The Old Paths: Votes and Veterans

By Leslie Bray Brewer - Special to The Stokes News

November is always a key month in our nation. Not only does it bring us Election Day, but also Veterans Day and Thanksgiving—holidays very specific to the U.S., unlike Christmas and Easter which are internationally celebrated. I find this to be perhaps the most patriotic month of all.

By the time you read this, Election Day will be over and done with. If you live in a municipality, I hope you exercised your civic duty to cast a ballot. Sometimes I wonder if we realize just what a privilege it is to be able to vote and choose our leaders. If we lived under a dictatorship, we would quickly snap to our senses about voting rights.

A couple of years ago, I decided to watch a TV series most of you probably caught back in the ’90’s—“Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.” I had long had people tell me I reminded them of Dr. Quinn, with regard to my ideals and determination to fight for justice (and maybe the long hair I refuse to cut!). So I finally settled in to watch this old show on Amazon Video.

One thing that struck me was that the women in Dr. Quinn’s town of Colorado Springs could not vote unless they owned property, which knocked out most women. I remember the episode in which Dr. Quinn ran for mayor and was definitely the best candidate, but couldn’t win due to the primarily male vote. A smothered feeling rose up inside me as I watched. Feeling powerless in critical situations is a terrible feeling.

This past weekend, the hubster and I watched the 1994 version of “Little Women,” and I felt that same choking feeling again as I watched “Josephine March” (Wynona Ryder) listen to some males discussing why women shouldn’t be given the vote. The reasons were ludicrous, such as that women are so good and noble that they shouldn’t be bothered with such issues as government. Back in the day, women were also not thought intellectual enough to make a voting decision.

You don’t want to see my angry face when I think about that. As Sheriff Andy Taylor would say, it’d be ugly as homemade soap. I get plumb riled up.

I know that many people hate protests of any kind, but sometimes if there aren’t protests (I only agree with peaceful ones), nothing will change. Women had to protest for several decades before the vote was granted to them nationally by the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920. As a woman, I am determined to never take that for granted, so I vote even if every candidate is unopposed.

Native Americans couldn’t vote either for the longest time back on the old paths. In 1887, an act was passed that made their men eligible to vote IF they vowed to disassociate themselves from their tribes to become “good Americans.” What a load of malarkey! These people were the original Americans.

Sounds sort of like the way many Southern states kept the vote from black people by making them pay a poll tax or do other ridiculous things. I still find it embarrassing that our country technically gave voting rights to non-white men and freed male slaves in 1870 with the Fifteenth Amendment but didn’t enforce that correctly until 1964 with the Twenty-Fourth Amendment.

Uh, nine more Amendments and nearly a century to make a law stick? Inexcusable.

Be that as it may, these examples are in the past (I sure hope!). However, we should never forget from whence we have come, lest we fail to avail ourselves of the opportunities that have been granted to us through decades of hard-fought battles.

And on that subject of never forgetting, I am also big on the idea that we should never forget the sacrifices made by our veterans and their families. I make Veterans Day a big deal at my house and try to take my children to a holiday service/ceremony (Sat., Nov. 11, 2017—11 a.m. at King’s Central Park—excellent event).

Veterans sacrifice their time and sometimes their families and lives to defend this nation. Taking one day a year to honor them is just a smidgen of what we should do. I do not take for granted that I am able to write this opinionated column, due to those who were willing to fight for me to have freedom (of the press and other things) in America.

I’m not much on watching war movies, but I finally caved in to the hubster’s insistence that I should watch “Saving Private Ryan” since I was born on D-Day. Although I probably won’t ever watch it again, I’m glad I saw it once. Forever the scenes of the sacrifices made during the Allied invasion of Normandy in WWII will be imprinted in my memory. And this was just a movie; of course the reality was much worse.

If you haven’t watched the unmatchable Ken Burns’ documentary on the Civil War, I recommend it. We are halfway through it, and my eyes have been opened to what a horrific carnage this “War Between the States” really was. My respect for veterans who fought for freedom has intensified hugely as I have watched this brilliantly-done series.

Do you know a veteran? Be sure to thank him/her this week. And if you know a WWII veteran, don’t put off going to talk to them. Now in their 80’s and 90’s, they are dying at an average rate of 362 per day. Out of

approximately 16 million Americans who served during WWII, only about 558,000 are still alive. The final WWI U.S. veteran died at age 110 in 2011. There are still many veterans living who fought in the Korean Conflict, Vietnam War and other more modern conflicts. Their stories need to be heard, if they choose to tell them. Either way, these servicemen and women deserve our recognition and respect.

I consider myself a citizen of Heaven first and foremost and am perhaps not as nationalistic as others in this country, but that doesn’t mean I don’t treasure my nation and the liberty we have. Voting rights and veterans are part of the reason we have these freedoms. I don’t ever want to take either one for granted.

Leslie Bray Brewer can be emailed at Her blog is at

By Leslie Bray Brewer

Special to The Stokes News