Sometimes, when I'm bored or frustrated, I take a little time to practice my rhetoric and polemic. I think to myself, in a perfect world, what would my ideal political candidate say in a speech? And then, because I'm me and not someone sensible, I waste an hour of my life writing that speech. As Vaulting has said (even today) "You have some weird hobbies." And so, without further ado, a political speech by no-one and to everyone, promising the world and asking for patience.
*Our hero, the POLITICIAN enters STAGE RIGHT. S/he stands at the podium before a crowd.
POLITICIAN: When soon-to-be president John F. Kennedy took to the podium in 1960, he spoke about a “new frontier,” and also about the old one. On a July night, he stood in Los Angeles accepting the Democratic Party's nomination for the presidential candidacy, and he tapped into something beautiful and something brutal, something that at once spoke of the proud age of the country and of its future: the very myth of America.
*The POLITICIAN pauses, then continues.
POLITICIAN: He said:
“I stand tonight facing west on the what was once the last frontier. From the lands that stretch 3000 miles behind me, the pioneers of old gave up their safety, their comfort and sometimes their lives to build a new world here in the West.”
He called upon all Americans, who he said “stand today on the edge of a new frontier... a frontier of unknown opportunities and paths, a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats... For the harsh facts of the matter are that we stand on this frontier at a turning point in history.”
He was talking about the long and sometimes regretfully executed “twilight struggle” of the cold war. For Kennedy the forces that posed the danger were external. The forces of communism. The forces of dictatorship. The forces of despotism.
*The POLITICIAN looks meaningfully at the crowd, and continues.
POLITICIAN: But today we stand on a different precipice. We stand at another turning point.
Today there are two visions of the West fighting for supremacy. On the one hand we have fear, and we have greed, and we have the relentless individualism that characterizes not only “what's mine is mine” but also “might makes right”. We have the idea that we don't owe anyone anything because we did it all ourselves, on our own.
On the other hand we have an older, more dignified vision of the American Dream. We have the America of the last century that said to the world with open arms, send us your tired and poor, send us your huddled masses yearning to be free. Give them to us, because they are like us. Give them to us so that we might help.
For Kennedy, the forces that posed the danger were external. But today things are different.
Today the new frontier we must bravely face is inside ourselves. Today the new frontier is one of compassion. Compassion for those less fortunate than ourselves. Compassion for the sick, the old, the tired, the unemployed. Compassion for a broken America yearning to be fixed.
And we can fix it.
But it can't be done in half-measures. We can't just put a patch on things and say “that'll do”. We've done that too many times of late. Fixing America isn't something that can be done overnight. It isn't something that can be done with a single bill or a single election.
Kennedy was asking America to gear up for a long twilight struggle, and so am I. But this isn't a struggle that can be won with backdoor deals and tradecraft, not with guns and not with fear. Today I'm asking you to settle into the trenches and fight for the restoration of a Compassionate America. An America that sets the bar higher for what its citizens can expect. An America that treats the downtrodden with respect. An America that asks more of itself. An America filled with good, honest, hard-working Americans that says with open arms to each other and to the world, we're in this together.
*The AUDIENCE breaks into applause, and the POLITICIAN puts up a placating hand before delivering a final line.
POLITICIAN: It's time to face that new frontier. Let's do it together.
*There is much APPLAUSE and also HEAD SCRATCHING.
*EXEUNT OMNES, pursued by A BEAR.
It's been a long day.