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Seventy Days and Counting

 Earth date: August 24, 2020

“Old enough to fight, old enough to vote” made a lot of sense to me. It was the chant during the anti-war protests back in the 1960’s and early 70’s. Lyndon Johnson became President after John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 and instead of keeping a promise to bring our military home from Vietnam, he escalated the war in 1964. He increased the number of soldiers sent to fight to a whopping 35,000 every month. He had also promised to lower the voting age from twenty-one to eighteen but that never happened during his time in office. I didn’t like that he had made empty promises to win the election. I learned the difference between a politician and a patriot.  

I suggested to my dad over dinner one evening that maybe he should vote Republican in the 1968 Presidential election. Nixon wanted to end the war, and maybe he would honor Johnson’s broken promise and lower the voting age. It made sense that if you were old enough to die for your country, you should be old enough to vote for that government. Wouldn’t that be the patriotic thing to do? I also mentioned that my older brother was now draftable age. Once my father was able to take a breath again, I was reminded that our family was Democrat and would always be Democrat.   

The Twenty-sixth Amendment did not pass until the end of 1971, and by then my brother was home from the war, but some of my cousins and half of the males who graduated with me in high school had died in Vietnam. It seemed unfair that they had sacrificed for a country that considered them “old enough to fight but not old enough to vote,” so I decided right then I would take the right to vote seriously.   

Richard Nixon was the incumbent in 1972 and George McGovern, a Democrat, was running against him. Since this was my first time to vote (I was finally twenty-one), my father firmly reminded me I was a Democrat. I argued Nixon had kept his promises and deserved a second term. Of course, this made Dad angry and Mom begged me to stop. It made everyone uncomfortable that I was the sole Republican (who would openly admit to it) in a family of Democrats. Then, Nixon went and shocked and humiliated us all, but the guilt was his and not mine. I trusted him and was still learning the difference between a politician than a patriot.

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