“Now I don’t have to vote Republican anymore!” by Carol Crouse

19 May

Carol Crouse retired from teaching art several years ago and now has the time to make art of her own, preferably Plein-Air. She volunteers with Planned Parenthood in the San Gabriel Valley, and enjoys doing beauty and special effects makeup for the screen. She lives in Altadena, California, near Pasadena.


In 1968-69, Kent State students were having frequent demonstrations on campus against the Vietnam War. Townspeople too were protesting the war. 1969 was my last year of college at Kent State, and I lived in a little duplex. My roomie and I were on one side, and two guys, both named David, were on the other. The Davids were in SDS but I wasn’t aware of that until later. I used to sit in on their political meetings; I paid no attention to what they were talking about. I grooved on their music like the Chambers Brothers’ “Time Has Come Today.”

The Davids and friends planned activities. Demonstrations took place in the bookstore, lounge, etc. Some of us would try to pick out the narcs. The demonstrations were long and snaked around the campus.

I had first realized what was going on in Vietnam when my brother Bill was about to be drafted, in 1967 or ‘68.  I remember my dad insisting, in a patriotic fervor, that my brother join the service. “I’m going to get that critter into the military if I have to Shanghai  him,” was what he said.  Instead of being drafted into the Army, Bill volunteered for the Air Force. When it was time to be shipped to Vietnam, he and I rented a Volkswagen stick shift (I didn’t own a car at that time)—he taught me to drive manual in an afternoon—and I drove him to Norton Air Force Base near San Bernardino, arriving at 2 or 3 a.m.

I still wasn’t fully aware of the war although I did know that I’d never be a Republican because that was what my dad was. Bill wrote to me about some disturbing things about Vietnam.  One thing I recall is his telling me about a fellow soldier who had adopted a Vietnamese orphan, and then had been killed the following week.  He also described the air raids, and the constant sounds of the heavy helicopters flying overhead.  My stepfather Colin admonished him, “Never tell anyone back home what’s really going on.” So Bill stopped writing about it. But I started reading and listening more—these things helped to form my political consciousness.


In May of 1970, a year after I graduated, the killing by the National Guard of four Kent State students and the wounding of nine others took place. Some of the students had been protesting the invasion of Cambodia; others were bystanders. That summer I returned to campus but it was closed. I had been teaching at Hollenbeck Junior High School in Los Angeles.

My brother Bill completed his active duty and returned home a changed man, obviously suffering what we would now call PTSD. Many guys he’d made friends with had been killed or injured. He told us he’d been bored in Vietnam; he and his fellow soldiers had entertained themselves with bunker-building contests. They had designed and decorated elaborate bunkers with sandbags. Bill had smoked pot but wouldn’t admit it for years because he was afraid of everyone’s disapproval, especially my dad’s.

In the 70s I taught in Los Angeles. Many of my friends and I were enraged at Watergate and Nixon. But we learned that even “good” presidents weren’t always good. For example, the Bay of Pigs fiasco, an unsuccessful military invasion of Cuba funded by the CIA, was supported by Kennedy.

I became disillusioned with politicians. However, I always informed myself about the issues and took part in every election. For a while I dated a communist but I myself was a progressive democrat.

Today I’m a retired art teacher but still avidly interested in mainstream political issues such as the ban on assault weapons.

When I was a little girl my dad used to come home from work and expound on politics over the dining table, pointing to a map on the wall. One place in particular that I do recall was Quemoy.  As long as I can remember, I felt that something wasn’t right about his views.

When Ike was elected, Dad tuned our black and white TV to the convention. The convention was all-male, and most of the men wore pork-pie convention hats. Balloting of the state representatives was conducted, with large lines of conventioneers snaking around the hall in support of this candidate or that.  I’d think, “This is how elections are run?  This is ridiculous!” The balloting continued until one man received enough votes to be that party’s candidate.

When my parents divorced, I remember my mom saying, “Now I don’t have to vote Republican anymore!”


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