Kerry had a 7:30 a.m. Town Hall at Yokem’s Restaurant in Portsmouth. Portsmouth was an hour away, and I had trouble finding Yokem’s. Although it was five degrees below zero, Dean supporters were holding signs at a corner. I asked for directions.
I arrived a half hour late to Kerry’s Town Meeting. There were only about 100 people in a space that could hold 150. It was easy to sidle my way towards Kerry.
I had missed his opening speech, and he was now answering questions. I learned that his support of the Kyoto Treaty was contingent on correcting flaws in the Treaty, flaws that would allow less developed nations to repeat all the polluting mistakes of America’s past. I learned that his campaign was run by women, and that his selection of a Supreme Court Judge was predicated on that Justice’s support of a woman’s right to choose. I learned that he would create jobs by rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, and that Americans deserved to trust their water. I learned that he would bring the power of the internet to all of rural America. I learned that he was committed to affordable housing, and raising the wages of America’s working poor. Then, to my surprise, he called on me. I gave the following speech.
“Senator Kerry, yesterday in Nashua, you said something fantastic, something I’ve never heard from any Presidential candidate. You said that there were over 70,000 synthetic chemicals used in American society today, but that only 6,000 had been properly tested. Every two days more Americans die of cancer than died in 9/11. Cancer is the terrorist that all Americans live with and have experienced.
“Now, let me make this segue. I am a self-employed organic farmer because I am dedicated to avoiding the chemicals that I believe are killing so many Americans. I also believe that the right to be one’s own boss is as fundamental to freedom in this society as free speech, or the right to privacy. There are over 20 million self-employed people in this country. We should not be the highest taxed, most regulatory burdened, least protected Americans. Please speak for the self-employed, because it is small business and the self-employed that are least likely to lay a heavy hand on their communities or the environment. Thank you.”
Kerry responded by saying that he would work to coordinate the FDA and EPA in testing synthetic chemicals. He wanted a healthcare system dedicated not only to cures, but to prevention and wellness. As for the self-employed, he did speak for them, because his healthcare plan included a 50% tax credit for small business and the self-employed.
The questions ended. Kerry concluded, “We’re going to trust the American people with the truth, and have a different conversation in this country.”
An aide to a New Hampshire legislator approached me. She told me that I’d spoken very well. Many of her friends had died of cancer. She had no idea that so few synthetic chemicals had been tested. She also knew how hard it was to be self-employed. The Self-Employment Tax was way too high.
Drove to an 11:30 Dean Town Meeting at the Palace Theater in Manchester.
Once again the event was packed. Martin Sheen came on stage and recited a gorgeous poem about how the power of creation was tied to truth. Sheen then introduced Dean and his wife Judy. She thanked the people of New Hampshire for all they’d given her husband.
As Dean gave his speech, I listened for the phrase “small business and self-employed”. Early on, I was rewarded. Dean spoke of creating jobs in this country. “Small business and the self-employed need incentives. Small business and the self-employed need health insurance, less paperwork, and capital.”
Dean had gotten my message. I didn’t need to birddog him anymore. Now, I only hoped that he’d tell his media people to add the word “self-employed” to his TV commercial that promoted his support of small business.
I drove to Eco’s Cafe House, 15 minutes away in Merrimack, to hear Kucinich speak at 1:30. There were about 30 people in the small vegetarian restaurant; five were local reporters. I didn’t go to birddog Kucinich, simply to hear his words.
Kucinich gave a short, intense, and intimate speech about the war in Iraq. The ordinariness of the war frightened him. The American people were becoming complacent about the death toll. The United States absolutely had to get out now. The nation couldn’t get out fast enough. The Administration had already extended the stay of the troops. The draft was coming. Iraq was like the elephant in the living room, and the elephant had the word “WAR” written on it. Morality was on the line, truth was on the line, democracy was on the line. There had never been any weapons of mass destruction. The war had been for oil, he had never doubted it. He was running for peace.
After Kucinich answered questions, I asked him to sign my “No War” New Years card. As he signed it, he remarked that it was beautiful. I thanked him for working so hard to keep my son from becoming cannon fodder.