When I was a young man, my dad made certain that I did two things; register for the military draft and register to vote. Dad was a World War II veteran and believed that it was a sacred right to vote in elections. He felt that voting was a very personal right and would never tell me how he voted. However; he spoke very fondly of Harry Truman, so I knew even without asking that he was a Democrat.
What I found odd about that is that Dad worked very hard, would not accept handouts and was very charitable, even though he didn’t have much to give. What he gave was his time. Whenever a call for help would go out in our community, Dad was one who would answer the call. He made me very proud to be his son.
Unbeknownst to me, Dad called Joe Talbot and had him come over to the house to register me to vote. I didn’t know it at the time, but Joe was a Democratic precinct committeeman, so I was registered as a Democrat. I voted as a Democrat when George McGovern ran for President in 1972 and then I voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976. That was the last time that I voted Democrat in an election. Carter ruined it for me and many Americans for his failure to bring down inflation, deal with the gas shortages and for his handling of the Iran hostage crisis. I think the best thing about Jimmy Carter was his brother, Billy. At least Billy was funny and entertaining and there was also Billy Beer.
I was already seeing liberalism in our colleges. Some of my required reading was books written by Karl Marx and Tolstoy. College professors were showing up and speaking at some of the war protests. Politics were permeating the classrooms, but I was young and very open-minded at the time, so I didn’t reject what I was learning. In fact; at that time, I thought that I opposed the Vietnam War, but I didn’t really understand our involvement in Vietnam.
TV news was devoted for the most part to the war in Vietnam. Newscasters like Cronkite, Harry Reasoner, a young Dan Rather and Huntley and Brinkley were reporting absent of their own political views. In fact; you could not discern their politics. There was no political commentary to their newscasts, unlike today. Though they presented their news with all due respect to the office of the President, they also did it with a certain impartiality.
When I entered the workforce, there was no pension or 401K plan; only the promise of Social Security. With our representative government, there was no talk of “career politicians”. Corrupt politicians were the exception and not the rule. I can’t remember any political ads from “special interests” groups. I am sure that unions were involved in politics, but not to the extent that you see today. They seemed to be more transparent back then. As my wages slid up the scale, I couldn’t help but to notice that more and more was going to taxes.
I have been witness to many life-altering events through the lens of our news media at the time. The assassinations of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Bobby Kennedy, Malcolm X; the attempted assassinations of President Ford and President Reagan; the Vietnam War, the war protests, the 1968 Democratic Convention that had the whole world watching, Vietnam Vets being spit on, the shootings at Kent State; the space program, the space race with Russia, the space shuttle; the killing of the Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympics, the Oklahoma City bombing, the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, the attack on America on 9/11/2001; the bombing of the USS Cole; Grenada, Somalia, Jonestown, Waco and the Branch Davidians; mass killers Charles Manson, Charles Whitman, Richard Speck, Henry Lee Lucas, John Wayne Gacy, Albert De Salvo, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, David Berkowitz; the siege at Ruby Ridge; several Olympics, World Series, Super Bowls and Rose Bowls; “classic TV” shows and I attended a venerable hall of fame of rock concerts.
As I metaphorically simmer in the sauce of what is my sixtieth birthday, I want to believe that the window to my soul is clear in purpose and awash with the wisdom of my years. Decisions that have been made on a personal or professional level have not been without consequences; both good and bad.
But, because of the many events that have populated my life that have helped to shape my personal convictions, I wonder if it has also fed my cynicism or expanded my views; perhaps both.
While growing up, I got my news from three TV stations, a couple of radio stations (WKEI and WLS) and one local newspaper.
I believed what I heard from those reporting it, because I believed in THEM. They were a trusted source, because reporters looked for the truth in what they were reporting. They apparently understood the enormous responsibility that they had to provide their viewers, readers and listeners with the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They knew the power behind the freedom of the press came from those who had fought and died for their rights and it was not to be taken for granted. Newspapers held their opinions to the editor and with letters TO the editor. I cannot recall that the local paper endorsed any candidate, but only encouraged citizens to vote.
On television, stations were very careful not to show favor to one candidate over the other, because of the “equal time” provisions. And there were no attack ads. You heard me; NO ATTACK ADS!
Radio was pretty much the same. If Candidate A would go on the radio for an interview, the same was offered to Candidate B. Politics was a lesson in civics at a very grass roots level.
And to be honest; it was much easier back then to decide who you were going to vote for. Parties had platforms that were not as convoluted as they are today.
But, today; where we get our news is as partisan as the politics.
You can’t trust the information anymore, because the reporters have thrown aside their impartiality for a chance to become the next President’s press secretary. They no longer want to simply report the story; they want to BE the story, leaving the voting public to make their important decisions based upon attack ads, blogs and Wikipedia.
Many of us grew up working hard for everything that we have, never once asking our government for anything. We controlled our small slice of life with family rules, the Golden Rule and the rule of law. Government back then was truly transparent with very little voter fraud, no hanging chads or shadow cabinets.
Those days are gone, but we have been headed to where we are today for a very long time. I live in a state that has seen two of the last four governors go to prison!
I have never wanted someone who has more than me to give me some of theirs’. I had hoped to get to a place where I could afford to give something back and I have…by CHOICE. I don’t want to because I HAVE to! I want to help to care for others who can’t care for themselves, but not those who simply won’t.
I believe in only ONE entitlement – Social Security, because I have been paying into it since I was 17 years old. Yes; I am entitled to it, because I have paid for the privilege. What I thought was a lock box for my retirement has turned into a giant piggy bank.
So, to help get our country back on track, I am going to vote in the most important election of my lifetime.
What I will be voting for is a brighter future for our children and grandchildren, Social Security for our seniors, fair taxation, affordable housing, cheaper gas and a strong military.
Oh and smaller government.