I've been away in a place where news doesn't dominate the day and mind. It's always a relief. What strikes me upon my return each year is how little has changed which makes one wonder why we need all this 24-7 noise. Being away from it all, really away, also gives you some perspective. Looking ahead as we move into the pre-election summer, we find ourselves in a kind of suspended animation. Those of us who have been troubled about where the country has been heading in these last years wonder if other Americans, those who seem to be asleep on the sidelines, are going to finally awake from their slumber and, more importantly what action they will take? None of us really knows, but I have some anecdotal evidence that the tide may be turning.
Marty (that's not his real name) is behind the cold meat and prepared food counter at one of my favorite Upper West Side specialty shops. He has been a fixture there for years and has long been dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country. Four years ago the name Bill Bradley appeared on his paper service hat. Marty favored the former New Jersey Senator and wanted everyone to know it. He was relentless and long after Al Gore won the nomination, Marty still stood his ground. Bill Bradley was the man and his name remained on his hat. It's still there, but significantly now below the name John Kerry. Marty's hoping Bradley will get a shot at the Vice Presidency. Regardless, he wants Bush out, and in that regard knows he must get behind Kerry regardless of his beloved Bill's fortunes. But here is the punch line. I discovered the other day that all this time Marty has been a talking, not a doing, activist when he declared, "I am going to vote for the first time in thirty years." Marty has been a closet sideliner, but that will end with this November. One vote, but somehow I suspect he's not alone.
Bob (also not his real name) is a sharp guy with a distinguished high level business career including sometime abroad. Like many of his peers, he's been voting Republican pretty consistently over the years and the two of us, good friends, have long accepted each other's different politics. Bob has voted Republican, but not this year. I think his disillusionment began with the economy, but it probably crystallized with the way in which George W. Bush and company have been systematically dismantling generations of international cooperation, have mucked up the war on terrorism and have ill advisedly opened a hornets nest in Iraq. Bob is not someone who takes these things lightly. He's also a reader and this year he has been reading a multitude of devastating books by insiders who know what's really going on down there in and about 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Bob is pissed (I can use that word now since the Vice President has lifted the bleep rule). Unlike Marty, he always votes and this year, like him, it will be for John Kerry. Perhaps he won't be attending any rallies and won't switch his affiliation, but the GOP has lost him this time around. I suspect he's not alone either.
And then there is Michael. The lines to see Fahrenheit 911 even in places you'd least expect it have been astounding. I'm going today as a kind of Independence Day celebration. Sure much of the audience is made up of the already committed, but I think film may constitute more than preaching to the convinced. Like Marty, a lot those people who profess unhappiness with the status quo never moved themselves to the polls. People do go to movies and do watch television, both of which have big influences on their thinking, and their doing. Just consider the powerful role of advertising on purchases. Michael Moore may just stimulate enough of the heretofore talkers rather than doers like Marty, to pull some levers this fall. He may even convince some more Bobs.
Marty, Bob and Michael. Perhaps I'm dreaming, but think of the possibilities. Happy 4th and best wishes for what's our America too.