What was he, then? Was he a defender of the Republic? A champion of the people? A hero for justice? Perhaps he was all of them. We will be hearing these phrases monotonously for some time to come. Frankly, they are more meaningful in their hollow worthlessness.
I would like to think Wellstone would have been the first to point out that seven other people were on that plane with him, and that their lives were no less valuable than his own. There is an incredible amount of prestige and power that comes with a high political office in the United States. But Paul Wellstone, I believe, knew (as all political leaders should know) that those who lost their lives with him were not working for him, but that he was working for them. For all citizens of this country.
Few Americans, and even fewer politicians, think in such terms these days. Few Americans now remember that until the birth of this nation, the only true equalizer in human affairs was death. Slaves, servants and serfs all died. But so did the nobles, lords, princes, kings and queens.
Everyone died, and until 1776, that was about the most equitable state of affairs a person could hope for. No matter how rich you were, no matter how much blue blood was coursing through your system, no matter how many people you held at your command, you could be certain that death was waiting for you at the end.
Since the founding of this country, however, a new equalizing force has entered into the affairs of humanity. It is the belief that all citizens of a country should have an equal voice in their government. It find its most dramatic expression in the right of all citizens to vote.
That is why the act of voting is the closest thing our nation has to a state-sponsored religious ritual. It seems logical that it should be regarded as sacred, considering that voting rivals only death in granting equality to the citizens of this country.
Wellstone was not a martyr. In a nation where each citizen has a voice in his or her government, martyrs are unnecessary. Wellstone was certainly a hero, but only so far as he protected the welfare of the people he represented.
If you believe that tribute is due to such a magnanimous spirit, then pay your respects in the currency that Wellstone used: service to your community. Follow current events, and vote. Write letters to the editor, and vote. Join volunteer organizations, and vote. Pick up litter, and vote. Demand corporate responsibility, and vote. Demand a more sensible energy policy, and vote. Demand a return of civil liberties, and vote.
Oppose a war, and vote.