Saturday, January 29, 2005

Vote or Die Then and Now

As a schoolgirl, History was one of my favorite subjects. Important events seemed to belong to a remote past or mysterious places far from the camera’s eye, such as Tudor England (one of my favorite eras to study) or Communist Russia. At campaign stops I had shaken hands with Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, which at the time seemed pretty special but not as momentous as appearing in the onstage audience for the forgettable TV show Get It Together, hosted by Sam Riddle and Mama Cass Elliot.

By the time I reached high school, my perspective and priorities matured, thank God. On the day he left office after resigning, President Nixon landed at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, where my brother Richard and I were among a loyal crowd welcoming him home en route to the Western White House in San Clemente. There I truly felt like a witness to living history. Thirty years later, the closed MCAS El Toro, now destined to become a park, is one of five American polling sites for Iraqis who want to vote in the first free election ever held in their homeland this historic weekend.

In our 2004 election, Vote or Die was an irresponsibly deceptive slogan intended to scare draft-aged Americans all the way to ballot box. In the last Iraqi election, Vote or Die summarized the only real options available. Consequently Saddam Hussein was re-elected unanimously with nearly 100% voter turnout.

Americans have grown complacent and apathetic about democracy, resulting in depressed voter turnout. An embarrassingly large percentage cannot be bothered to read the voter guides mailed to their homes, drive to their neighborhood polling place or request an absentee ballot. Meanwhile, millions in Afghanistan and Iraq who never experienced self-government bravely confront threats delivered via bombs and grenades, guns and knives, by terrorists sending an unmistakable message: Vote and Die.

Tomorrow a new Iraq will be born and already the cynical, the arrogant and the frivolous among the pundit class are prepared to renounce it as the bastard child of George W. Bush. Many of these same pseudo-experts are chronically on the wrong side of history. Like major league baseball players, their batting averages should be posted onscreen under their names.

When the Berlin Wall fell, Americans immediately recognized the historic significance and for a time were united in our common response. When the World Trade Center fell, Americans immediately recognized the historic significance and for a time were united in our common response. Before the fall of Hanoi, generations of Americans were known for their steely resolve.

History textbooks will record the names of the Fathers of Iraqi Freedom: Bush, Allawi, Blair, Franks, Bremer, et al. I hope, I pray, that the first National Assembly of Iraq is populated by patriots blessed with a determination and love of country that surpasses all national, regional and personal obstacles.

History textbooks will note the numbers but not the names of all the Angels of Freedom who made the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of liberty at home and the spread of liberty abroad. I hope, I pray, that their spirit lives long in the hearts of the Iraqi Soldiers of Freedom who march tomorrow into the future of their own making.

Let freedom ring.

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