Why I Might Run

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. The 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.

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 downstairs 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 yuppie 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. 29 years later, I'm still aware of a sense of difference between the civilian and military world where you have got to trust somebody before you follow them.

In 1968 I was so mad at LBJ, I voted for Nixon so 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's my first sentiment for the Democrats.

In 1980 when Reagan asked "Are you better off now...." he got my vote. Back to bein Republican.

In 1984 he looked tougher than Mondale so I voted for RR again.

By 1988 though, I didn't trust Bush the First 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 and voted for Bill Clinton with the following little sentence in sotto voce: "Ok you SOB, you'd better not blow it."  Back to 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 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 and 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. I voted for Gore, the military veteran.

By the time George W. invaded and occupied Iraq and lied to me and you in order to get away with it I was having problems with the political behavior in this country that now seemed more important than the Red Sox beating the Yankees.

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 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 publicly patriotic loyalty grandstanding had very little to do with civic responsibility and 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. Didn't stop no wars, didn't get anyone indicted or impeached and 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.

Bush's 2004 re-election after all those manipulative antics and with the help of religious and social conservatives was a shock for me. It taught me things about American voters as a group and their diminished or absent attention spans that I've never forgotten. Predominantly republican congresspersons, television commentators and talk-show jocks all acting and speaking almost in lock step synchronicity, saying the same things and sticking almost sickeningly to the same talking points and slogans left me with a vulgar and foul taste in my mouth.

Democratic voices were mostly mealy-mouthed and 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. For me the eventuality was either Hilary or Obama and when McCain nominated the Konservative Kindergarten Kween my voting choice was going to be totally obvious.

I am not a democrat but I can say with total honesty that there appears to be no republican worthy of my vote so long as the party itself is beholden to the tea party crazies. Voting to re-elect Obama was a no brainer. And I am not happy with our sitting American president.

Again here I am, So there I am, trying to vote the man instead of the party, flip-flopping and waffling with the best of them.

So here I sit at my keyboard ... reminding 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 ought to 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. It seems to be what makes me feel good about myself for trying. 

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