Have you ever thought about how the title “Civil War” is an oxymoron, like “jumbo shrimp” or “authentic reproduction”? There is nothing “civil” about war; it is 100% uncivil.
The young black men who would become known as the Tuskegee Airmen were first and foremost Americans who wanted to fight for their country during World War II. That they wanted to do so in the air as pilots is what set them on their journey into legend.
While pursuing their goal, they were subjected to the incivility of racism and military segregationist policies. They were called nasty names, told where (and where not) to sit-drink-eat-sleep, and were kept grouped together because of the color of their skin, something over which they had no control. Ironically, they were denied the many of the freedoms they wanted to fight to defend. Barring bloodshed, it doesn’t get much more uncivil than that.
One of the basics of the American way of life that the Tuskegee Airmen and so many other American service personnel have fought for since the American Revolution is our right to elect a president every four years. Americans have done that 55 times since George Washington’s second term in 1792. (He was first elected in 1789 for a three-year term.) The election process has evolved from the days when only religious white landowners could vote, but over the years it has generally tended to be civil and orderly.
However, the run-up to election day – which this year is exactly four months from today – can get decidedly uncivil. We will be exposed to countless ads in the media and shrilled at by people on popular television channels claiming to know the best positions on the main issues. We will get robocalls (a pox on the marketing company that invented those…). The candidates (and in many states, this will include state and U.S. representatives and senators beside the presidential options) will say they want to stick to the issues, but most will run “trash talk ads” pointing out the shortcomings of their opponents. Those ads can really escalate to incivility when they dwell on the person and not the issues.
What’s a person to do? If you always vote along party lines, your mind is probably made up. If you’re undecided or leaning, I’d like to challenge you. Think about a big buck purchase you’ve made – something that you expected to last for at least four years after you committed to it financially (and maybe emotionally). Maybe it was a new (to you) car or a washer/dryer combo or even a new house. Maybe it was selecting the right school for your kid(s) because nothing is as important as kids’ education – their future depends on it. If you were smart, you did some research before you made your choice. You were comfortable that you’d done what you could to confirm that the long-term commitment you were about to make – and pay for – was the best option for you and those you love.
Now, think about the election. The people who are elected in November will have a huge impact on your life for the next four years. Maybe not an “in your face” impact, but an impact just the same. Doesn’t it make sense to turn away from the ads and the TV shrillers and actually research the candidates’ records and positions so you can make an informed decision? I’m not suggesting that you make spreadsheets or anything like that (unless you want to…) but you – as a voter – are giving these candidates a mandate to represent you for the next four years. They will vote on issues that will have an impact on you and – think about it – your kids' and maybe your grandkids’ futures.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans – including many Tuskegee Airmen - gave their lives so that we, who are living in this time, in this great country, can enjoy the freedoms others wanted to take from us. By exercising your right to vote in November as an educated voter, you will honor the sacrifices of others and do yourself proud.
Oh, and if you don’t plan to vote in November, do us all a favor and shut up after the election is over – do you really think you should have the right to an opinion when you didn’t actively affect the outcome?
If you decide to take some time over the next four months to do some research on your incumbent Congressional candidates, may I recommend a free non-partisan website called Open Congress as a place to start your fact-finding journey. You can find other sites by Googling “voting records” or your Congress person’s name. Ditto for your state representatives and senators. Google is a great tool for this.
Regarding Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney, you find oodles of opinions online about them, but Real Clear Politics and Real Clear Markets are organized in such a way that you’ll get opinions from knowledgeable writers about both sides of the major issues in a civil manner. Yes, you’ll have to do some reading, but you’ll be taking in facts that you’ve discovered on your own instead of being spoon-fed information by media shrillers who have a big ratings stake (read money and prestige) in this election run-up and typically don’t care how uncivil they get in their presentation of their political positions. They know they'll have an audience because we humans love drama and the shrillers definitely know how to be dramatic (and partisan).
This is the only blog I’ll write about the upcoming election (whew, huh?), but I will be doing a countdown to election day in each blog, just to remind you to get going in case you want to do some research, but have a tendency to put things like that off. I can totally relate…
The Mustang and Traveling Exhibit are in Angola, Indiana this weekend. The Traveling Exhibit is air conditioned so I’m guessing it will become a haven for attendees as the heat moves east.
The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven 501c3 non-profit organization that operates under the auspices of the Commemorative Air Force. For more information, please visit redtail.org.