A writing exercise on the theme of buyer's remorse
Played for a Fool
Nineteen-sixty-four was a big year for me. I turned 21 just in time to register to vote, and of course I planned to cast my first vote for Lyndon Johnson. His opponent was Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, whose slogan was “In your heart you know he’s right,” which his enemies countered with “In your guts you know he’s nuts.” The Democrats ran a TV ad showing a little girl plucking petals off a daisy – three, two, one – followed by an image of a thermonuclear explosion. It ran only once, but it carried a devastating message: Barry Goldwater was a warmonger, unlike the incumbent. My vote was already a foregone conclusion when Johnson publicly vowed that he would never – no, not ever – send a single American boy to fight and die in Vietnam.
Goldwater never had a chance. I was proud to be part of the landslide of sanity that prevailed on Election Day 1964. President Johnson would surely find a way to keep us from sinking deeper into the quagmire of a foolish war.
And then in April 1965, the President – the one I helped elect – escalated American involvement. He said in a speech, “the infirmities of man are such that force must often precede reason, and the waste of war, the works of peace.” Translation: We have to kick Commie ass before we can talk sense into them. About to go into the military myself, I was furious with him. In my mind, Johnson had personally betrayed me. In the years to come, tens of thousands of Americans and untold numbers of Vietnamese would perish under Johnson and Nixon’s watches. Americans had been played for fools.