Three Things I Wish I Knew Before
I Voted In MY FIRST ELECTION
I was tempted to say 2000 (or 2004, 2008, or 2012; pick one), but these felt still too close.
So, let’s go back in time. Perhaps then we can find some more lighthearted moments. Some chance to laugh.
The first presidential race in which I knew enough to form an opinion was the one between JFK and Nixon. Senator John F Kennedy was dashing, well-spoken, and funny. Current VP under Eisenhower, Richard Nixon was intelligent, serious, and earnest.
We organized debates in my social studies class, mirroring the ones we could watch on TV. I couldn’t vote yet, but I could take a stand. I stood where the rest of my family stood: staunchly Democrat. (Religion, after all, is not the only thing to run in families).
It was an era that I still feel privileged to have lived through. But it didn’t last long. Too soon, Camelot was replaced with Kent State. From the devastation of the Vietnam War, the assassinations, and Watergate — our innocence was over.
Boy, wouldn’t it have been nice to see the future? To know ahead of time, which candidate really was the dove? Which one knew how to say “no,” and mean it? Which one cared enough to make a difference? Which one would accomplish what was promised?
But there is no crystal ball. There is only hope that tomorrow will be better than today. And we stay involved because of that hope.
Laughter helps. Though at the moment, I still can’t seem to find any. Remember these guys?
One of the best things about them was you didn’t need to stay up late to listen to them. Well, Johnny Carson excepted.
The first election I voted in was in 1972, the race between the incumbent Nixon and South Dakota Senator George McGovern. And, as I look back with not a little nostalgia, I wish I had known that
- McGovern would lose in every state of the union except Massachusetts.
- The Nixon-Agnew ticket would go down in infamy, with first the VP resigning in disgrace, then the President resigning the following year, following the Watergate scandal.
- That the excitement I felt in supporting George McGovern would be short lived and a sense of generalized apathy would prevail for the next fifteen years, until I went to work for my local Congressman.
Yet, knowing these things wouldn’t have changed my vote.
America was divided then too. But we had Mort Sahl, the Smothers Brothers, and George Carlin in prime time. We had Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Peter Paul and Mary on the radio and on our phonographs. And we had bus loads of engaged demonstrators. I had been one of them, in earlier years.
Politics has gotten depressing again. And part of that, for me, is that I’m on the sidelines. Oh, I’m sending money, I’m reading the papers, and I’m listening to the rhetoric. But I’m distanced from it all. And I’m not finding the humor in any of it. And I can’t find the music either. Is it just too soon to laugh? Am I just not plugged in right?
This is the closest I can come to finding humor that’s not disguised as personal attack.
Help me out here, friends. Make me laugh again.