Sunday, October 12, 2008

Portrait Of A Frustrated Voter

I was sorting through some family keepsakes, getting things gathered to donate to the museum in my folks hometown, when I came across an old World War II ration book. Along side the coupons are tokens, a schedule letting you know when you could get certain items and an old civil defense volunteer armband.

I got to thinking maybe I should explain why I am so passionate about the upcoming election and frustrated with what I've been seeing. You see, these items belonged to my Mom and Dad. I was very young at the time but not so young that I don't remember what sacrifice meant to everyday Americans. And why that sacrifice was necessary. We were just coming off the Great Depression and entrenched in World War II.

We had strong leadership then - Roosevelt. He knew how to soothe or persuade - whichever was necessary. He never told us to go shopping. In fact, he prevented us from doing so! He talked to us.

I remember working in the victory gardens everyone in the neighborhood had. I developed a taste for tongue and heart and liver because we could get organ meat and Mom was a fantastic cook. She could and did make everything taste good. She made all my school clothes. There were no $100 Nikes, iPods or cell phones. If there had been no one would have bought them and the technology would have been applied to the War effort first.

As I grew up my interest in politics waned as one might expect. The war ended, the country stabilized. There was so much of interest going on. I loved school and band and my dance band and Friday night football games. Yes. I was a kid then and I loved every minute of it. I look back and treasure those memories. Today's kids are growing up so fast. Sex and drugs far too soon. One mistake and poof, no more childhood. And oh, my, what they missed. Being a kid.

My college years were a mixed bag. Our worst vice was maybe taking up smoking or guzzling 3.2 beer on the weekends. Even then loose girls were received with a raised eyebrow.

On the serious side I remember Nikita Khrushchev visiting our campus and men in trench coats prowling around roof tops with strange looking cases. The fervor over John Kennedy. Many of my classmates were veterans of the Korean War attending school on the GI bill. We had a large international presence. I dated Iranians, East Indians, Egyptians and Africans without giving it a second thought, yet I would not go out with a black basketball player from New York. Questions began to stir within me. I was learning how to look at myself, who I was and what options lay before me.

I remember Kent State with students lying dead, shot by our own National Guardsmen for protesting; I remember the National Guard being called out in cities across the country to quell race riots. Kennedy's death. I was watching live TV when Lee Harvey Oswald was murdered by Jack Ruby; Martin Luther King's death, the attempt on Gerald Ford, the attempt on Ronald Reagan. All unsettling times.

I remember Vietnam and the young men who came home. One friend, still in the Army, couldn't look at rice nor hear a car backfire. He had problems. He saw a letter from a male friend on my desk and threatened to break a chair over my head. That was the end of that relationship. My own brother-in-law came back with an alcohol and drug problem that caused his untimely death. It was a tough time for those who served. It would seem we still haven't learned the lesson that was taught.

Time marches on and maybe it's an old fogey thing. I'm not sure. But when I listen to the pundits on radio and television calling the events of this election like it's a play by play on Sunday afternoon football I get mad. Nothing going on today is a laughing matter. It's bad enough they don't handle it with the seriousness nor the depth of understanding it deserves, but it's worse that they don't appear to understand much of it themselves. There is really no one to explain it to those who are going through some of these things for the first time. Those of us who try either do not articulate it well enough or are considered less then credible because - what? We're old?

McCain, who lived through these time, isn't explaining things. Who better could? And why isn't he? Chanting he knows how to fix everything doesn't cut it. Where has his leadership been all these years?

Obama isn't explaining either. How can one lead us into the future without an understanding of our past? Is it okay that they, along with the rest of us, are bewildered by this massive breakdown and the speed with which it seemed to occur? Of course, in reality, it wasn't speedy at all. Everything just culminated all at the same time. Where was everybody?

It is not okay to pretend they know all the answers. They do not. I would rather hear that admission along with a pledge to do the best they can to find the right people, regardless of party, to get it l sorted out. The posturing and blame gaming of Barney Frank and his ilk does not inspire confidence in me. Many in Congress were part of the problem in the first place.

Every one of us is concerned about how and when things are going to shake out. We're angry and we're attacking anything that moves - in anger, without rationale. It is disturbing to witness. It's like the entire country is on the brink of a nervous breakdown and our shrinks are running around in little tight circles, the worst of us all!

The wars are not going to end tomorrow. Humans seem never to learn the cost and futility of them. They will continue to drain our treasury which really isn't so much ours any more. It will continue to kill our young men and women. A drain on our future talent. This is no laughing matter.

If ever there was a time for a clear head and a steady hand , one that realizes the seriousness of the circumstances in which we find ourselves and the courage to be honest about how difficult extraction from these circumstances is going to be, it is now.

This is why I'm so frustrated with the tone of the campaigns and the caliber of the candidates. We are walking on very thin ice. I've been there, I've seen it; I've lived it. Lessons not learned. Actions not taken or taken merely to give the appearance of doing something. This is nothing new. History has a way of repeating itself because our attention span is short if we pay attention at all.

There was a question in one of those "man on the street" columns just this last week. It asked the participants what they thought of Sarah Palin. Out of six only one even knew who she was and he was Canadian. The other five are all of voting age. Where have they been? Do you want them to vote?

Writing this hasn't really made me feel any better but it does bring to mind a question; can there be worse things than rationing books? You bet. In a time of national crisis there can be a lack of them.


Idaho Escapee said...

This has been the most blatantly transparent political campaign I've ever seen, and every move the Republicans make just seems to sabotage their cause further. Obama won't have to explain; he can just stay silent and let the Repubbs keep on shooting themselves in the foot...or nailing their feet to the floor, which they seem to do on a daily basis. I thought politics was supposed to be more intelligent than this!

Rinkly Rimes said...

Your Blog today rouses several comments.
How I wish I'd saved my WW2 ration book (British) and my gas mask as well! (Incidentally, at the end of the war, having lived on 'the smell of an oily rag' for years, the British people were the healthiest they've ever been!)

Also, I'm amazed that there should be people in your country who don't know who Sarah Palin is! She's almost a household word here in Australia, and the comments are rarely complimentary!

TropiGal said...

All of this post touched me deeply. I share many of these memories; like you, I know exactly where I was and what I was doing when JFK was shot, was Jack Ruby killed his assassin, and when Kent State came over the radio. That and more. The echoes of an era.

But most of all, I hate the way news reporters treat the election like the play-by-play of a sports event. I was a reporter for a long time, until I became ashamed of my profession. Then, I got into education. But today, colleges serve customers, and customers are always right, doncha know? These are sad times that remind me too much of what I imagine the fall of the Roman empire was like -- bread and circuses, until there wasn't anymore of either.

Good post, albeit disturbing and sad.

Dogwalkmusings said...

Escapee, we elect them. Look at who we have here in your old home town and the state. And read Rinkly's comment. It isn't politics that's lacking - it's those who participate; those who vote as well as those we vote for!

kokopelliwoman said...

I'm a leading edge boomer, born in '46, so my childhood was filled with the ghosts of WWII and what it did to the US and our returning vets. The first election I remember was Stevenson/Eisenhower, and parents instilled a passion that is overflowing in this election. We've sold out our collective conscience, and I believe it will be a long road to recovery. Blogs like yours and other compassionate thinkers give me hope. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

Mike said...

this was a very thought-provoking post, Mari. You are speaking to the same things that my parents and I talked about at length this summer when they visited their grandkids (and their son and daughter-in-law, but we're of peripheral importance I realize). Thin ice is the right metaphor. Regardless of who wins (and I have my distinct choice) the country is going to have to refocus on the most important items, and that takes leadership that isn't looking at polls every single day.