I recall the time when my interest in politics was something akin to, but less than, my intense interest in the NBA, MLB and the NFL. Winners and losers in local, state and national elections were mostly a matter of "Did the person I like win or lose?" There was very little if any interest on my part in initiatives, law-making or the rising and falling fortunes of our political parties.
Today I'm an old veteran with no hair, high blood pressure and military memories going back to the early 1970's when Jane Fonda was a swear word and my cousin somehow got into the National Guard and I didn't. Had I waited another six months before enlisting, the new draft lottery which placed my birthday at the 350+ level would have meant that I, like Mr. Cheney, could have pursued my "other priorities."
Somewhere I've got an old hard-cardboard Schlitz beer-box with enough military records in it to prove I went and to prove I did. There's a bunch of ribbons down there in a glass jar where sometime I'll go down and look at them. There's an air-medal (and maybe a cluster) that are still in their containers. There's little sterling silver wings that my commander told me I could wear even when not on flying status after completing ten combat missions. They're all down there to prove I went and did.
When I was studying Russian at Syracuse University, Woodstock happened less than 100 miles away. I wasn't about to drive over and see that. I was too mad at Jane Fonda - mad about her movie Barbarella and its flaunting R-rated morals-challenged images which had offended my youthful moral view of the world. Oh and I was incensed by her Hanoi activities.
Funny how time changes perspectives. My Millenial kids are outraged that in 1968 I deliberately refused to go to Woodstock.
I agree with them. What was I thinking?
Was my patriotism so shallow that rain, mud, outlandish music, naked women and pot smoke could rock my foundation as a true American?
I'm embarrassed about what I thought was important when I was 22 and what I did and didn't do about it.
Yet, here I am today, a retired and stay-at-home repository of all my experience which is the only source of wisdom I have to offer my kids and grandkids. I sure as heck am not going to teach my kids that military veterans are long on judgment and condemnation and short on forgiveness.
Most veterans have seen enough in life to know that there's not much useful in taking an "I'll never forgive you for that!" attitude in most areas of life.
No, I'm not retired from the military. I got out after 6 years and served 2 more in the reserve. 35 years later, I'm still aware of a sense of difference between the civilian world of sound bites and consumer loyalty and military world where you have got to trust somebody before you follow them.
I first voted in 1968 after I had enlisted and was waiting to go to basic training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio. I was so mad at LBJ that I voted for Nixon. I guess that made me a Republican.
In 1972 I thought McGovern was a peacenik and I was a war-nik so I gave Tricky Dick another vote.
In 1976 I was genuinely offended at Ford for pardoning Tricky Dick so I voted for Carter. Guess that was my first vote a Democrat.
In 1980 when Reagan asked "Are you better off now...." he got my vote. Back to being a Republican.
In 1984 he looked tougher than Mondale so I voted for Reagan again. I look back at that and suspect that within my mind were more conservative attitudes than liberal or progressive. Given my Mormon background, in retrospect, I'm not surprised.
But by 1988 though, I didn't trust Bush the First and didn't have any idea what the hell voodoo economics were, so I went into my vote-for-the-outsider mode and voted for Dukakis. Democratic fool am I?
1992 and I'm mad at Bush Sr. who seemed to think looking like Patton would fix the economy. So I voted for Bill Clinton with the following little sentence in sotto voce: "Ok you SOB, you'd better not blow it." Still thinking in a Democrat way.
By 1996 I began to suspect I was more of a liberal than a conservative and just couldn't bring myself to vote for Bob Dole.
So there I am, trying to vote the man instead of the party, flip-flopping and waffling with the best of them.
By 2000 I realized that my veteran's instincts were alive and well. I saw only form without substance in George W. Bush. He's my age and I could never vote for anyone who at best was no smarter than me. Besides, an old NBA fan like me thought Bill Bradley was the smartest guy for president and I was disappointed that he didn't get nominated. Nevertheless, I voted for Gore, the military veteran.
By the time George W. invaded and occupied Iraq and lied to me and lied to you in order to get away with it, I was having problems with the political behavior in this country. My problem then finally seemed more important than the Red Sox beating the Yankees or the Oilers smacking the Cowboys.
When my wife Lietta took off for Texas to help Cindy Sheehan beat up on George Bush, I also decided to get involved ... as a citizen ... rather than as a party partisan. This despite the fact that my dissent and opposition to a sitting president almost demanded that I support the opposition party's candidates and issues - to the degree I could stomach them - and could stomach their lack of stomach for a fight.
I soon learned that lock-step support of a sitting president and public patriotic grandstanding had very little to do with civic responsibility; with holding the government responsible.
I was in good company .. folks like Tommy Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Dwight the Eisenhower.
Dissent is the highest form of patriotism. -President Thomas Jefferson
“The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right.
Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.” - President Theodore Roosevelt
Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President. - President Theodore Roosevelt
To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. -President Theodore Roosevelt
Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionist and rebel men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion. -President Dwight Eisenhower
Good enough for me.
So I began public dissent and never regretted it. I didn't stop no wars; didn't get anyone indicted or impeached. I didn't impact the outcome of any elections despite all that Lietta and I could do.
But ... I felt good about myself for trying, for taking a stand and for standing for something of merit.
After a lot of manipulative antics and with the help of religious and social conservatives, Bush's 2004 re-election was a shock for me. I came to recognize things about American voters as a group and their diminished or absent attention spans. I've never forgotten how that worked. Predominantly Republican congresspersons, television commentators and talk-show jocks all acting and speaking almost in lock step synchronicity; all saying the same things and sticking almost sickeningly to the same talking points and slogans left me with a vulgar feeling and foul taste in my mouth.
Democratic voices were mostly mealy-mouthed. They seemed almost afraid to throw down any gauntlet against what I began calling the Kindergarten Konservative Klamor.
By 2008 there was no visible Republican worthy of my vote and perhaps with one or two exceptions the Democrat would get my vote. I attended the only country party convention I would attend, thinking to support Hillary but being persuaded to support Obama. For me the eventuality was either Hilary or Obama because Bush was departing with too great a bad odor about himself and by extension his party. When McCain nominated the Konservative Kindergarten Kween Sara Palin, my voting choice was going to be totally obvious.
I am not a Democrat but I can say with total honesty that there has appeared to be no Republican worthy of my vote so long as the party itself is beholden to the tea party crazies and so awash in lock-step obstructionism.
Voting to re-elect Obama was a no brainer. And although I respect his class, charisma and competence, I have not happy with his party.
Again here I am, stubbornly insisting on competence rather than trying to support a party - neither of which has put my well-being above party priorities. That will always keep me flip-flopping and waffling -from a party perspective - with the best of them.
So here I sit at my keyboard, disgusted with the new sitting president and maintaining the disappointment in both parties. I remind myself why I got involved when one president and his administration lied their way to all those dead soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.
We have civic responsibilities that include critical thinking, striving for common sense and an ability to wade through or ignore bullshit so we can help do something about the bullshitters. If I could fire and replace them all I would ... but I can't.
However, there's no requirement to sit quietly in the tavern while the blowhards waste everybody's time and money with political silliness. We must stand up to grandstanders, bullies and drugstore cowboys - no matter the color of the ice cream on their boots.
That's why I'm taking my mind off the shelf and going back to the scuffle. If it takes offering myself as a candidate to help feel good about myself and my country, then that's what I'll do.
Look seriously at the independents. Help them get where they want to go with a beholding relationship to Big Money.