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Robert Galvin

I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now

There are times when the notion of being 13 again crosses my event horizon — entering the life-changing years, still able to say what I think because it can be chalked up to being young and stupid.

But I am no longer young ... so, in these days where the echoes reverberate from the president of the United States reportedly disparaging the homelands of would-be immigrants and refugees, I can only wonder how my 13-year-old self would have reacted.

The reason he sees Haiti and the nations of Africa as "s#!thole countries," I see myself saying at the dinner table, is because he spends so much time with his head stuck — as my father would say — where the sun don't shine.

Whereupon my own shady spot would be reintroduced to its old friend, my father’s belt.

But I am not young (we’ve long given up on the “stupid” part), my father and his belt are long gone, and since this is a family newspaper, it’s not my place to suggest that 62,979,879 people chose someone blind to his moral obligations because, when it comes to the peoples of the world, he isn't an elephant or a RINO ... but an ostrich, with his head in a hole in the ground that he couldn't tell from his ...

... As I was was about to say, today's 13-year-olds should get their worldview from talks with their parents (of which I am not), teachers (ditto) and faith leaders (Does a Pastafarian count?). Being none of the above, I wish those mentors good luck with that, and wonder how we got to this moment — here, where we accept the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to be free.

In Mr. Nidisitko’s social studies class, we would pretend to understand the stories in our issues of “My Weekly Reader.” One, however, struck home for me: "The 1970s,” the headline read, “The Decade When You Will Become An Adult.”

We knew we were getting older, but there it was in black and white — learning to drive ... the Vietnam draft … casting our first vote.

Nixon was president. We had seen Kennedy assassinated and LBJ withdraw. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy had been gunned down, while the shooting of George Wallace was a year or so away.

And now, as if some cruel joke, the 13-year-olds across that classroom were being told: "Someday soon, all this would be our responsibility."

Before I'd take that fork in the road, I developed a two-prong method for how I would vote for president. First, I wouldn’t vote for anyone I feared would get the world blown to bits. Also, I’d vote for the person least likely to screw things up.

This electoral version of primum non nocere seemed the best I could do. I’ve voted for candidates in both major parties, submitted one blank ballot, and voted for a third-party candidate.

That was in 1980, when 5,719,850 voters supported the independent run of Republican Illinois Rep. John Anderson, whose death a month ago quietly went unnoticed.

1980, of course, was Reagan v. Carter and, since I believed each would violate one of my two prongs, I couldn’t vote for either.

Yet, somehow, all of that seems like a walk in the park compared to what we’re expecting of today’s 13-year-olds. They are far more savvy to the cultural and political mores than even those of us who entered adulthood in the aftermath of Vietnam, Watergate or Abraham, Martin and John. Today's blaring bursts of bombast have blinded us to the terms and conditions that come with the bright shiny objects dangled in front of us.

“You know this is a terrific country. But sometimes we go a little crazy,” says presidential candidate Fred Picker in the film “Primary Colors,” who calls for a quiet conversation about America’s future. “Maybe that's part of our greatness, part of our freedom.

"But if we don't watch out and calm down, it all may spin out of control.”

So, as buzz starts generating around Oprah or The Rock developing 2020 visions to challenge The Donald, maybe we — and our young voters-to-be — shouldn’t start looking for answers in the stars.

Probably should start a little closer to home.

— Mail Tribune copy editor Robert Galvin can be reached at rgalvin@mailtribune.com.

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