Woodland Drive in the City of Fairfax is a quiet, suburban neighborhood, with children riding bikes in the street, people walking their dogs and raking their leaves, enjoying a crisp, early fall afternoon.
The unity of this neighborhood, however, is being tested by the political signs in support of George Bush and John Kerry that dot many lawns.
“George Bush brought honor and dignity back to the White House after Bill Clinton disgraced it,” said Dwain Foltz. “John Kerry’s nuts. He’s a liar and you just can’t trust him,” Foltz said.
A lifelong Republican, Foltz's choice to support Bush wasn’t difficult. “If you watched the debates, Bush sounded and looked like a president. He was firm and decisive, he’s presidential,” he said.
There are “thousands of reasons” why Foltz doesn’t like Kerry.
“He’ll make a mess of Iraq. Plus, being a practicing Catholic, I think Kerry should be excommunicated. He’s come out with his views on abortion and stem-cell research, and it goes against what the Pope says. … It’s unacceptable.”
If Kerry is elected, Foltz said, “there’ll be a split in this country in the future. Any logical thinking person can see that.”
Across the street, Carlos Laguna also posted a Bush/Cheney sign in his front yard.
“There are several points that I like about Bush,” Laguna said. “I like how he’s handled terrorism. He’s been a strong leader about it. I believe his domestic policies are right. He’s right to want a small government and to give power back to the people."
Half a block up the street, on the corner of Woodland Drive and Maple Avenue, a Kerry/Edwards sign sits on the lawn of Douglas Stewart’s home.
“This country’s gone in the wrong direction under Bush, and his administration has led this country in the wrong way on every possible front,” he said. “They make huge mistakes that make it more difficult for the average person to prosper.”
Stewart said he supports Kerry’s environmental policies, adding that they “couldn’t be more different from Bush in that respect. He’s voted right in the Senate for the environment. He has a good understanding of the energy policy,” he said.
“The Bush administration has shown the most irresponsible kind of leadership toward the future, accumulating hundreds of billions of dollars in debt that my son will have to pay,” Stewart said.
Kathy Uphaus, who lives kitty-cornered across the street from Foltz, has a Kerry/Edwards sign on her front lawn that she got from a friend in Oregon.
“My husband is a foreign service officer, and we’ve spent a great deal of the past 30 years overseas in underdeveloped, mostly Muslim countries. Bush’s foreign policy is all wrong. … Frankly, it’s more a vote against Bush. Anyone would be a better leader than him,” she said.
“Kerry thinks about things. He responds to changing circumstances. He’s nuanced. He’s willing to think about things and talk to people. There’s an intellect there, “ Uphaus said.
BEFORE LOOKING at differences in candidates, the neighbors did agree on two things: Iraq and terrorism will continue to be the biggest challenge to whoever wins the election; and they hope this election will not be anything like the debacle of 2000.
But that’s where the unity ends.
“There are lots of mistakes Bush made that I don’t know about because we were in Bangladesh when 9/11 happened and when he invaded Iraq,” Uphaus said. “We watched him fumble one thing after another.”
“Kerry said a beautiful thing during one of the debates,” Foltz said. “He said, ‘I am a lawyer.’ I said to myself, thank God, let the American people see. You can’t trust this guy, and Edwards is the same way.”
“It’s not that I dislike Kerry, I do not like Hillary Clinton,” Laguna said with a laugh. “I don’t think he’s a bad politician, I don’t think he’s a strong leader. Time after time he proved that he should have strong positions and he changes his mind.”
“Kerry wouldn’t have gotten us into this mess in Iraq," Stewart said. "The Bush administration has alienated all our allies. We have no credibility with our allies or with the United Nations, and I think Kerry has much more credibility.”
The topic of faith and religion weigh heavily with Foltz.
“From my perspective, Kerry has no true commitment with God. Bush, he has a connection with God, he’s not afraid to admit it. It’s a humbling thing. People like Kerry and the Clintons, I can’t understand how the Clintons had a personal audience with the Pope and it didn’t rub off,” he said.
WITH BUSH'S support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and Kerry supporting civil unions for gay couples, Foltz said it’s a disgrace against God.
“God only knows, Jesus owes an apology to Sodom and Gomorrah, the way the world is today,” he said.
“We are Christian. We know who’s a Christian and who is not,” Laguna said. “Kerry is the type of politician that’s using his religion because of the election. He became a Bible reader because it’s election time.”
“It depends on the kind of faith you have,” Stewart said. “There are a lot of faiths in the United States, and I think President Bush talks too much about his faith and not enough about the reasoning behind his decisions. It’s not a matter of whether or not faith has a role in making a decision but how he made the decision and the reason behind it."
“In a sense, a lot of delusional people of faith are voting for Bush because of that issue, even though Bush has fooled so many people to vote against their own economic situations because of their faith,” Uphaus said. “I’ve never voted for a candidate based on their religion, it’s more about their character. My religion is important to me, but it’s not something I’d force on anyone else.”
THE FAIRFAX neighbors had much say about foreign policy and those who decide it.
“Bush has the team,” Foltz said. “Look at who we have now. We’ve got [Condoleeza] Rice, [Colin] Powell and Cheney. They’ve been around forever. They’re not out to get status, they’re out to do something."
“Whoever wins, the toughest challenge will be terrorism,” Laguna said. “Bush has worked to make countries democratic. I believe in his vision. Democratic countries don’t produce terrorists.”
“During the first Iraq war, my husband and I were overseas and all Americans in places that were considered at risk were brought home,” Uphaus said. “When Bush made the decision to invade Iraq again, we were dreading the thought of being evacuated, we really loved Bangladesh. But he never did [evacuate citizens overseas]. I thought to myself that he didn’t really care about what happened to us or any Americans.”
“This election is tough. It’s a very tight race,” Laguna said. “I hope we won’t have the same thing that happened in 2000 with lawyers and litigations. That was a mess.”