A vote is a ter­ri­ble thing to waste

The Taos News - - FAVOR Y CONTRA - By Iris Keltz Kelt is a long­time Taos res­i­dent and au­thor of “Un­ex­pected Bride in the Promised Land” “Scrap­book of a Taos Hip­pie.”

A vote is a ter­ri­ble thing to waste. It’s been 50 years since I wasted mine.

I was one of 10,000 an­ti­war pro­tes­tors who gath­ered in Chicago on Aug. 28,1968 to try to stop a war. From all over the coun­try we came to the Demo­cratic Con­ven­tion to sup­port Eu­gene Mc­Carthy—poet, philoso­pher, states­man and our great­est hope for end­ing the Viet­nam War.

When Chicago’s Mayor Da­ley re­fused to grant per­mits al­low­ing a le­gal protest, the Festival of Life be­came a po­lice riot. Spilling out of Grant Park and onto the streets in front of the Hil­ton Ho­tel, we were met by 23,000 armed po­lice in­clud­ing the Na­tional Guard.

This was a time be­fore cell phones, and most of us did not know about fights that had bro­ken out in­side the con­ven­tion cen­ter where del­e­gates and re­porters were beaten and knocked to the ground. The po­lice as­sault was broad­cast live, in­clud­ing an on-air at­tack of Dan Rather, the CBS News an­chor, who was try­ing to in­ter­view a Ge­or­gia del­e­gate.

The world watched as we got se­verely beaten and tear gassed while shout­ing, “The whole world is watch­ing,” and “Hell no, we won’t go,” but lit­tle changed. Luck­ier than many around me, I man­aged to make it home with­out be­ing wounded or ar­rested.

The Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion went to then Vice Pres­i­dent Hu­bert Humphrey and many of us gave up on the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem as a ve­hi­cle for change.

In a fool­ish act of re­bel­lion, I cast my first vote for Pi­ga­sus the Pig, a 145pound porcine protest can­di­date pa­raded around Chicago by the Youth In­ter­na­tional Party, also known as the Yip­pies. Many of us felt dis­en­fran­chised, marginal­ized and did not vote. Nixon won the elec­tion that year, and the war con­tin­ued un­til the fall of Saigon in 1975 when Pres­i­dent Ford or­dered an evac­u­a­tion of all Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and Viet­namese sym­pa­thiz­ers.

Cast­ing my first pre­cious vote so fool­ishly is one of the re­grets of my life. Now is not the time for apathy. Nor is it the time to wait for the per­fect can­di­date.

Humphrey once said, “Com­pas­sion is not weak­ness, and con­cern for the un­for­tu­nate is not so­cial­ism.” He was not the can­di­date we hoped for— but oh, what a lost op­por­tu­nity to vote for a fine hu­man be­ing. Whether your is­sue is cli­mate, jobs, jus­tice, im­mi­gra­tion, women’s rights, the en­vi­ron­ment, or the sur­vival of our planet, this Novem­ber, vote as if your life de­pended on the out­come be­cause it does. and

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