well known.
At the D.C. Voter March, my brother and I stayed with a friend from high school who works in the city. When she parroted what the media said; recent recounts said Bush won; I shot back with the fact that various results from were obtained using various methods, but the papers put "Bush Still Won" in the headlines. I then mentioned the Choice Point voter purge scandal, which cost Gore thousands of votes. She'd never heard about it. She's a liberal woman, socially aware and working at a non-profit, but because she'd never gone online to look for the real deal, she was in the dark about this injustice. Specifics like that can be more effective than slogans like "Bush is illegitimate" or "Bush stole the election," even though those are true. And if you pick a single event about which you are well-informed, and whose facts you can keep in your head, then you can begin the process of refuting the party line recited by the mainstream media, and place doubt in the minds of the open-minded.
If people have never heard about the voter purge, the intimidation of voters, the disabled voting machines, the lack of polling places, the lack of translators at polls, the protest by Republican congressional aides in Miami-Dade, then they may well not understand why we won't get over it. Telling them about these events may make them understand your feelings. On the other hand, if they do know such things happened, and still don't care, then they may be unreachable.
Another thing to understand, or to say, is that our anger, our passion for justice, isn't about Gore. I've had people, including my father, say to me that Bush should not have come close enough to steal the election, that Gore botched his campaign. I've mentioned this myself. I'm no strategist, and they may well be right, although Monday morning quarterbacking is always easy. But that isn't the point. That a close election was necessary in order for Bush and Co. to enact a coup is not anywhere near as vital as the fact that they *did* enact a coup. And while larger margins of victory might preclude the machinations that took place last fall from being effective again, I don't believe the coup conspirators or their ilk will necessarily stop there in the future. Throughout the drawn-out saga, I continued to be in disbelief that Bush's cronies were getting away with the things they were saying and doing. They were shameless. The only limit on what they will stoop to is what we won't let them get away with. And if we "move on" and "get over it," we have let them get away with deliberately subverting the will of the American people. I would say it would get worse, but that is already bad enough.
You don't have to be a die-hard Gore fan to be against the coup. You don't have to be a liberal, or even a Democrat. You have to know what went on, believe it was wrong, and think that it matters; and you have to have the fighting spirit to maintain those convictions. I wasn't a tremendous Gore fan before the election, although I did think that Bush made Gore look like President Bartlett by comparison. It wasn't and isn't about the man on the ticket who got screwed; it's about the American people who got screwed, about the principles of democracy and fairness that were rent and torn. After Gore conceded, I wrote a piece about how I would keep fighting, because as a young disabled non-rich woman, I had more to lose from a Bush presidency than he did.
But as the Diva said, it isn't just about me. When my mother went down to Alabama to spend a year registering black voters in the 1960s, it wasn't because her rights had been violated. It wasn't because she was a victim of injustice. It was because injustice had happened, was happening, and she had compassion for her fellow human beings, her fellow Americans. My mother recently dug up copies of an old mimeographed newsletter that she and another civil rights worker had put out; "Primitive internet," I said.
In one issue, a black woman named Carsella wrote about how my mother and her friend had been called by God to do His work. She wrote, "The Lord said, 'Well, I need a white girl and a white boy to go search this place in Alabama for me,'" and went on to describe how God couldn't find them in Alabama or Mississippi, and so went to Rhode Island. She said that there He found the son of a minister, "a boy who had been brought up to believe every man was created equal" as well as my mother, a banker's daughter.
My mother is no longer religious, and I never was. But if you or your questioners are, then maybe that is another way to explain to them why you care what happened in Florida and elsewhere. If you can't dismiss injustice because it wasn't done in your neighborhood, or your state, or to people of your race or class, tell them that, whether that is religiously informed for you or not. (CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE)
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YESTERDAY: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS II