As the American political landscape begins to morph into something resembling the crowd at a John Birch revival, or a hanging, it is reassuring to be able to draw upon the recent past to realize that hope remains that our ship can be righted and we may once again thrive in a spirit and environment of human decency.
Michael Dukakis is one of this harbingers of that misplaced decency - a man who has survived this awfulness of national ignorance before and is holding high his torch to again lead us out of this wasteland of hate, and bigotry, and unprecedented government intrusion into our private lives.
Dukakis is a former governor of Massachusetts and the 1988 Democratic presidential candidate. He lost the election in 1988 after his opponent, George W. Bush, unleashed an overtly racist "Willie Horton"attack ad. Bush won that race, and he would now like to be remembered as a statesman.
But it was Dukakis who was the real statesman, and it was Dukakis, a man who had lived a life that was as foreign to the Bushes as the notion of working for a living, who best understood the principles upon which America was based.
Michael Dukakis has a featured article in the current issue of STAND, the quarterly publication of the American Civil Liberties Union. In that piece entitled "Why I'm a Card-Carrying Member," the former governor recalls his early days working as a volunteer for the ACLU. That experience came during his college days while America was undergoing the "Red Scare" and the machinations of Senator Joe McCarthy, a time not wholly unlike what we are currently experiencing. He stresses why the ACLU was an important bulwark for freedom during that time of political and social darkness, and obviously why it is equally important today.
He summed up his article with these words:
"And true to its mission, the ACLU once again is on the firing line, ensuring that Americans of all colors and beliefs have the rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution of the United States, speaking out and speaking up for the values and ideals that are America at its best."
Unlike Michael Dukakis, I am not a lifetime card-carrying member of the ACLU, but over the years I have often been a member - and I am today. I am proud to stand with the membership of the ACLU in their constant and unswerving effort to uphold the safeguards and guarantees of the Constitution, and to remind myself and others of the values that it enshrines.