This is What Democracy Looks Like
August 31, 2004
By Mark Drolette
I have some good news to report: Democracy is not yet dead in America.
Try as they might, George Bush and pals have not quite hammered
into place the final nail of the Constitution's coffin.
There was a march in New York City on Sunday. People, signs, puppets,
banners, music, costumes, shouting, cheering, dancing - it was all
there. I heard no official crowd size estimates during the day,
but judging by the three hours I spent watching the proceedings
on C-SPAN, here's my best guess: Lots.
The First Amendment was fully on display, and it was a grand and
glorious thing. The streets of the Big Apple were full of the usual
suspects who appear at such events: Americans. Old ones, young ones,
white ones, black ones, brown ones, gay ones, straight ones... but
best of all, all patriotic ones.
It must have pretty disheartening to the ideologues in charge
of the GOP. No doubt Dubya himself was safely ensconced in his usual
truth-averting bubble in which his handlers have always kept him,
but the handlers themselves surely noticed the goings-on.
And naturally, when they are asked, they will grit their teeth,
give their best little tight-lipped smiles, and dutifully report:
"Ah, yes, Paula/Brit/Sean/Bill, this is what America is all about,"
all the while knowing in their dark little shriveled hearts (or
the balls of ugly black muscle where their hearts used to be) there
are obviously a lot of citizens out there who have done a little
independent thinking over the last few months and years.
Folks who think for themselves pose the greatest danger to the
Bushies, whose number one concern is control: control the image,
message, and environment. The Bush White House is like a giant information
transmogrification machine - something goes in, gets an extremist
makeover, and emerges looking nothing like the original (sort of
like Michael Jackson). Anyone deemed the least bit likely to upset
the communication applecart is highly unwelcome. Just ask Richard
Clarke, Paul O'Neill, or Joe Wilson.
This paranoia now even touches everyday citizens who attend personal
appearances by Dick Cheney and the Bubble Bush, manifesting itself
in the form of loyalty oaths people are required to sign before
being allowed to enter such events.
That's right, loyalty oaths. Steve Larese of the Boston Globe
reports that on July 31 in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, "several people
who showed up [to attend a Cheney speech] complained about being
asked to sign endorsement forms [for Bush]." Larese also writes
that 64-year-old Nick Lucy "was turned away from a May 7 rally in
Dubuque, Iowa, at which President Bush spoke." Lucy "was denied
access because he is not a registered Republican," and though no
one requested he sign an oath, the police were summoned to remove
him from the premises.
Republican National Committee spokesman Yier Shi, according to
Larese, explains logically that "everyone is welcome at the rallies
as long as they support President Bush." I guess you really couldn't
get more American than that - that is, if you're talking about the
old separate-but-equal parts of America where everybody was welcome
to sit in the front of the bus or at the counter as long as they
It's not just someone's party affiliation or refusal to swear
fealty to the imcumbent and his sinister sidekick that gets the
GOP all in a dither at its wing-dings; apparently, apparel appears
able to also activate apoplexy.
The Saginaw News (Michigan) reports Marvin, Barbara, and
Theresa Miller were evicted from Saginaw's Wendler Arena while awaiting
a speech there by Bush. It seems Barbara "had carried in a rolled
up T-shirt emblazoned with a pro-choice slogan." She explained to
the News she uses the shirt for running, hadn't pondered
the garment's wording, and had only brought it to put on in case
she got cold.
That mattered little to the campaign worker who took it from her,
stating: "We don't accept any pro-choice, non-Republican paraphernalia."
Sheer confiscation wasn't enough for the young man, however, because,
obviously feeling his newly-unleashed power, he returned later with
a couple other folks and, after charging the Millers with "smuggling
in T-shirts," gave them the old heave-ho. (I'm so out of touch:
I honestly had no idea the black market T-shirt gig at GOP rallies
was so huge.)
Defending the Millers' inglorious ejection, a mouthpiece - er,
sorry - spokeswoman for Bush, Jennifer Millerwise, said, "These
events are put on for people of an open mind who are interested
in hearing (Bush's) positive message and his vision for a future."
She didn't specify, but by "open mind" I assume she means those
who have had their craniums lifted and brains sucked out.
Meanwhile, over in Missouri, the John Kerry/John Edwards train
tour in early August stopped in Sedalia, where no oaths were required
and, thumbing a nose at Republican sartorial sensitivities, people
could wear whatever they damn well wanted. It still didn't prevent
some right-leaning locals from heckling the Democratic ticket and
their wives who accompanied them.
Perhaps some were just leaning, period, as the Globe's Patrick
Healy reports, "one woman swore at [Kerry] and then added, 'I hate
you!'" Inside the train later, an unperturbed Kerry said, "She was
so drunk. Did you see how drunk she was?" Upon reading this, I had
a flash and thought it could actually explain a lot of things many
of us have wondered about Bush supporters for a long time.
Say what you will about Kerry and the Democrats (and I know a
lot of what can be said 'cause I've said a lot of it myself), but
at least they're not picking and choosing what Americans they'll
address or get near. The Bush administration from day one, starting
with its furtive national energy policy meetings right on into the
present, has embraced secrecy with an ardor that would make even
Dick Nixon envious. Access is allowed only to those on a need-to-know
and want-to-pay basis, even including at rallies and speeches. The
Constitution, transparent government, and the American people themselves
I've honestly wondered if Bush has ever even read the Constitution.
His incuriosity is no secret. His arrogance is obvious, and he wears
his religiosity on his sleeve as if it were some sort of bona fide
substitute for real humility. He gives no indication of understanding
that, by law, he works for us and not the other way around; on the
contrary, his remarks and actions show he clearly luxuriates in
his power, from his issuing of extensive executive orders to declaring
American citizens "enemy combatants."
And then, of course, there is the ever-present matter of his ineloquent
speech (which really is an undeserved maligning of ineloquence).
The very few times he has stepped outside of his safe havens he
has always exposed himself for the malapropism machine he is. But
it's not only his embarrassing misspeaking that is eye-popping and
ear-crunching, it's also his startling lack of knowledge about things
a man in his position simply must know. (His "answer" to a question
about "tribal sovereignty" at the recent Unity Journalists of Color
Convention was, even for Bush, astounding - and I don't mean that
in a good way.) Hence, the super-protective field around him.
Having been so shielded from the very beginning of his presidency,
I think it's a safe bet to say he truly is unaware of how much he
is despised around the world and in his very own country. Because
Bush's inner circle (his "praetorian guard," O'Neill called it in
Ron Suskind's book The Price of Loyalty) has been largely
successful in isolating him from hearing almost any opposition to
his screwy ideas, Bush almost assuredly would have been surprised
to read (or have read to him) the signs at Sunday's uplifting march
in New York City: "The True Patriot Act: Dump Bush," "Quagmire Accomplished,"
"Neither Compassionate Nor Conservative," "Re-Defeat Bush." I'm
sure "Let's Start a Democracy" and, my favorite, "Let's Evolve Already,"
would have gone right by him, too.
It doesn't matter anymore, though, what Bush or any of his henchpersons
think. They've taken their best shot at keeping their dirty deeds
private and burying our rights, and they've failed - miserably.
Pulsating throngs of Americans proved Sunday they know what democracy
is all about, and they demonstrated it proudly and peaceably. There's
more of that energy and power to come, and on November 2, it will
concentrate and sweep George Bush and his rotten crew right out
of the White House. Dubya will have plenty of time then to catch
up on the Constitution if he is so inclined.
In addition to all of the signs held aloft and various activities
taking place during the march, there were, of course, plenty of
chants. The following call-and-response sums up best, had Bush somehow
mistakenly been allowed by his watchers to take a peek, exactly
what was on full display Sunday in America's streets:
"Show me what democracy looks like!
"This is what democracy looks like!"