liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

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Blast from the Past: The Boston Brahmin

Waaaaaay back in May I wrote an insanely long essay on why I was voting for John Kerry which, for some bizarre reason, I called The Boston Brahmin in His Natural Habitat: A Field Guide (Or Why John Kerry).

I have a feeling that it was in response to the popular press meme that John Kerry was way too stiff to be persident or some such bullshit.

So, just to do a final campaign push in my corner of the LJ universe, I'm re-printing the essay here.

The Boston Brahmin in His Natural Habitat: A Field Guide (Or Why John Kerry)

Today, I am powerfully reminded that my government has gone insane. Like I needed to be reminded between the 9-11 Commission, Richard Clarke’s book, John Ashcroft, pictures from Iraq, BBC reporting, and the odious “Defense of Marriage Amendment.”

The point is, even during the last election I suspected that Bushies the Sequel were insane, but when you don’t have people shooting at you and you don’t have the international community hating you, you figure, “How much damage can they do?” Voting for Ralph Nader seemed like a harmless way to protest. I wasn’t in a swing state. Massachusetts was going for Al Gore.

I now have a lesson in, “Yes, your vote counts.”

Problem is, the votes that counted (or rather, miscounted) were in Florida, which by coincidence happened to have Jeb Bush, the brother of our current Embarrassment-in-Chief as governor, and our president was elected by Supreme Court fiat. If this were another country, the U.S. would be insisting on sending election observers to investigate whether the election was fair.

Really, don’t bother. I think most of us know the answer to this question: No. It wasn’t fair. It reeked like dead fish. Especially when you consider how many people--people who had every right to vote--were purged from the voter roles and discovered the day of the election that they weren’t allowed to vote.

I am grateful to our friends not now inside U.S. borders for understanding a simple thing: the government (at least right now) is not us. It’s not for us and it’s not by us. So far, unless you’re one of the many reservists who are stuck in a war zone getting shot at, no one is blaming Joe Average Citizen for Bush’s actions. Although they are mystified why we impeached a president for lying about a blowjob but we haven’t impeached a president for lying about something that resulted in thousands of people getting killed and maimed in a very ugly occupation.

Don’t feel bad. I’m mystified myself.

But if we elect Bush in November, that means “the people have spoken” and that we, as a nation of citizens, are in fact behind the Insane Klowne Posse now holding the reigns of government. If that happens? Well, all hell will break loose.

And truthfully, could you blame the other countries if they banded together under those circumstances and decided that a safer world means a very much weaker U.S.?

Fuck no. We’ve gone rogue. And we all know what happens to rogue elephants, don’t we?

In the face of this, I feel I must make a case for John Kerry. I suspect that there are a significant number of U.S. citizens on my FList who have reached the conclusion that there’s no way in hell that John Kerry could possibly do worse than the current administration. Let’s be blunt here: There are Amazon Grey Parrots who’ve never heard of John Locke who’d do a better job running the U.S. government.

But I want us to move beyond the Anyone But Bush (ABB) mindset. Instead of a vote against Bush, I want to tell you why you should vote for John Kerry.

So I, your humble correspondent, am going to make an argument on very unusual grounds.

I will provide you with a field guide to the Boston Brahmin.

Why? Because a common complaint I hear against John Kerry is that he’s cold. He doesn’t act like there’s a fire under his ass. He tries to reason with people instead of hitting them emotionally. He’s not going on the attack (although I understand that in swing states the political ads are insane on both sides).

The thing you have to understand is this: John Kerry is a Boston Brahmin. This is a very odd breed, one that stretches back to the Mayflower. For these folks, public service in government is not the ends, it is noblisse oblige. It’s something you do to give back because that’s what you do when you have so much. Public service is public service, not a way to gather power in your hands and beat people over the head with it.

And it is expected that all of us should do something in the way of public service, in the Brahmin’s worldview. JFK telling us that it’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country is pure Brahminsim all the way.

In an era where the government refuses to demand sacrifices of the citizenry, refuses to acknowledge its faults, and tosses reservists in over their heads in war zones where they’re hated because they’re the invaders (and definitely not viewed as liberators), this speech would never fly today. In fact, ol’ JFK would be tarred and feathered for suggesting such a thing.

Brahminism is simply out of vogue. It is a quaint tradition that meant something before we was all fat and happy in the Promised Land.

But to me, this means something, something very important. There are still many Boston Brahmins here in New England. We deal with them all the time. William Weld, a Republican who was generally a good egg when he was governor, falls into this breed. It should be noted that he resigned from being a U.S. Attorney because he was disgusted with Ed Meese back in the Regan administration. (Ahhhh, who’da thunk I’d miss ol’ Ronnie…). John Kerry is the same generation and same breed as Weld. Earlier generations include JFK (as noted), William Wadsworth, John and Abigail Adams, and that ultimate Brahmin before there were Brahmins, John Winthrop, first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

That reserve. That dislike for pandering down to the LCD. That insistence that We the People are better than our base emotions and will respond to reason…It's so ingrained in the Boston Brahmins that it's like a code etched in the DNA. They don’t understand, in fact they seem downright confused, when people don’t quite follow why they hate press stunts (or the equivalent back before photo ops existed). Hell, Thomas Jefferson back in the day didn't always get it when he interacted with on-again-off-again buddy John Adams, so that has to tell you something. But Jefferson understood the importance of what he didn’t understand just the same.

Some of that reserve is (and I'll be the first to admit it) that Boston Brahmins think they're better than the public spectacle that is a populist election, that's true. But then again, if you got the talent, you probably are. The Adamses (John and Quincy) are cut from this cloth. JFK was cut from this cloth. Kerry is formed from the same cloth. Weld is from this cloth. It's a thing.

But the other part of that off-putting nature, is that the Boston Brahmin thinks we should all be better than this. I think somewhere inside, everyone in the Mayflower crowd, whatever their political stripe, probably thinks, "For Christ's sake, people! Read the newspapers, listen to NPR, and take books out of the damn library! Let's try for a civil conversation over dinner for once!"

This understanding of the breed is perhaps encoded in the New England DNA, just as Brahminism is perhaps encoded in the Brahmins themselves. We recognize them instinctually. They know their place in society. We put them there because we expect them to live up to their promise and ideals. This transcends politics. It transcends party lines. The Boston Brahmin simply is and we here in New England love them for it, hate them for it, and will elect them for it every single time.

Because we get this: even if we don’t agree with them, we understand that they’ll do their duty. We expect no less.

The problem is, the Boston Brahmin is very much misunderstood once he leaves his habitat. It has brought down many a man in the post-JFK years. I feel this might be a sticking point for John Kerry in the battle for the hearts of the undecided voter.

So what of our current Boston Brahmin of note and his cold Blue Blood? What of him?

In the case of John Kerry, I will say this:

As senator from Massachusetts he’s done all right by us. Some have called him wishy-washy. Geeze, work in the halls of the government as long as he has and I’d be worried if he didn’t change his mind over the years. Some have said he voted against bills or for bills he shouldn’t. Passing a bill is not a straightforward thing. A lot of ugly things get shoved into the fine print that make some legislators squeemish. I’ve looked at some of those Kerry votes that I found a little questionable and guess what? I found fine print that made me glad he voted the way he did. They say he’s not “politically pure” (whatever the hell that means) and he’s willing to cut deals across the aisle. Well, DUH! Politician. You gotta give if you’re gonna get. That holds true in any walk of life.

And frankly, there’s nothing in Kerry’s public life, whether as a someone serving in Vietnam (unlike just about everyone in the current administration), protesting Vietnam, or as someone involved in governance that even comes close to the way George Bush and his Machiavelli Karl Rove has sold us out to the neocons and fundamentalist wackos.

In the end, given his track record and given his generally happy representation for Massachusetts, I conclude that, by and large, Kerry has done the best job he can in representing his constituents in a representative government where good government means making compromises. That he has tried to follow his conscience as a civil leader (first and foremost), and any personal or religious feelings on the matter take a back seat.

Somehow, in all the mud slinging, I think this gets lost with one-issue voters.

I worry. My man John is smart, but he's got the Boston Brahmin mojo through-and-through with the Mayflower in the bloodline and the Ivy League in his education. Thing is, I think people from Massachusetts get that cold Blue Blood because we understand what it means: public face, public service, but behind closed doors, he probably listens to the Dead or Phish while firing up a doobie. Well, everyone in the state was pretty sure fellow Brahmin Weld did, so it's not a big stretch for me to think Kerry has done it in his day.

John Wintrhop, the source of all Boston Brahmins and an ancestor of John Kerry, once called Boston “The shining City on the Hill.” That means something. It resonates even now in the heart of this New Englander. It’s an ideal. That we are better than our base natures. It is a belief in justice for all. It is a sense of hope that all people are created equal and, given the chance, can take hold of liberated life and better themselves. That shining City on the Hill represents all we, as U.S. citizens, should be. We may not quite get there, but it’s not in the winning, it’s in the striving.

I look around and these days, not even Boston can lay claim to the title. Will voting for Kerry get us there? Most definitely not. Brahmin he is, but he’s also a guy with his flaws and foibles. Even if he gets elected, I’m fairly certain that within a week we’ll be bewailing our fate that we elected such a man. Well, bitching is the national pastime. Watch this space for Dave Barry to start his countdown on “The Failed Kerry Presidency” within 24 hours.

But if we keep Bush in office, I’m dead certain that the Shining City on the Hill will be burned to the ground and the earth salted while all we can do is watch in horror and wonder what We the People did to deserve this.

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