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With everything that’s going on in the world it can be hard to keep your focus. We get lost mid-thought, and flat out forget that at the end of the day, what we have here in these United(ish) States is still pretty good. I mean, it isn’t great, and it certainly took a severe nosedive when we elected someone who ran on the platform of making it great again. Needless to say, he walked us back decades in the wrong direction; he permissioned behaviors that were hiding in shadows and basements.

Half this nation fell in behind him and lost sight of the very thing that made us great, and that was our ability to accept the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. That is truly when we were great, when we accepted that this is a country (stolen from indigenous people) that is made up almost entirely of immigrants.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Patriotism means to stand with the country. It does not mean to stand with the president.” The very core of that statement is lost; we all feel as though we must stand with the president we voted for even when we don’t agree with “him” (yes, the “him” … that’s part of our problem, too). We feel as though we must defend them and widen the partisan gap. A great example that has been in the news lately is the classified documents that have wound up where they shouldn’t be. Former President Donald Trump, President Biden and now former Vice President Mike Pence all have had classified documents for some reason. It’s not a good look. That said, there is a difference: two of them (Pence and Biden) are fully cooperating; one (Trump) had to have his home raided to get the documents back. These two things are not the same. A friend of mine (a former librarian) said to me the other day about this very topic, “I know the difference between an overdue book and a book that was stolen.” For me, this makes perfect sense.

I’ve always been a stay and fight guy. I believe in what this country can be and I’m staying to do my part to make it so. Will it happen in my lifetime? I can’t really tell you. I didn’t think I would see an African American president in my lifetime, but it happened. In fact, I would go so far as to say, I felt like the work I had done and the things I had said helped turn the tide in this country, even if it was strictly within the borders that I travel. It’s a collective thing; we were all feeling that way and we voted that way. But then we followed up Barack Obama with the Great White Dope, and I was reminded that we are nowhere near done, and we may never be done fighting this good fight. I’m not blaming him for racism, I’m not blaming him for divisive politics, but he sure did give a bunch of people the right to perfect it.

The big question is, can we turn the corner again? Can we right the ship again? At the end of the day, we all pretty much want the same thing. As a people we can’t agree on who can deliver it. Truth be told, nobody can. Whoever sits in that office is incapable of pleasing everyone — they can’t — and until we stop voting in a reactionary single-issue state of mind, whoever garners the most votes will be fighting an uphill battle. This goes for whoever takes office: a president, a mayor, a dog catcher. If they were elected because of party affiliation or a stance they take on a lightning rod issue (abortion, 2nd Amendment, climate, leash laws) chances are they won’t work out.

It’s important to know who you’re voting for and everything they stand for, or at least a solid handful of things. Because at the end of the day you are voting for your community, your county, your state, and your country every time you go to the polls. We can no longer afford not to know who we’re voting for. So start now, ask questions along the way. The worst thing that can happen is you become a better educated voter.

Peter “Fish” Case is a man with an opinion. He offers up a weekly podcast discussion that can be heard at Questions, compliments and complaints can be sent to him at The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of Vermont News & Media.


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