Elections Have Consequences

Dear Hope Nation,

Elections have consequences.

Although I don’t talk about it a lot these days, I am a veteran. For four years I served my country, primarily with the 8th Infantry Division in Bad Kreuznach, Germany. Although to younger readers this may sound as distant as the sinking of the battleship Maine in Cuba, the 8th ID had a mission to prevent Soviet tanks from rolling through the Fulda Gap, across the German plains and into Frankfurt, then to cross the Rhine River. While we spent a lot of time in the field, practicing in combat exercises like Reforger, or on the range firing off various weapons, if the balloon gone up, we would likely all have been speed bumps for Soviet tanks. In the interest of full disclosure, I was a newspaper reporter and photographer, so most of my time was spent in the field doing stories on the folks who were actually preparing for those tanks. Still, I spent a lot of nights sleeping on tank hulls or on the ground next to armored personnel carriers.

Elections have consequences.

I was 17 in 1976 when I enlisted, in basic training at Fort Knox three weeks after I’d graduated high school. That fall I was too young to vote in the presidential election, won by Rutherford B. Hayes Jimmy Carter over Gerald Ford.  Two years later, I flew back to the States on leave to vote in person for my first election. That’s how important I believed and believe elections are.

Elections have consequences.

Who I voted for, then or now, doesn’t matter to anyone but me. Over the intervening years, I’ve voted in every general election, every presidential primary and most state primaries. Although neither my conservative, liberal or libertarian friends believe it’s so, I am a moderate who’s voted for both Republican and Democratic candidates in races for president, senate and the house of representatives. My two political heroes—Lincoln and Truman–are drawn from both parties, and I yearn to return to the day when liberal Republicans and moderate Democrats could meet in the middle on many issues. While my yearning won’t make it so, I still believe in democracy, elections and a peaceful transfer of power.

Elections have consequences.

Having said all the above, and not wanting to make any kind of partisan statement, I do want to express my anger/sorrow/outrage/disgust/incredulity and any other phrases from that universe at the insurrection this past Wednesday at the US Capitol. I absolutely believe in the First Amendment’s protection of free speech and the right to peaceably assemble. I think last week’s rioters based their actions on a lie—that the November election was “stolen” from their candidate—but the validity of an idea doesn’t determine the appropriateness of political tactics. For example, I think civil rights’ advocates have justice on their side, but my support would have evaporated if Martin Luther King had suggested setting cats ablaze and using them as animate Molotov cocktails. And I don’t even like cats. Storming and attempting to sack the Congress of the United States is not an acceptable tactic. Period. Whether your cause is pure and righteous or misguided and illogical, I will not countenance violence and intimidation of our elected leadership.

Elections have consequences.

But insurrection, treachery and violence must not be among those consequences.

You matter. I matter. We matter. They matter. All of us matter.

Keith

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