Monday, January 17, 2011

President Obama's Tucson Memorial Speech

(Credit: CBS)
TUCSON, Ariz. - There are the prepared remarks for delivery by President Barack Obama for the Memorial Service for the Victims of the Shooting in Tucson, Arizona.

"To the families of those we've lost; to all who called them friends; to the students of this university, the public servants gathered tonight, and the people of Tucson and Arizona: I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today, and will stand by you tomorrow.

There is nothing I can say that will fill the sudden hole torn in your hearts. But know this: the hopes of a nation are here tonight. We mourn with you for the fallen. We join you in your grief. And we add our faith to yours that Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other living victims of this tragedy pull through.

As Scripture tells us:

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.

On Saturday morning, Gabby, her staff, and many of her constituents gathered outside a supermarket to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and free speech. They were fulfilling a central tenet of the democracy envisioned by our founders - representatives of the people answering to their constituents, so as to carry their concerns to our nation's capital. Gabby called it "Congress on Your Corner" - just an updated version of government of and by and for the people.

That is the quintessentially American scene that was shattered by a gunman's bullets. And the six people who lost their lives on Saturday - they too represented what is best in America.

Judge John Roll served our legal system for nearly 40 years. A graduate of this university and its law school, Judge Roll was recommended for the federal bench by John McCain twenty years ago, appointed by President George H.W. Bush, and rose to become Arizona's chief federal judge. His colleagues described him as the hardest-working judge within the Ninth Circuit. He was on his way back from attending Mass, as he did every day, when he decided to stop by and say hi to his Representative. John is survived by his loving wife, Maureen, his three sons, and his five grandchildren.

George and Dorothy Morris - "Dot" to her friends - were high school sweethearts who got married and had two daughters. They did everything together, traveling the open road in their RV, enjoying what their friends called a 50-year honeymoon. Saturday morning, they went by the Safeway to hear what their Congresswoman had to say. When gunfire rang out, George, a former Marine, instinctively tried to shield his wife. Both were shot. Dot passed away.

A New Jersey native, Phyllis Schneck retired to Tucson to beat the snow. But in the summer, she would return East, where her world revolved around her 3 children, 7 grandchildren, and 2 year-old great-granddaughter. A gifted quilter, she'd often work under her favorite tree, or sometimes sew aprons with the logos of the Jets and the Giants to give out at the church where she volunteered. A Republican, she took a liking to Gabby, and wanted to get to know her better.

Dorwan and Mavy Stoddard grew up in Tucson together - about seventy years ago. They moved apart and started their own respective families, but after both were widowed they found their way back here, to, as one of Mavy's daughters put it, "be boyfriend and girlfriend again." When they weren't out on the road in their motor home, you could find them just up the road, helping folks in need at the Mountain Avenue Church of Christ. A retired construction worker, Dorwan spent his spare time fixing up the church along with their dog, Tux. His final act of selflessness was to dive on top of his wife, sacrificing his life for hers.

Everything Gabe Zimmerman did, he did with passion - but his true passion was people. As Gabby's outreach director, he made the cares of thousands of her constituents his own, seeing to it that seniors got the Medicare benefits they had earned, that veterans got the medals and care they deserved, that government was working for ordinary folks. He died doing what he loved - talking with people and seeing how he could help. Gabe is survived by his parents, Ross and Emily, his brother, Ben, and his fianc??©e, Kelly, who he planned to marry next year.

And then there is nine year-old Christina Taylor Green. Christina was an A student, a dancer, a gymnast, and a swimmer. She often proclaimed that she wanted to be the first woman to play in the major leagues, and as the only girl on her Little League team, no one put it past her. She showed an appreciation for life uncommon for a girl her age, and would remind her mother, "We are so blessed. We have the best life." And she'd pay those blessings back by participating in a charity that helped children who were less fortunate.

Our hearts are broken by their sudden passing. Our hearts are broken - and yet, our hearts also have reason for fullness.

Our hearts are full of hope and thanks for the 13 Americans who survived the shooting, including the congresswoman many of them went to see on Saturday. I have just come from the University Medical Center, just a mile from here, where our friend Gabby courageously fights to recover even as we speak. And I can tell you this - she knows we're here and she knows we love her and she knows that we will be rooting for her throughout what will be a difficult journey.

And our hearts are full of gratitude for those who saved others. We are grateful for Daniel Hernandez, a volunteer in Gabby's office who ran through the chaos to minister to his boss, tending to her wounds to keep her alive. We are grateful for the men who tackled the gunman as he stopped to reload. We are grateful for a petite 61 year-old, Patricia Maisch, who wrestled away the killer's ammunition, undoubtedly saving some lives. And we are grateful for the doctors and nurses and emergency medics who worked wonders to heal those who'd been hurt.

These men and women remind us that heroism is found not only on the fields of battle. They remind us that heroism does not require special training or physical strength. Heroism is here, all around us, in the hearts of so many of our fellow citizens, just waiting to be summoned - as it was on Saturday morning.

Their actions, their selflessness, also pose a challenge to each of us. It raises the question of what, beyond the prayers and expressions of concern, is required of us going forward. How can we honor the fallen? How can we be true to their memory?

You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations - to try to impose some order on the chaos, and make sense out of that which seems senseless. Already we've seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems. Much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.

But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized - at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do - it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, "when I looked for light, then came darkness." Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.

For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man's mind.

So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.

But what we can't do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.

After all, that's what most of us do when we lose someone in our family - especially if the loss is unexpected. We're shaken from our routines, and forced to look inward. We reflect on the past. Did we spend enough time with an aging parent, we wonder. Did we express our gratitude for all the sacrifices they made for us? Did we tell a spouse just how desperately we loved them, not just once in awhile but every single day?

So sudden loss causes us to look backward - but it also forces us to look forward, to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us. We may ask ourselves if we've shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives. Perhaps we question whether we are doing right by our children, or our community, and whether our priorities are in order. We recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame - but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others.

That process of reflection, of making sure we align our values with our actions - that, I believe, is what a tragedy like this requires. For those who were harmed, those who were killed - they are part of our family, an American family 300 million strong. We may not have known them personally, but we surely see ourselves in them. In George and Dot, in Dorwan and Mavy, we sense the abiding love we have for our own husbands, our own wives, our own life partners. Phyllis - she's our mom or grandma; Gabe our brother or son. In Judge Roll, we recognize not only a man who prized his family and doing his job well, but also a man who embodied America's fidelity to the law. In Gabby, we see a reflection of our public spiritedness, that desire to participate in that sometimes frustrating, sometimes contentious, but always necessary and never-ending process to form a more perfect union.

And in Christina we see all of our children. So curious, so trusting, so energetic and full of magic.

So deserving of our love.

And so deserving of our good example. If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let's make sure it's worthy of those we have lost. Let's make sure it's not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.

The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better in our private lives - to be better friends and neighbors, co-workers and parents. And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let's remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud. It should be because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other's ideas without questioning each other's love of country, and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American dream to future generations.

I believe we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved lives here - they help me believe. We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.

That's what I believe, in part because that's what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed. Imagine: here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation's future. She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us - we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations.

Christina was given to us on September 11th, 2001, one of 50 babies born that day to be pictured in a book called "Faces of Hope." On either side of her photo in that book were simple wishes for a child's life. "I hope you help those in need," read one. "I hope you know all of the words to the National Anthem and sing it with your hand over your heart. I hope you jump in rain puddles."

If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today. And here on Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit.

May God bless and keep those we've lost in restful and eternal peace. May He love and watch over the survivors. And may He bless the United States of America."

I say Amen

the rest of this post is a overview of this bolg's orifinal intention of celebrating what I belive is the essence of America as I see it.

Fellow Citizens, Comrades, Brothers and Sisters and Tribal Elders..
Forty years ago, immersed totally in a warm sunny August weekend, (1968) I was crawling on my belly like a reptile to escape the tear gas swirling like an ominous and poisonous cloud just inches above my head, (tear gas leaves you a few inches of wiggle room), as shouts and shots were in the air and pandemonium prevailed.

The enemy was attacking in their starched and neatly pressed, sardonically beautiful in the stark sunshine, all dressed up in their sky blue uniforms, buckled with heavy armament, and we were weaponless (except for our "righteous indignation"), but we were in charge in a peculiar way because we were fighting for a noble cause..we were fighting weaponless for Peace and Justice throughout our land and God was on our side.

Where was I engaged in this noble enterprise you might ask? I was in Chicago in 68 and we were resisting and protesting the erroneous or at least misguided gaggle of " citizens" that were gathered in a convention hall to nominate a candidate (a Can't i date, really), that "claimed" he was going to end that atrocious foreign war, as the Democratic Party was meeting behind closed doors, (closed to us), to nominate a man to hold our land’s so called highest office. I was in Grants Park those forty years ago and today after forty years in the wilderness, we finally (and with great satisfaction and tears of Joy,) are finally in the Promised Land, and, that once gassed and bloody Grant's Park was filled overflowing with nearly a million liberated citizens, and was again, the "Valley of Decision" for our proud and fragile nation.

President Barak Obama's acceptence speech

a personal testimony..

From now on it is America versus Babylon. Bush's Biblical Babylon was almost entrenched here and everywhere else in the world.

Robert Kennedy Jr. describing the Bush Pesidency and its "crimes against humanity. Robert Kennedy Jr Implies (directly) Bush a Fascist
by Tom Kertes
I went to a lecture by Robert Kennedy Jr. tonight. As he got started, I realized something. Perhaps is it not me who is moving to the mainstream - perhaps the mainstream is moving to me. I realized this as Robert Kennedy Jr. said the "F" word, the "M" word and the "H" word - all in the context of Bush, corporate power and American democracy.

Fascism. Mussolini. Hitler: Bush.

Kennedy did not say: Bush is a fascist. Instead he said (in sequence):

1. Fascists are corporate plunderers of the commons
2. Mussolini and Hitler were from the fringe radical right, and were irrelevant until corporations bolstered them
3. Bush is a corporate plunderer of the the commons

Read between the lines. The implication can't be mistaken. Kennedy called Bush a fascist, and the progressive Seattle audience clapped and roared approval. There were Congressmembers in the audience - it was a mainstream crowd that had paid money to hear Kennedy speak.

Kennedy sounded like man speaking at a radical rally. He talked of the extreme, radical, anti-democratic corporate powers that are destroying our nation - in economic, political and spiritual terms.

This is what we call a backlash. Vice President Gore says "police state" in a speech. Robert Kennedy Jr. implies Bush is a fascist, and I and other radicals are calling ourselves Democrats. Times have changed - and this was impossible to miss tonight. I felt at home, listening to a fiery speech about the defense of the republic in a mainstream setting, with a mainstream speaker, amongst a mainstream audience. Sure, we were progressives - but the words were radical. And lately more and more of the "sold-out Liberals" that I have been at odds with as a radical have been making sense to me.

Here is something in Salon on Kennedy's talk of fascism in America (emphasis added):

This week Kennedy declares war on this new "enemy within" -- the term his father applied to the Mafia lords who were subverting American politics, business and labor -- with a passionate, sweeping indictment of the Bush-sanctioned rape of our environment in the latest issue of Rolling Stone. Kennedy lays out in legal-brief detail how, under Bush, the federal agencies supposed to be guarding our air, water and natural resources have been systematically turned over to the industry foxes that are ravaging them. But the tone of his lengthy essay is far from lawyerly. Kennedy's original subtitle was "Corporate Fascism and the End of Nature."

Another source on Kennedy calling Bush fascist (

In the book, Kennedy implies that we live in a fascist country and that the Bush White House has learned key lessons from the Nazis.

"While communism is the control of business by government, fascism is the control of government by business," he writes. "My American Heritage Dictionary defines fascism as 'a system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership together with belligerent nationalism.' Sound familiar?"

He quotes Hitler's propaganda chief Herman Goerring: "It is always simply a matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

Kennedy then adds: "The White House has clearly grasped the lesson."

Kennedy also quotes Benito Mussolini's insight that "fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power."

"The biggest threat to American democracy is corporate power," Kennedy told us. "There is vogue in the White House to talk about the threat of big government. But since the beginning of our national history, our most visionary political leaders have warned the American public against the domination of government by corporate power. That warning is missing in the national debate right now. Because so much corporate money is going into politics, the Democratic Party itself has dropped the ball. They just quash discussion about the corrosive impact of excessive corporate power on American democracy."

Democracy is worth fighting for. It is a wonderful concept, and the American republic is worth keeping around for the next generations. I'm in - are you?

From now on everyone in the world is in the same "Valley of Decision", and we all have to make a decision where do we stand..with America (the New "reconstituted" America now..
or with the global specter that the Holy Bible calls.. "Babylon", the global evil counterfeit government that "was” slowly and methodically forming here, enveloping almost undetected, and still emerging abroad.
All enemies, I repeat ALL enemies, foreign and domestic, are now and forevermore, in God's spotlight, and we can see better now the outlines and intentions of "the enemy", and we together will win this war, no kidding!

Come join U.S., because we still have God on our side and we will prevail.

The 1968 Democratic National Convention of the U.S. Democratic Party was held at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago, Illinois,
from August 26 to August 29, 1968. The purpose of the Democratic National Convention was for the election of a suitable nominee to run as the Democratic Party’s choice for the post of President of the United States of America.
With events in the United States crashing against the American population faster and faster, 1968 quickly developed into a year of rage. All across America emotions ran high. Tensions peaked when two leaders, ones who had brought the promise of hope to a generation, were assassinated. A harsh blow came to the Civil Rights movement when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968,

but the night before he was gunned down he said this..

followed by the assassination of one of the anti-war movements hopefuls, Robert F. Kennedy on June 5/6 (shot early morning of June 5th, died 26 hours later),

Part Two..the audio recordiing amalysis of multiple gunshots (13)..more shots than the investigation admitted.

an interesting investigation concludes that CIA agents were involved in Robert Kennedy's assasination. Parts 1 & 2

1968. The Democratic convention received a great deal of media attention because of the number of demonstrators and the use of force by the Chicago police during what was supposed to be, as named by Yippie activist organizers, “A Festival of Life.” The rioting, which took place between demonstrators and the Chicago Police Department and the Illinois National Guard, was publicized by the mass media, some of whose members experienced firsthand what the protestors at Chicago suffered. Well respected newsmen of the day, Mike Wallace and Dan Rather, were both roughed up by the Chicago police inside the halls of the Democratic Convention.
The Youth International Party, whose members were commonly called Yippies, was a highly theatrical and anti-authoritarian political party established in the United States in 1967. An offshoot of the free speech and anti-war movements of the 1960s, the Yippies presented a more radically youth-oriented and countercultural alternative to those movements. They employed theatrical gestures—such as advancing a pig ("Pigasus the Immortal") as a candidate for President in 1968—to mock the social status quo. They have been described as a highly theatrical youth movement of “symbolic politics.”
Since they were better known for street theatre and politically-themed pranks, many of the "old school" political left either ignored or denounced them. "The group was known for street theater pranks and was once referred to as the 'Groucho Marxists'."

In 1967, the Yippie movement had already begun planning a youth festival in Chicago to coincide with the Democratic National Convention. They were not alone; other groups, such as Students For a Democratic Society and the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, also made their presence known. When asked about anti-war demonstrators, Daley kept repeating to reporters that “No thousands will come to our city and take over our streets, or city, our convention.” In the end, 10,000 demonstrators came to Chicago for the convention where they were met by 23,000 police and National Guardsmen. Daley also thought that one way to prevent demonstrators from coming to Chicago was to refuse to grant permits which would allow for people to protest legally.
After the violence which took place at the Chicago convention, Daley claimed as his main reason for calling in so many Guardsmen and police was that he had received intelligence that there were going to be plots to assassinate many of the leaders, including himself. He played on the fears of the American people after John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas

The secret Service is ordered to "Stand Down" therefore removing Kennedy's rear protection.

The Zapruder film, computer enhanced, to show more clearly the gunshot from the "front"(up on the hill,the grassy knoll) of the Kennedy motorcade.

LBJ's mistress confesses that LBJ was involved in Kennedy's assasination.

this is a taped confession of E. Howard Hunt claimiing again the LBJ was deeply involved in Kennedy's assasination

as a means of legitimizing his calling of the Guard and the use of force in Chicago. Daley knew that playing on the American fear of assassination was an ideal way to ensure that he would have the sympathy of the American public on his side.
While several protests took place before serious violence occurred, the demonstrations headed by the Yippies were not without comedy. Surrounded by reporters on August 23, 1968, Jerry Rubin, a Yippie leader, and other activists held their own presidential nominating convention with their candidate Pigasus, an actual pig. When the Yippies paraded Pigasus at the Civic Center, ten policemen arrested Rubin, Pigasus, and six others. This resulted in Pigasus becoming a media hit.

August 28, 1968 came to be known as the day a “police riot” took place. The title of “police riot” came out of the Walker Report, which amassed a great deal of information and eyewitness accounts to determine what actually happened in Chicago. At approximately 3:30 p.m., a young boy lowered the American flag at a legal rally taking place at Grant Park. The rally was made up of 10, 000 protestors. The police broke through the crowd and began beating the boy, while the crowd pelted the police with food, rocks, bags of urine, and chunks of concrete. The biggest clash in Chicago took place that day. Police fought with the protestors and vice versa. The chants of the protestors shifted from “Hell no, we won’t go” to “Pigs are whores.” Tom Hayden, one of the leaders of Students for a Democratic Society, encouraged protestors to move out of the park to ensure that if they were to be tear gassed, the whole city would be tear gassed, and made sure that if blood were spilled in Chicago it would happen throughout the city. The amount of tear gas used to suppress the protestors was so great that it eventually made it’s way to the Hilton Hotel where it disturbed Hubert Humphrey while in his shower. The police were taunted by the protestors with chants of “Kill, kill, kill.” They sprayed demonstrators and bystanders indiscriminately with Mace. [What was to become the most famous picture of the Chicago demonstrations of 1968 was the police assault in front of the Hilton Hotel. The entire event took place under the T.V. lights for seventeen minutes, live, with the crowd shouting, “The whole world is watching.” Meanwhile, in the convention hall, Connecticut Senator Abraham Ribicoff used his nominating speech for George McGovern to tell of the violence going on outside the convention hall, saying that “with George McGovern we wouldn’t have Gestapo tactics on the streets of Chicago.” Mayor Daley responded to his remark with something that the T.V. sound was not able to pick up, but was later revealed by lip-readers that Daley had cursed “Fuck you, you Jew son of a bitch you lousy motherfucker go home.” That night, NBC News had been switching back and forth between the demonstrators being beaten by the police to the festivities over Humphrey’s victory in the convention hall. It was under the cameras of the convention center, for all of America to see; it was abundantly clear that the Democratic party was sorely divided. After the Chicago protests, the demonstrators were certain that the majority of Americans would side with them over what had happened in Chicago, especially when looking at how the police had acted. In the end, however, they were shocked to see that as unpopular as the war in Vietnam had become, the anti-war movement was hated even more. Daley claimed to have received 135,000 letters supporting his actions and only 5000 condemning them. Public opinion polls demonstrated that the majority of Americans supported the Mayor’s tactics.

40 years later...


By Robert C. Koehler
Tribune Media Services

It had already been a long day for me, and for the country, when I rode the train downtown to Grant Park on the night of Nov. 4. History was crowding against my thoughts — my car was full of joyful, youthful, rock-the-vote noise — as I looked out the window into the Chicago night and saw a bright orange (papaya-colored, really) quarter moon hovering over the horizon, beautiful and strange beyond reckoning.

I had never seen anything quite like it and was shaken with a sense of wonder: Where am I? Am I dreaming?

Later that night I heard a young man from Illinois — our new president-elect — say: “ America is a place where all things are possible.”

I had to listen to him on a giant screen set up in the park a few blocks north of where he was actually speaking, along with several hundred thousand or a million others. All I know is that the crowd was enormous, raucous, loud, young, diverse (but Chicago crowds always are) and wildly excited. A cheer surged in the night, one of many, and suddenly I was drenched from behind with . . . maybe it was water, maybe it was champagne, but probably it was just lite beer.

By then the speaker was telling us how we had overcome fear and cynicism to put our hands on the arc (I say Ark Dene) of history “and bend it once more (I say carry it once more) toward the hope of a better day” and for a flickering moment I felt drenched with enthusiasm as well as beer. Yes we did, by God. This was the cry of the night — yes, we did! We worked hard, we Americans, to get to this moment beneath the papaya-colored moon and the hovering helicopters. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt the raw energy of hope so palpably.

The next morning — a few hours ago as I write this — a friend left me a phone message: “I feel as though we’ve gotten our country back.”

I feel this too. I just don’t know what it means.

My joy (and relief) that Barack Obama prevailed in this election is enormous — certainly the size of last night’s crowd — but there’s a deeper joy here as well, and an accompanying sense of dread.

“ America is a place where all things are possible.” That’s the problem. Thus 135 million people can turn out on a golden (and in some places rainy) fall day to vote, to put their hands on the arc of history, but a few million more can be purged from the voting rolls before the day began. Indeed, an unknown number of voters or would-be voters ran into problems that sometimes prevented them from voting and — mainly because of the terrifying uncertainty of electronic voting — may not have had their votes counted at all, or not counted as they were cast.

Obama won — his landslide was too big to be denied. But I urge that we not be complacent or smug about this dream we call democracy, because it is a fragile dream: that principled cooperation will hold its own in the arena of history with the naked struggle for power and control. This will only happen when citizenship means being more concerned with the fairness of the electoral process than with who wins. In other words, Barack Obama’s victory over John McCain on Nov. 4 was less important than the growth and strength, or lack thereof, of democracy itself.

The fair-elections movement may be the most important democratic development of the last eight years. Our “freedom” isn’t taken for granted with quite the complacent arrogance — even by the media — that it used to be. And the infrastructure of fair elections, independent of partisan politics, is growing.

Before I went down to Grant Park, I spent most of Election Day hanging out at the Chicago office of the law firm DLA Piper, which provided pro bono space for the Election Protection Hotline volunteers giving help to voters in this part of the Midwest, mostly in Illinois and Indiana. Some 80 volunteers here were on phones helping voters with problems large and small from 6 a.m. till the polls’ closing 13 or so hours later. Nationally, Election Protection Hotline fielded 79,343 calls for help or assistance; around 2,500 came in to the Chicago call center.

The most serious problems were from voters whose names weren’t listed on the rolls in their precinct; who were being wrongly (in Illinois ) required by judges to show identification; and who reported unduly long lines caused by machine malfunction and other problems. The array of potential troubles was formidable. An Indianapolis woman, for instance, called the hotline to report that she’d been told that her early vote hadn’t counted because the judge failed to initial her ballot; she needed to revote. This she did, but she feared many others either didn’t get that call or would have been unable to do so.

Still, this is a day to celebrate both Obama’s victory and the huge outpouring of voters who wanted to have a say in this election. I saw long, snaking lines everywhere in Chicago on Tuesday, and I’m sure that was the case across the country. Election Day — Democracy Day — isn’t a national holiday (yet) but it felt like one.

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Robert Koehler, an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist, is an editor at Tribune Media Services and nationally syndicated writer. You can respond to this column at or visit his Web site at

© 2008 Tribune Media Services, Inc.