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  • October 23rd, 2018

OUR WORLD HANGS IN THE BALANCE

By Joel M. Vance

Remember? No of course you don’t—you weren’t even born in those days when we stayed up half the night to hear the latest returns. It was election night and the radio was tuned to whatever station was broadcasting the up-to-the-minute results.

They didn’t call races in those days almost before the polls closed. There was no television or at least it was so rudimentary that not even Huntley and Brinkley had appeared to speak like gods from Mount Olympus. Television, if any, was black and white and it was grainy, often filtered through what appeared to be a Dakota blizzard.

But we all cared deeply about elections in those days. The only thing that approached the intense anticipation of a national election was a heavyweight boxing bout or the World Series. I was a little kid in maybe the sixth grade when I heard Brooklyn Dodger Al Gionfriddo rob Joe DiMaggio of what would’ve been a game-tying double to force a game seven in the 1947 World Series by racing to the bullpen gate some 415 feet from home plate to make an incredible catch.

I don’t remember the name of the teacher who must have been a baseball fan and who let us listen to the radio in the classroom, but I do remember that catch and the hysterical announcer shrieking about it (he must have been a Dodger fan).

In the next year we moved to Missouri from Chicago and I remember Bobby Thompson’s three run home run off Ralph Branca four years later to give the New York Giants a playoff victory against those same Brooklyn Dodgers. Time having moved along, I watched that game through the ever present Dakota blizzard on Mr. Sadler’s television set in Keytesville, Missouri , where I was, by then, imprisoned in high school. It wasn’t very good television, but it was all we had— possibly Mr. Sadler had the only TV set in Keytesville at the time. Mr. Sadler, who happened to be the school superintendent and, unlike that Chicago elementary school teacher, did not let us watch the series in a classroom. But we sneaked off during school hours to his house while he was busy administering paddling to delinquent boys (his son, Foster, was my best friend but probably would’ve been among the paddlees if his daddy had known he was cutting class to watch a World Series game at home).

And I used to listen to heavyweight boxing matches on our old upright Zenith radio between Joe Louis and everyone he knocked out and later Rocky Marciano doing the same. There was excitement riding the airwaves in those days and the entire country was riveted in a way that seems to have gone, as have all those dynamic moments of yesteryear— boxing, baseball, and politics.

There is an election upcoming in a few days that may be the most important in the nation’s history, far beyond anything I heard through the static on the Zenith or watched on a grainy RCA television set. It’s an off year election, an event which usually is defined mostly by apathy. And apathy is the biggest danger facing the country.

Good citizens often say, “there is no excuse for not voting.” That’s not quite accurate because thousands of people do have an excuse for not voting—they are not being allowed to thanks to discriminatory regulations which prevent them from going to the polls. In Georgia the Secretary of State who is also running for governor as a Republican and who is in charge of voter legitimacy is sitting on more than 50,000 voter registrations, mostly African Americans who tend to vote Democrat, and has over the past several years disallowed thousands of other registrations, again mostly African Americans, who vote Democrat—probably because they can’t stand the politics of the Republicans in power.

And how about North Dakota where Native Americans are being disenfranchised because of a Republican established law demanding that voter registration contain a street address without which a person cannot vote. Thousands of Native Americans on reservations have only a post office box, but that ain’t good enough for the Republicans who suspect, with good cause, that Native Americans in a bloc will vote for Heidi Heitkamp the Democrat candidate for the Senate.

Those egregious examples of voter suppression aside, if women, minorities, and young people, don’t get off their all too often indifferent rear ends and go to the polls, we are in grave danger of at least another two years of the most destructive government in the history of the nation. The Donald Trump regime has managed to dismantle more progressive legislation than was done by inept and incompetent politicians in the previous 200-plus years. Give them another two years and we are likely to see such vital programs as Social Security and Medicare vanish or be rendered impotent.

Mitch McConnell, the chinless wonder, already is promising to cut Medicare and Social Security and Medicaid to pay for the $1.5 trillion tax cuts the Republicans forced through Congress and which have had the result of ballooning the national debt while padding the bank accounts of the nation’s richest 1%. “It’s disappointing but it’s not a Republican problem,” said the Senate majority leader. What he means is that it is not his problem— it is the enormous problem of the American people who will suffer because of his odious legislation.

His toady, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, said “you have got to generate economic growth because growth generates revenue. But you also have to bring spending under control. The driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries.” No, Marco, the driver of our debt is you and your fellow Republicans who owe more to your rich donors than you do to anyone who relies on Social Security and Medicare to keep them from poverty and the graveyard.

Think beneficiaries president future, of the disintegration of Medicare and Social Security. Especially, think about it when you go to the polls to vote on the people who are promising to take away these vital benefits.

As a grateful recipient of both programs, without which I would be destitute or probably dead, I dread the consequences of more Trumpism. The world so far has survived such isms as Nazi-ism, fascism, and communism, but I’m not so sure we can make it through Trump-ism without the ship of state sinking. We don’t need a political Titanic-we need a political ship of mercy filled with the promise of enduring benevolent government.

Election night anticipation , which once was looked forward to with eagerness, no matter which party you were supporting, has, given the results of the last few elections, been more like waiting for the results of the x-rays. Even when Barack Obama was my candidate I felt more like curling into the fetal position and covering my ears on election night. He won twice and I exulted, but it was more like being a diehard fan of one of our hapless local football teams (whose name I will, out of sympathy, keep anonymous since they haven’t won a game all season) because I knew that an antagonistic Republican Congress would make Mr. Obama’s life a living hell— which it did.

Sandwiched as it was between the Bush and Trump eras, it was a temporary triumph of good over evil, but hardly representative of democratic values. I went to three election night parties, two when Bush won and one when Trump won, and what began each time as a festive event featuring gourmet chili and beer turned into a funeral. In this age of instant communication, Huntley and Brinkley would be as superfluous as Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny.

Doomsaying scientists warn us that global warming is a dire threat to the planet but of course Trump’s drooling sycophants don’t believe it, or choose not to, and I suspect that before rising temperatures force the oceans to overtop low-lying countries, create droughts and other horrific weather conditions, this country will be submerged by a storm surge of political catastrophes that will turn us into a reprise of what has happened to so many wannabe democracies around the world. Mob rule— led by self-serving autocrats, dictators, plutocrats or whatever you want to call them who are interested only in their own ends not those of the common good.

There was a great vision for government in the late 1700s by men of intellect, foresight, and dedication to the betterment not only of their fledgling country, but of mankind in general. Now we have a bloated dictatorial sociopath who has the unfortunate ability to rally the mob behind him, as well as fatcat money interests to finance him and his evil intent and to elect those who slavishly do his bidding.

In the run-up to the election Trump and his despicable toadies have flooded television with lies and defamation, counting on the credulity of the electorate to believe the wildest stories imaginable about Democrats running to unseat the entrenched Republicans. There is little doubt that computer hacking by foreign interests—certainly Russia, probably China, Iran, North Korea or, for all I know, aliens from outer space— are helping confuse the democratic process. Any thinking person would discount 90% or more of the crap that flows from the television sets, realizing that it no longer is intelligent thought and careful consideration that wins elections, but actually is the amount of money poured into any given candidate’s campaign. It’s a sorry state of affairs when democracy becomes a matter of who has the biggest pocketbook.

And that accusation applies equally to Democrats as well as Republicans. Any voter who is swayed by paid for advertising rather than by intelligent thought deserves what he or she gets and if that is at least two more years of Trumpism I fear for the country and for the future of our form of government. Don’t forget that the German electorate voted for Adolf Hitler, and other dictators of the past. Hitler appealed to the basest instincts of the masses and that is precisely what Donald Trump does today. He incites; he does not lead.

That’s why election night has become more of waiting for the other shoe to fall than it has to celebrate the triumph of democracy. There is, of course, a remedy— it is for every able-bodied citizen to cast a vote and hope that the country still contains a majority of voters dedicated to the principles the United States adopted more than 200 years ago.

VOTE!!!

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