In February 2008, I was in Great Lakes, Ill.—in US Navy Recruit Training—when Vice President Dick Cheney visited our base. The red carpet was rolled out for this occasion. ---Organized in rows by order of achievement, my division was placed on the first row, outside the roped-off VIP area. Backs rigid in our seats and hands placed on our knees as instructed, we recruits were unable to speak or express any emotion during the event—even though the base had pop music covers performed by a live band to get us worked up.
Cheney began his speech in typical fashion: by thanking the list of people who needed to be thanked—base commanders, liaisons, Secretaries of Defense and Navy. Cheney also thanked those in attendance for our service and for joining in a time of war. As Cheney’s words rang throughout the audience, the recruit sailors behind him were dozing off. They had been sleep-deprived as part of the basic training graduation event Battle Stations. Powerful, but hollow, words from Cheney echoed against a backdrop of sinking, sleepy faces.
At Recruit Training Command, I was taught to take pride in my nation and its flag—and I did. I was also taught to respect my chain of command. This, however, was more difficult. I felt that individuals had to earn my respect, yet here I was forced to respect a president and vice president who guided our nation toward needless war, less individual privacy and financial uncertainty. I was forced to respect an administration that I neither agreed with nor voted for.
Throughout the years, I disenfranchised myself. I had decided that my vote did not matter and that was how it would always be. Until I enlisted in the military, politics did not interest me. But, once I saw firsthand how the decisions of the President impacted my life, my interest grew.
In the last presidential cycle, I have witnessed a United States Congress
that does not serve the American people. This “do-nothing” congress consists of
the Republican Party fighting theological and ideological battles that have no
place in 21st-century politics. As an American people, we must agree
to not infringe upon the freedom of others at any cost. Once we have agreed on
this fundamental American principle, we can come to the consensus that no
matter our own individual views on abortion, it must be kept safe, legal and
accessible. This is one example of how Congress has shifted the issues facing
our nation so that we must retrace our steps rather than continue forward. Neither
Republican nor Democrat is free of guilt in this matter, and career politicians
must be reminded of their duty to our nation. Reason has lost its place within
the highest levels of leadership within this country.
At 27, I have finally registered to vote, but I feel that I am unable to
vote my values, which are aligned with the Libertarian and Green Party
candidates more than Republicans or Democrats. I must either put aside my
values and vote for the candidate I believe is more aligned with the vision of America
with which I most agree, or “throw away” my vote within our tragic excuse for a
I will not vote in a way that jeopardizes the progress we have made as a nation. I will not vote in a way that diminishes the respect I hold for my nation. But, for the first time in my life, I will vote.