Friday, November 2, 2012

Rep's Remark an Insult to Veterans

By Bill Gouveia

The race for state representative in Attleboro has been a hard-fought and bare-knuckled battle between challenger Paul Heroux and incumbent George Ross.  The two candidates give Attleboro voters a clear choice, as there are wide differences between them.   They have different visions for the city and the state.

Ross is an experienced local politician, and Heroux a relative political novice.  The challenger has been quick to call attention to the incumbent’s voting record, and Ross has responded by highlighting Heroux’s voting record – not as a public official, but as a private citizen.  That has created an interesting discussion of just what voting is, and what should be expected of voters everywhere.

Ross has publicized how many times Heroux has voted since turning 18.  Heroux became of legal voting age in 1995, but records show he did not vote in an election until 2004.  Heroux says he was not motivated to vote until that time in his life, and says he has changed from being apathetic on the matter to now getting involved in running for public office.

Ross has charged the fact his opponent chose not to vote in many elections is an insult to military veterans who risked their lives to protect that freedom.  When Heroux responded by claiming he knows veterans who do not always vote, Ross replied that if you are a veteran and do not vote, “there is something wrong with you.”

It seems pretty clear everyone in this country should vote if at all possible.  It is one of the great rights and privileges we are given in America.  It is difficult to make a difference and a better life for yourself, your family, and your friends and neighbors if you don’t take the time to make your voice heard at the ballot box.

But George Ross is incredibly wrong and entirely off-base when he takes the issue of voting and tries to tie it to our brave men and women serving in the armed forces.  If he wants to take issue with Heroux’s choice not to vote for quite a period of time – that is fair game.  But casting it as disrespect to our veterans and servicemen and servicewomen is petty, political, and a cheap shot of the highest order.

There are many reasons why so many men and women have served our country with such great distinction throughout history.  Protecting the right to vote is no doubt one of them.  But overwhelmingly, the veterans I know have said defending their country and guaranteeing freedom were the biggest reasons they put their lives on the line for the rest of us here at home.  And part of that freedom – like it or not – is the right to decide whether or not to vote in elections.

Ross has a perfect right to hold fast to his own belief, but no right to claim it is the standard by which all shall be judged.  He should know and understand that some veterans come home inspired, and some come home disillusioned.  Some vote in every election after serving, and some vote in none.  But the fact some choose not to vote does not mean there is “something wrong” with them.

I don’t really know either of the candidates in this race personally.  I do not live in their district.  I can’t vote for either one of them, and I don’t know which one would better serve the good citizens of Attleboro.

But I do know exploiting the service of veterans for political purposes is disturbing.  Candidates should concentrate on veteran issues today, as well as things like the state budget, local aid for education, and other areas where as state representatives they can have a direct and meaningful impact.

Raising the issue of your opponent’s voting record is fine.  But using our veterans and the good men and women currently serving in the military as a way of gaining political advantage in a local race is simply inexcusable.  That is far more an insult to them than any lack of voting could ever be.

Here’s hoping that in this final week before Election Day, the candidates can concentrate on the real issues.  Better yet – let’s hope the voters do it for them.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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