When President Bush won a second term, I felt a crushing realization -- it was my fault. I (and the rest of us on my side) hadn't done enough. We hadn't spoken up enough in favor of our side, we hadn't convinced the American people we were right.
I vowed never to sit on my hands again.
So then came Obama's 2008 election, and I was all over it, on the streets, knocking on doors, making phone calls. And so were thousands of others, pushing for what we wanted, making sure we left no stone unturned.
And I guess victory has a way of making us lazy . . .
After the horrible shooting in Arizona yesterday, there is a righteous and understandable call to "tone down the rhetoric." The hatred and anger pouring out of the Tea Party meetings and demonstrations, especially leading up to the health care reform vote, were shocking to many of us. But the question I come back to now is: Where was the other side of the issue during all of those months? Where was I?
I know where I was. Sitting at home, watching Internet video news in my pajamas. Sitting on my hands.
Those of us who participated in Obama’s inspiring presidential campaign of 2008 learned about the value of making your voice heard. But once our man got in office, we sat back and waited for him to do all the work. And when he wasn’t successful, we threw up our hands and said, "See, he’s just another weak Democrat," gesturing angrily at our computer screens from the privacy and security of our homes. And when we heard the vitriol coming from the Tea Party activists, we similarly shook our heads and denounced them -- in our living rooms.
I'm sure there were people -- maybe even some that are Daily Kos readers -- that did get up and speak out, and to you I say THANK YOU. But there wasn't a movement, there wasn't a big, visible response. We didn't push back against the vitriol by showing support for health care reform.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a whole society to make a democracy.
I feel a sliver of responsibility for allowing the vitriol and hatred coming from the Tea Party to go unanswered. Because I didn’t come together with the millions of people who supported the health care reform bill, to make our voices heard and tell the other side of the story, the Tea Party activities were allowed free reign on the media and a big boost of support that helped the Democrats lose control of the House.
In other words, to some degree, because I didn’t stand up for what I believed in – not in a loud enough, committed enough, and convincing enough way – Rep. Giffords had a bullet slice through her brain.
Yes, we should tone down the rhetoric. But we should also get up off our couches, put our feet to the pavement, and speak up for what we believe. Rep. Giffords made her voice heard, over and over, standing by her support of health care reform despite threats and vandalism. If we truly want to honor her, if we want a vigil to recognize her public service and her tragedy, we should emulate her by standing up to the bullies of our society.
Many politicians are calling this moment a "wake up call," and they are right.