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Veterans Day

Veterans Day

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11 November 2016

While the civil unrest following this week's election is disturbing, we're glad to see so many high school students who can not yet vote express their strong opposition -- revulsion, in fact -- to the judgement shown by so many adults on Tuesday. They have walked out of class to march on their city's streets.

We'll never understand why half of all eligible voters fail to vote. But these kids seem anxious to replace them. They already know how much it matters.

And in that they resemble our veterans, all of whom we honor today.

It is no small sacrifice to serve your country. You enter what you know to be a dark tunnel, hoping to reach the bright light at the other side. And despite the president-elect's mockery of it, post traumatic stress syndrome is often the consolation prize for surviving the experience. But then, what would he know about it?

Two of our high-school-age nephews took part in the protests. Their father reported they were "angry, outraged and courageous" as they marched:

They're informed. Thanks to good social studies and history teachers and courses in their public school, where they have open discussion. Many of their friends are of different nationalities. There is no "other." They feel the invulnerability of youth. We also have plenty of conversation about political events at home. Not much gets by. They form they're own instinctual opinions. The national examples were pretty distinct. Know right from wrong. Know the facts.

Know right from wrong.

That's one of the sadder things about this election. The kids we have been teaching right from wrong saw an unprecedented violator of common decency elected.

We can't explain that to them. We can only tell them how important it is to know the facts.

The great suspension bridge of our democracy does not float on air. It requires the riveted steel support structure of an informed electorate.

The lesson our children can learn from this is that along with the vote comes the obligation to inform yourself. And indulging in partisan media of any particular persuasion, no matter how entertaining, doesn't fulfill that obligation. It avoids it.

Informing yourself involves listening when the President speaks, listening to what Representatives in the House say, reading what the Senate Majority Leader says, for example, about that institution's obligation to advise and consent the President on Supreme Court nominees.

It involves remembering what the President proposed in the State of the Union address and what subsequent legislation was rejected and passed by Congress. It involves remembering what the Supreme Court decided in 2013 about the Voting Rights Act and how that played out across the nation as this election drew near and as it was carried out.

The trouble with that obligation, of course, is that it bores people. It puts them to sleep. They aren't really interested until their own ox is gored.

But without that knowledge, how will you even know which ox is yours?

The right to know first hand, not through some partisan filter, what's going on in the halls of power is what our veterans sacrificed for. It's the concrete instance of that abstract value "freedom."

But that fight, their sacrifice, doesn't matter if you don't vote.

So as we remember our veterans today, we applaud the nation's young people who, still without the vote, already study the facts and can, unlike so many of the adults who don't pay attention, also tell right from wrong.

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