"In that this will be my last
column before the presidential election, there will be no sarcasm,
no attempts at witty repartee. The topic is too serious, and
the stakes are too high.
This November we will vote in the
only election during our lifetime that will truly matter. Because
America is at a once-in-a-generation crossroads, more than an
election hangs in the balance. Down one path lies retreat, abdication
and a reign of ambivalence. Down the other lies a nation that
is aware of its past and accepts the daunting obligation its
future demands. If we choose poorly, the consequences will echo
through the next 50 years of history. If we, in a spasm of frustration,
turn out the current occupant of the White House, the message
to the world and ourselves will be two-fold.
First, we will reject the notion that
America can do big things.
Once a nation that tamed a frontier,
stood down the Nazis and stood upon the moon, we will announce
to the world that bringing democracy to the Middle East is too
big of a task for us. But more significantly, we will signal
to future presidents that as voters, we are unwilling to tackle
difficult challenges, preferring caution to boldness, embracing
the mediocrity that has characterized other civilizations. The
defeat of President Bush will send a chilling message to future
presidents who may need to make difficult, yet unpopular decisions.
America has always been a nation that rises to the demands of
history regardless of the costs or appeal. If we turn away from
that legacy, we turn away from who we are.
Second, we inform every terrorist
organization on the globe that the lesson of Somalia was well
learned. In Somalia we showed terrorists that you don't need
to defeat America on the battlefield when you can defeat them
in the newsroom. They learned that a wounded America can become
a defeated America.
Twenty-four-hour news stations and
daily tracing polls will do the heavy lifting, turning a cut
into a fatal blow. Except that Iraq is Somalia times 10. The
election of John Kerry will serve notice to every terrorist
in every cave that the soft underbelly of American power is
the timidity of American voters. Terrorists will know that a
steady stream of grizzly photos for CNN is all you need to break
the will of the American people. Our own self-doubt will take
it from there. Bin Laden will recognize that he can topple any
American administration without setting foot on the homeland.
It is said that America's W.W.II generation
is its 'greatest generation'. But my greatest fear is that it
will become known as America's 'last generation.' Born in the
bleakness of the Great Depression and hardened in the fire of
WW II, they may be the last American generation that understands
the meaning of duty, honor and sacrifice. It is difficult to
admit, but I know these terms are spoken with only hollow detachment
by many (but not all) in my generation. Too many citizens today
mistake 'living in America' as 'being an American.' But America
has always been more of an idea than a place. When you sign
on, you do more than buy real estate. You accept a set of values
This November, my generation, which
has been absent too long, must grasp the obligation that comes
with being an American, or fade into the oblivion they may deserve.
I believe that 100 years from now
historians will look back at the election of 2004 and see it
as the decisive election of our century. Depending on the outcome,
they will describe it as the moment America joined the ranks
of ordinary nations; or they will describe it as the moment
the prodigal sons and daughters of the greatest generation accepted
their burden as caretakers of the City on the Hill."