A vote is a terrible thing to waste
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