While speaking in Florida a while back, John McCain said, "I'm sorry to tell you, my friends, but there will be other wars." Who's supposed to fight in these wars that McCain speaks of? Not our current military, stretched to the limit. Not me, or my entire generation. We're still busy fighting over the Vietnam War and the domestic cultural shifts that arose because of that bloody conflict. We've been doing that for forty years now, partly because of the disrespect directed toward the military, including the soldiers, who were sacrificed by the "Greatest Generation" for dubious causes, and also the fight over "patriotism," when you find your country is engaged in a murderous and immoral conflict. The American participation in that war ended in 1973, but not before 58,000 men, average age 19, perished. The terrible psychic costs of Vietnam were never resolved at home. We decided it was better not to talk about such unpleasantness and went on a decade long Disco and cocaine bender instead.
I once swore that when I grew older, I would never say "When I was your age," to a young person. When those old geezers were my age, they were still listening to Jack Benny and FDR's Fireside Chats on the radio. How could they possibly relate to my life in the modern era? Having said that, "When I was your age..." we were at war, with a despised president who put us there, when an attractive candidate emerged who was adored by the young. He was a champion of the destitute and the downtrodden. Bobby Kennedy promised to end the war and bring our soldiers home in order to concentrate on the growing domestic unrest exploding in every major city. The similarities between 1968 and 2008 are striking with two exceptions: the draft was feeding my peers who weren't able to take refuge in college into a meat-grinder, and the voting age was 21. Despite being only 20, I had been drafted because of a university's computer glitch, and was emotionally invested in Kennedy's election. You can imagine how crushed we were when Robert Kennedy was murdered in Los Angeles, the first act of Palestinian terror on American soil.
Deeply dispirited, my generation chose to withdraw from politics, insuring the election of Richard Nixon, five more years of war and 20,000 more American soldiers dead, plus the beginnings of the nasty, partisan political world that we inhabit today. There are a lot of "what ifs" in this life. Young people voting in large numbers then could have literally saved lives, and my generation, who once believed we were going to transform the world in the cause for good, blew it...big time. Nixon's bag of "dirty tricks" soon turned people cynical about their government and the tactics of "wedge politics;" topics meant to divide people, were used for the first time; and they worked. The Rovian position of "political strategist" has become the politician's preeminent advisor and we have been divided ever since. You can change that now if you remember two things: Assume nothing, this race is far from over; and do not discount the importance of your actions. Go to the polls as if your single vote were going to determine the outcome, and bring a friend with you.
You've seen the best and the worst of my generation. We had a brilliant policy thinker and communicator who couldn't keep his pecker in his pants, and a moral absolutist and former drunk who took this country to war because his Nixon-worshipping neocons convinced him that it was the Lord's will. To paraphrase JFK, it's time to pass the damn torch already. We have lived too long with prejudices that the young never had to experience, and it clouds our thinking. Can you imagine that I never sat in a classroom with a non-white person until college? Once again, we desperately need to alter our nation's course, but still I wonder if the young are aware of the potential political clout that rests within them. Being disqualified from voting in 1968, when my ass was personally on the line, changed me. I am one of the laziest men walking, (it took 28 years to complete my Bachelor's Degree), but I have never missed the chance to vote in a single election since. Now, it's your future that's at stake.
It's this simple. If young people come out in numbers and vote, Obama will win. If they don't, he won't. And history is not on your side. Young people might have saved us from a second Bush term, but registering on campus is not the same as going to the voting booth and pulling that curtain shut. In every election since Nixon, young voters have disappointed those candidates who depended on them. Just ask Al Gore. Early voting seems to be the way to go, but first-time voters might enjoy the chaos of election day. If you don't know, you must call or Google your city or state's Election Commission to find out your polling place. Don't wear your campaign gear or some zealot will make you turn your T-shirt inside out, and bring an ID and prepare to do battle with those who would challenge your rights. You have the power to decide this election, and if we do it right this time, you also have the ability to redeem a lot of forgotten or discarded dreams. If I could, I would come and beg each of you individually, please vote.
If you don't receive this message, it's because your parents wouldn't send it to you.