The morning after the 2004 election, I found myself out on my front lawn pulling up signs for Kerry/ Edwards and weeping into the cold, whipping wind.
I confess my thoughts went to another mad person on the heath, King Lear. Like this character from the famous Shakesperian tragedy, I felt utterly helpless. And I wondered: What will it take for my fellow American citizens finally to say: "Enough is enough?"
Can anyone who calls him/herself a "values" voter look at the values of the Bush administration — where John Murtha, a decorated combat veteran who dares to challenge the stale, unprofitable "stay-the-course" rhetoric, is labeled a "cut-and-run" coward?
Can any fiscal conservative look at the burgeoning deficit, a deficit fed monthly by more than a billion tax dollars going to Iraq, without fear?
Can any "small government" conservative look at a federal bureaucracy that is one-third larger than it was under Bill Clinton — yet still unable to address a natural disaster with organization and skill, let alone compassion — and still buy what this administration is selling?
And then there is the issue of safety — the cudgel this administration has wielded so effectively for so long, by jumping up and down and shouting "9/11" so often that even that sacred date has been corrupted by cynical politics.
Far from making us — or Israel — safer, the war in Iraq has, by the administration's own intelligence agencies' estimates, bred far more terrorists than it has killed. And by empowering Iran and giving it the gift of regional hegemony, this administration has made an already lawless neighborhood infinitely more perilous, especially for Israel, the Iranian president's favorite target.
And therefore I wonder, have we finally reached the saturation point? If so, there is a simple thing each one of us can do: Send a strong, unequivocal message to Washington that it's time for a change.
Fortunately, alternatives do exist to all the Bush-supporting incumbents around the country.
One such challenger is Patrick Murphy, who is running in the 8th Congressional District that takes up much of Bucks County. Murphy brings us the gift of both his passion and his experience as a man who stands for profound change. He is a bronze-star veteran who served one tour of duty in Bosnia and another as a member of the 82nd Airborne in Iraq. So when he talks about the futility and bungling of the latter war, he knows firsthand of what he speaks.
Like other Democrats, he's a staunch supporter of Israel, and as a military man, he understands to his core Israel's duty of self-defense. His goal is to make Israel and America safer by removing the ticking time bomb that the war in Iraq has become from the hands both of the terrorists and of Iran.
He and other Democrats stood with the Jewish community of Bucks County this past summer when we rallied to support Israel during her time of need. And he mourned with us when we came together just a week afterward to mark the loss of Michael Levin, a young Bucks County resident who perished in Lebanon serving Israel, the country he loved. Perhaps more than anyone else present in the sanctuary that night, Murphy understood the sacrifice and commitment required to go to war. And he is committed to giving Israel the support — financial, moral and political — she needs to survive and flourish.
In our region and our state, we have other worthy messengers of change who are Democrats, most especially Joe Sestak, Lois Murphy and senatorial candidate Bob Casey.
These people have entered this race in the spirit of real public service.
By bringing their intelligence, their compassion, their experience — and, of course, their commitment to Israel — to Congress, they can help all of us begin, little by little, to affect the change our country so clearly needs.
Which, in a strange way, brings me back to King Lear.
Lear learned too late that choosing the wrong people to run his kingdom only brought him to ruin. Perhaps we, too, have finally learned that costly lesson — and how to correct it.
Susan Strom, a resident of Bucks County, is an instructor of English at Rider University.