Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Sitting here at the Reading Cafe. I stopped by "Sculpting in Time," but the ghouls and goblins scared me out. Actually, they're having a Halloween party tonight, and I didn't want to pay the cover charge. And I don't really want to be there if there's going to be a party. Too noisy. The Reading Cafe is much quieter. But the Reading Cafe doesn't have a high speed wireless connection for my laptop. I'm spoiled, I guess.

Elections. Man, I get a lot of questions these days! It's partly my fault. I got my mail-in ballot from Maricopa county the other day, and I brought it with me to the English corner. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) it got here a little late. I don't think I can get it back in time. I suppose I should have just gone down and voted at the embassy a month ago. Then again, I don't know.

My first presidential election was in 1956. But I don't remember it--I was two years old. Eisenhower and Nixon were running for the second time, and the campaign slogan was "Don't change the team in the middle of the stream." I don't know if Eisenhower was really that fond of Nixon, but perhaps I should not press that point. His grandson is married to Nixon's daughter.

I do remember 1960. I remember it well. Nixon was running against John F. Kennedy. I voted for Nixon. In my first grade classroom. A young girl sitting across the aisle from me was cheering quite loudly for Kennedy. I thought she must come from a very ungodly family. A journalist (can't remember which one) was driving across the country, listening to the Nixon Kennedy debate on his radio. When the debate was over he concluded that Nixon was easily the winner. Then he got to his destination and had a chance to watch a video replay of the debate. At the conclusion of the debate, he was convinced that Kennedy had won. Nixon was not comfortable with television.

The second election I remember was 1964. Goldwater was running against LBJ. I was definitely for Goldwater. I remember one time I was at the boarding school, and I made a comment about Goldwater. One of the missionaries said, "I guess your dad's a Goldwater man, huh?" I thought, "What does this have to do with my dad? Can't a man stand up for what's right without his motives being questioned?" But Goldwater didn't win. I am sure this is partly because there was a severe rift in the Republican party. Rockefeller and Goldwater were on opposite ends of the spectrum. But there was another issue. Vietnam was heating up, and Goldwater had said that "extremism in the defense of liberty was no vice." People were afraid that he would get the US into a war.

1968. I had been in the United States for a year after having come from Japan. Nixon was running against Humphrey. The race was actually pretty close, but I think Chicago really hurt Humphrey. There was a lot of unrest because of the war in those days, and the kids were rioting in the streets of Chicago during the convention. Mayor Daily ordered the police in and basically gave them carte blanche to do what they had to. The sight of cops beating up kids in the streets of Chicago was too much for the public to take. The kids got beat up and the Democrats got a black eye. I think it pretty much ruined their chances.

I graduated from South Salem High School in Salem, Oregon in June of 1972. A few days later, I packed my stuff in John's army dufflebag, had Mel take me out to the Market Street exit, and I stuck out my thumb. I was on my way to Dallas, Texas for "Explo 72," which was put on by Campus Crusade for Christ. That lasted for a week, but I was not ready to go back. I had set out to find God's purpose, and I had not discovered it yet. But I met some folks in Dallas who were with the Miami Baptist Association. They invited me to participate in an outreach they had planned for the Democratic convention in Miami Beach. I hitched a ride with some guys from New York, who took me as far as Tennessee, where Mary and Dennis were living, and I went from there to Miami Beach.

I will never forget the tension and uneasiness which pervaded the environment there. It was very different from Chicago four years earlier. Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman, two of the Chicago seven, were delegates to the convention, and Mayor Daily was not allowed in the building. America was sick of war, and there was a great deal of disillusionment. Of course this disillusionment was expressed in different ways by different people. But, although I had a keen interest in the many social issues the Vietnam War generated, I didn't really believe that the issue was primarily political. I was convinced that America was doomed unless there was a spiritual revolution. For this reason, I tended not to identify as a "Democrat" or "Republican." Rather, I gravitated toward those who were intent on addressing the spiritual crisis--the street preachers: Sammy Tippit from God's Love in Action, Leo Humphrey, and of course, Holy Hubert from Berkeley. When I met Holy Hubert, he was sitting on a garbage dumpster. He asked me where he could get some ice cream. When I showed him, he bought me an ice cream sandwich. I had heard a Christian calling Abernathy (head of the SCLC) a "dirty Communist." I was concerned about this. Holy Hubert said, "Evil is not in a political system. Evil is in the human heart."

I think perhaps the most boring election in my memory was the election of 1976. Ford was running against Carter, and I just could not make up my mind who to vote for. Even when election day came, I was undecided. And I was genuinely undecided. By this I mean that I really did want to vote for one or the other of them. But I really could not make up my mind. I remember the day of the election, I walked to the Monmouth Public Library where I was supposed to cast my vote. I walked around the library several times, desperately trying to make up my mind. I finally went in and voted every office except the president. I left that part of the ballot blank. It was the only option I could live with.

In sharp contrast to the election of 1976, I would say that the election of 1980 presented the clearest contrast of any election in my memory. I really wanted one guy, and really did not want the other. I voted for Reagan. The Great Communicator. The night before the election, Reagan was finishing his campaign at a gathering in California somewhere, when a heckler loudly interrupted him, making it very hard for him to continue. Reagan stopped and let the guy rant a little, then he said, "Aw shut up!" The crowd laughed, the heckler was escorted out, and Reagan spent the next eight years in the White House. The election of 1984 was rather uneventful, because Reagan was so far ahead in the polls, but 1988 was a different matter. I voted for Bush, because I really didn't want Dukakis.

In 1992, Clinton was running against Bush. This was the second time I withheld my vote on the Presidential ticket. I didn't want to vote for Bill and Hillary (two for the price of one), but I was disgusted with Bush for raising taxes, and interestingly enough, for his failure to remove Saddam Hussein when he had such a unique opportunity to do so.

Dole took on Clinton in 1996. I was on the road then, and I suppose I could have voted, but I was very, very uninspired by the Dole/Kemp ticket. Maybe I am just picky, but I really felt that there was a shortage of moral imperative. Reagan took very clear positions on moral issues. That is why I respected him. Dole was unimpressive. I won't say any more about Clinton.

I voted for Bush in 2000, and it wasn't just because of Gore. But that did have something to do with it. Gore had an amoral approach to politics. The race in 2000 is often spoken of as a close race, but when you examine the county by county race, with about 3000 counties in the US, Bush won about 2500 of them. So much has happened since then. Many folks here in China have asked my opinion about the election. I usually tell them that I think Bush's economic policies are better for China, but that I believe he made a very serious mistake in Iraq which has hurt him in this campaign. Sometimes I find myself caught between misconceptions. People in China often ask questions like, "Why was Bush so mad at Iraq?" I try to explain to them that Bush wasn't really mad at Iraq, he was mad at Saddam Hussein, and he wanted to rescue the people of Iraq from a cruel dictator. But this explanation rings hollow now, when thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq have been caught in the crossfire. I am afraid this is one more election when I find myself wishing that I could vote for "None of the above."

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