Absentee Ballot

Wednesday, May 29, 1968

I received a large envelope in the mail marked “Official Ballot.”  It was an absentee ballot for the Primary Election in California.  The envelope held an 8.5″X11″ paper which unfolded into a ballot the size of a grid map.  It covered the width of a picnic table in the mess deck, and I spread it out to study the candidates.

Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy were running for Presidential Nominee of the Democratic Party.  It didn’t seem right that the only choice was a “Peace” candidate.  My knowledge of politics was limited, but I had registered as a Democrat.

As I studied the choices, a few Marines gathered around and were commenting and making wisecracks about my picks.  It was then that I realized . . . none of these kids was old enough to vote.  It seemed outrageous to think these young Marines had no say in the election.  They could go to war and die for their country, but they were not eligible to vote (the voting age was 21).

The information needed to make an informed selection was scarce.  All our news came through Armed Forces Radio or The Stars and Stripes newspaper.  Both were heavily censored with only positive accounts of the war.  We had no knowledge of the massive campus demonstrations at Columbia University; nothing was printed about riots in cities or news of Walter Cronkite stating that the war couldn’t be won.  We were politically blind, and the military made no apologies.

Jenny and I went to a political rally in Fresno during the fall of 1966.  Robert Kennedy gave a stump speech for Governor Pat Brown who was running for reelection against Ronald Reagan at that time.  Kennedy pounded the lectern and said, “Do you want a first-rate Governor or a third-rate movie actor?”  That’s all I knew so I voted for Robert Kennedy.

Next Edition:  Reactionary Force

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