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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Saturday, July 20

Gapers Block

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The same exit polls that proved to be so unreliable on Election Day have "awakened" the news media to something: Americans care about "moral values," and Democrats cannot win on that issue.

The pundits have been repeating it ad nauseum: The Democrats are "out of touch" with mainstream America.

Well, I look around me, and the more I think about it, the more infuriating that immensely insulting sentiment becomes.

This is my Declaration of Independence from this top-heavy definition of morality and personal values. I angrily reject the notion that I and people like me have no moral center -- and I reject this attempt to marginalize the tens of millions of Americans who did not vote for the winner. If only that I could declare it with a dozen heads with a dozen mouths and a dozen brazen tongues.

Fifty-six million Americans voted for John Kerry. Does this make them all immoral? Does it mean they have no moral center? Because we live in cities, do we not count? Don't we work hard? Why is it that city and metropolitan suburb dwellers are considered non-"mainstream," are just shunted to the side while the moralists in the outlying areas and "red" states are lionized as the guardians of some morality we all lack?

Well, Chicagoans? Are you immoral? The media is defining morality by what the victors call morality. Our values suddenly do not matter. Our sense of community that sustains us is meaningless -- despite the fact that the tax dollars from our hard work subsidize massive pork projects in the "red" states. I refuse to allow cynical political operators to tell me what morals are.

And how about women? Fifty-one percent of women voted for John Kerry. Is it that they lack morals? Do they have no values? Do they lack morality? Should they and their issues be ignored by the media because they didn't vote for the winning team? Well, ladies? You are our mothers and sisters and daughters. You are disproportionately likely to live in poverty. You bear and raise the children that will be the producers of tomorrow. You are disproportionately represented in the industries of healthcare and education, arguably the two most important services of civilized society. Will you allow these people to call you valueless?

And Jewish Americans, who throughout the history of our nation have been the vanguard of civil and religious rights and have borne the brunt of bigotry and ignorance alongside so many others, voted for John Kerry by a 3 to 1 margin. Can we abide the mentality that defines them valueless?

African Americans gave John Kerry a 92 percent to 98 percent majority in their community. A group with a 500-year legacy of abuse and discrimination, that has survived only by a sense of community and perseverance. Are they immoral? In many neighborhoods in Chicago, you cannot go a block without passing a church. And in many of those churches, hard working men and women bow their heads in prayer to their Lord and Creator and ask for the strength to survive another day, week, month, year. They pray for their children and their neighbors. And by all indications, they voted for John Kerry in droves.

Near Central Avenue on Division Street, an area many locals call "Church Alley," storefront churches abound. The pastors of these churches look to the heavens for strength and demand kindness and compassion of their flock. They instruct them on how to build stronger families and live a life devoted to the tenets of their Savior. John Kerry won that ward by one of the largest margins in Chicago.

In Catholic parishes on the Southwest Side, men and women turn to each other and offer peace with bright eyes and willing hearts, and stay after services to help out around the church. These people delivered their votes to John Kerry by enormous margins.

Who dares look these people in the eye and tell them they do not regard values as important in their lives? And why are their values any less important than those of the voters in Red counties?

And move outward. To the suburban townships -- Schaumburg Township, one of the wealthiest in the state, populated by upper-middle class families with manicured lawns living in racially static subdivisions. Residents of Schaumburg dutifully attend Catholic and Lutheran churches in droves. Many of them attend Willow Creek, the largest church in North America, which boasts one of the most fervently devoted flocks in nation. These men and women delivered their township for John Kerry. Do they lack values? Are they not moral?

But church attendance is not the only gauge of morality and values. How you live and work and play in your community is the greatest test of those qualities.

In my neighborhood in Chicago, blue-collar white and Latino families live side-by-side with African-American seniors and young urban professionals. We greet each other warmly on the street. We pitch in during block parties. We watch out for the neighborhood kids on Halloween. Do we lack values? Are we immoral? Am I not concerned with basic human values? Are you, Chicago?

John Kerry won all but one county in Vermont. Is that one county the sole virtuous one, swimming in a sea of moral nihilism and debauchery? Do their values not count? Are they immoral?

Are the people of Massachusetts, who boast the lowest divorce rate in the nation and one of the highest church attendance records, immoral? Do they lack values? Are they unconcerned with a basic humanity and decency?

No. We are moral. We are principled. We have values we hold dear -- and we vote with our conscience for the candidates we feel represent our values:

We value compassion for our fellow man.
We value fair play.
We value respect.
We value honesty.
We value human life.
We value bold ideas.
We value even the most defenseless among us.
We value community.
We value the strongly held beliefs tempered by reason and compromise.
We value tolerance.
We value understanding.
We value work, not wealth.
We value diversity.

If this is what makes us the enemy, very well, but one loss does not demoralize us. We are not defeated. We are, in fact, inspired to fight another day for these values. But it is up to each of us to stop this slander that we lack values. No lagging. No self doubt. Principled resistance.

And never a step of retreat from these values.

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About the Author(s)

Ramsin Canon covers and works in politics in Chicago. If you have a tip, a borderline illegal leak, or a story that needs to be told, contact him at .

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