The River

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Kucinich Campaign Drops in on Georgia

So there I was, waiting in line to get Dennis Kucinich’s book signed by the man himself. It was a little before 8 on Tuesday night, Februrary 10. He’d come to Outwrite Books, an independent, gay-oriented bookstore in midtown Atlanta, to speak. It was his first stop in a whirlwind evening tour of the Southern capital. Later, he would talk at Georgia Tech, then move on to Eddie’s Attic, a bar/music venue in Decatur for an official campaign fund-raising event, and from there head to an after-party at the Apache Café downtown, a hip-hop, funk, soul, jazz, art space.

I had grabbed one of his books off of the display by the cash register and hustled over to the line. I wasn’t sure how much time he had to sign books. I admit that I’ve not read up on Dennis (or any other candidate) as much as I feel I should, but I’ve liked everything I have read, and I agree with a blogger who noted after a debate that he stood out as so very real and human. Part of this may have to do with the fact that I didn’t really want to know more, because I could already see that Dennis is the type of man we need as president and that Dennis will never BE president. So, according to this line of thought, the more I learned about this man of peace, the more I would hurt for a reality that will never be.

How very weak. But hey, if the man is going to pursue this campaign against incredible odds, I sure as hell was going to make an effort to get out there and support him when he came to my city. So I did. And I heard him speak, some 40 minutes or so after we were informed that Dennis, running late, had just arrived at Hartsfield International Airport. What an amazing man. He packs an enormous amount of heart and courage in his diminutive five-foot, six-inch frame. He speaks with the authority of someone who believes in themselves and their quest. There is no bombast, no stridency, but there is quiet power. People were hanging on every word, riveted. There was a lot of positive energy, joy even. A recognition that this man was there for us as a true and humble public servant.

Kucinich gave a 10- or 15-minute speech to the 60 or 70 people assembled, then opened it up for a pre-selected panel to ask him a few questions. He spoke on the moral imperative of universal health care. On education, he said we should provide preschool for 3-5-year-olds five days a week. He said children shouldn’t be tested so much so early and that their early education should emphasize the arts, music, etc., because we should encourage their natural creativity, which is how they learn best. He said K-12 is outdated, that we need to extend free, public education four more years.

Of course there were questions about gay marriage, and Kucinich called for a federal mandate recognizing that these unions -- and the rights conferred through them -- be universal for gay and straight alike. He called it a civil rights issue, and said leaving it up to the states was a mistake that engenders disharmony throughout the country.

He spoke about Palestine and Israel in response to questions from a young woman who identified herself as Rachel Corrie’s cousin. He said any discussion of a Palestinian state also needed to talk about International community aid to get Palestine to begin to have a functioning economy. He said we also need a meaningful commitment on both sides to stop violence. When he said “International” he paused to say “I don’t say ‘foreign.’ ”

Someone asked about legalizing marijuana. He said he’d never appoint a Czar of any type. “Nyet.” He said it was wrong that the FBI was getting involved in stopping the use of medical marijuana, that they should not be telling doctors what they can prescribe for their patients. And he said that our whole approach to drugs should shift from prosecution to treatment. After a few more questions from the audience, he finished his remarks with a simple statement: “I love you all.”

After the talk, as the line snaking through the coffee-shop-like seating area inched slowly toward Dennis, I wondered what I should say to the man. I decided to tell him I appreciated what he was doing, and that he was an inspiration. As he handed my book back, he said, “we inspire each other” and shook my hand.

We’ve never had a presidential candidate on this level. When this man talks of the human spirit – and it comes up regularly, naturally -- it’s not a platitude designed for crass appeal, it’s from the heart.


(coming up, part II, the Eddie's Attic fund raiser)

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