I was in the first grade at Centerville Elementary in 1972 when the presidential election between Nixon and McGovern happened. Our class (most likely every class or grade did this) held a mock election so that each student could vote. The memory that has been with me for so long is that Nixon won by a landslide, and I was one of only two votes in our whole class for McGovern.
I knew nothing of politics, of course, just as I don’t know now, but now it’s because I see the folly of it all….Anyway, I only knew what I heard my parents discuss, and even that I did not understand. What I did understand, in a subconscious way, perhaps intuitively would be the correct description, was a sense of justice and fairness. My parents drilled that into me, all of us, simply by how they parented. And I knew from my father’s sometimes vociferous rants that Nixon was a dirty-Von-dirtbag, a sleazy mean-spirited jerk.
Of course my presidential choice was simply echoing my parents’ sentiments, but there was some understanding there of right and wrong. What it showed me, in my immature impressionable state, was that I was probably different from most people. While the herd voted for the bad guy (I probably did not grasp the conservatism of middle-America at that point), I was one of a very small group to pull for the underdog.
I never really wanted to be out there on my own, but certain things would happen that let me know that I tended more towards the fringes than the center. The farther along I’ve gone in life, the more I’ve seen that to be the case. I’ve not really wanted to be like everyone else, and typically I’ve been drawn to others that are a bit out there as well. I have not made very wise choices all that often, but I’ve mostly made choices that I believe in rather than ones which are necessarily expected of me.
But what, then, did that mean to me, that silly election? Well, I felt trusting of my parents’ opinions, and I always believed in their values, I held them dear to my heart. It showed me that I did not need to try to fit in or just do like all the others. It did allow me in some ways to embrace differences and feel okay about being myself.
You see, I am smaller than average, my ethnicity has always been a bit off (half-jew means I’m not exactly part of any crowd), my hair stands out, things like that. Now, those things were not easily accepted by me, not until well into adulthood. But other differences were. I always enjoyed the idea that my interests tended towards the off-beat. To me, this meant something about me was okay, if I wasn’t purely mainstream.
And yes, I think that the 1972 election was one of my very first tastes of that difference, that way of seeing the world. Again, there would be many more throughout my life….we’ve got plenty of time to get to those……
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