I became astutely aware of the consequences of voting and how our political system directly affected my life just a short while after James Earl Carter was sworn into office as President of the United States. The year was 1977 and I was already on my second year in the United States Navy. I had just returned from a North Atlantic cruise and I had visited most of the northern European nations that were members of NATO. I witnessed the aggressive moves of Soviet Union cruisers, destroyers, bombers and reconnaissance planes up close in the North Atlantic and Artic Oceans and the Baltic and North Seas.
While still on the deployment I had requested and I had received an absentee ballot so that I would be able vote for President. I thought it was very important to vote because our government had been in a constant state of disarray since Richard Nixon had resigned only two years before in August of 1974. Gerald Ford the Vice-President was now the leader of our nation. Gerald Ford had become Vice-President after Nixon’s Vice-President Spiro Agnew had resigned in disgrace in1973 because of his involvement in a tax evasion and money laundering scandal. Then I remembered the unsavory hearings for Nelson Rockefeller when he was nominated by Gerald Ford to become his Vice President. The Vietnam War had just ended in a humiliating defeat and I had joined the US Navy just days after the famous helicopter photographs of the American Embassy being evacuated from Saigon in April 1975 were taken. That was a very confusing time to be deciding for my first time who I wanted to be President of the United States. It was very important though because the next President could have a direct effect on my life. I was more accurate about that assumption than I could ever know at that time.
As I looked upon this absentee ballot I had two choices; Gerald Ford (Republican) and James Earl Carter (democrat). I had to look back to all the things that I had learned in the past from the studies of history that Dr. Itzko, my High School History teacher made sure I had learned (Thanks Dr. Itzko). I also wanted to understand which candidate my parents would be voting for because now that I was a couple of thousand miles away from home I was starting to see that my parents really did know what they talking about at times.
Well, as it turned out I ended up voting for Carter for many reasons. First and foremost he claimed to be a devout Christian. Second; my parents were working class democrats and my favorite politician of all time, Philadelphia Mayor Frank L. Rizzo was a democrat. Lastly; Carter seemed to be a competent and viable alternative to the fumbling and bumbling character that Gerald Ford always appeared to be. It didn’t take long before the country was painfully aware that we had made a huge mistake electing Carter for our President. Inflation went to an all time high; interest rates went through the roof making it almost impossible to buy a house or automobile. Our stature as a superpower capable of defending ourselves from an attack from the Soviets came into question. The mistakes that the Carter administration made then put us into a war with Islamic terrorists that we are still fighting now. All of that can be attributed to Carter’s incompetence, weakness and poor decision making abilities. At the end of his term in office I was certain that I would have to gather a lot more information about the candidates before I cast my vote for President of the United States again.
When Ronald Reagan was sworn into office I had cautious optimism that I had voted for the right man this time. Reagan was full of optimism himself and I liked that. I was now a registered Republican and I felt that it really was “Morning in America” as Reagan would say. The things that troubled the country at that time did not happen overnight and were not going to be corrected overnight. I did what I could to help out, I bought a lot of Ketchup and I worked hard to improve myself. After some months of being a civilian I joined the active US Naval reserves because it seemed like Reagan had it in his mind to vastly improve the military instead of driving it into obscurity as Carter had almost done. Ronald Reagan did improve the strength and morale in the military and we became the strong, the proud and enthused fighting force that we deserved to be. I left the US Navy Reserves in 1985 by not reenlisting because I had landed a civilian job that required that I work six days a week but I’ll always cherish the time I spent serving my country under Ronald Wilson Reagan.
Fast forward to the late 1980’s; George H. W. Bush is now President, the democrat controlled Congress is pushing hard for more gun control laws. George Bush has reneged on his promise of “no new taxes”. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is now making headlines regularly by raiding private citizen’s homes looking for weapons and destroying people’s lives with only small bits of hear-say evidence. George H.W. Bush is making speeches calling for “a New World Order” after the fall of the Berlin Wall dividing Germany for the last 45 years. During an assault and standoff in a place called Ruby Ridge, Idaho the FBI murders family members of white separatist Randy Weaver. There were so many conspiracy theories floating about at that time that there isn’t enough space here to enumerate them all. This was the manna that the opportunist conspiracy theorists had been waiting for. The memberships with organizations that foment the despair of conspiracy theories like the John Birch Society and many others soar to new heights. This is prime time for opportunists looking to capitalize on the fears of people that think the government is “out to get them”.
The laudable goals of Ronald Reagan and the conservative movement to promote the benefits of a smaller government that taxes less and regulates less was subverted by conspiracy organizations and the politicians that pander to them. They espoused the idea that anything the government does, it does so in order that it can control every aspect of your life to benefit some sinister and all power international conspiracy. The conspiracy theorists claim international secret societies will soon be profiting from your enslavement to the government. I’m sorry to say that for a while I fell for that nonsense and I went to meetings and talked with people about every kind of conspiracy theory that can be dreamed up. The real insidious nature about conspiracy theories is; once they are started they can never be stopped no matter how much evidence is provided to disprove it. When I look back at the couple of years I believed or thought I believed in all these conspiracies, I ask myself; how could you have fallen for that nonsense? It was easy though, I was going through a difficult time in my life when things were in turmoil for me. This is exactly what cults and mind control organizations are looking for; people that are in personal turmoil because there is less resistance to their outlandish ideas.
After I was able to resolve my personal turmoil I was able to see that these conspiracy theory people are nothing but opportunists that feed upon people that have problems with being paranoid or other social detachment problems. I was able to become a functioning part of society again and I moved away from those conspiracy theory people. I hold them in complete contempt now and expose them for the detrimental effects they have on our society.
The way I see it now is; there is nothing wrong with us wanting our government to be more efficient and for them to take less money in taxes so we can use it better for our own lives and the lives of our families. We must be vigilant to not let the government control things that should be controlled by the private sector. There are however things that have to be under the control of our government that the private sector cannot or will not do. Law enforcement has to be under the control of the government. The military has to be under the control of the government. Food safety and inspection has to be done by the government and it has to be done better than it is being done now. We can afford to have our government shrink in size because it has become too large; it has become too wasteful and too inefficient. Remember though that the government is supposed to be “by the people and for the people” The government is supposed to be us, not some partisan political hack that enjoys the fact you are not watching the store.
The reason our government seems to be out of control is the fault of those people that do not take a little of their time to vote and call or write to their representatives to tell them what they are thinking about the issues. There is no international secret society that controls some cynical and lazy government bureaucrat or legislator that makes their stupidity a sinister conspiracy to control your life. What we need is for citizens to become more involved in the political process and hold the politicians and government bureaucrats responsible for their actions. Right now only a small percentage of highly partisan people choose to take part in the responsibility of voting. It’s time for every legal voter to step up and do their part. You may however, check your conspiracy theories at the door.