September 22 is National Voter Registration Day. Meh. Battling hurricane waters, mask-less COVID zombies and economic chaos has kept Valleyites, well, busy.

But the Rio Grande Valley has endured another disaster for generations. Really? Yes, follow along.

America is here because we refused to have others tell us what to do. King George could not tax our tea, if we were not given a place at the table. Unrepresentative government was undemocratic.

Our grandfathers fought German fascists – twice – and a string of wars in Vietnam, Korea, and a Cold War against communists. Nearly 617,000 laid their lives in these wars in defense of liberal democracies. This is more than the entire population of Cameron, Starr and Willacy counties plus Edinburg – gone –  in defense of free and fair elections.

Our grandmothers were kept in their place, la cocina, and away from the voting booth until passage of the 19th Amendment 100 years ago on August 26, 1920.

Blacks were subjected to Jim Crow laws for nearly 100 years since the end of the Civil War in 1866, until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson spoke to Congress also about discrimination against Latinos in Cotulla, Texas where he taught. 

He said his students “knew even in their youth the pain of prejudice. They never seemed to know why people disliked them. But they knew it was so, because I saw it in their eyes. … Somehow you never forget what poverty and hatred can do when you see its scars on the hopeful face of a young child.”

Young Americans drafted to fight in Vietnam were old enough to defend democracy, but just not participate in it, until the  26th Amendment enfranchised 18 year olds. The 50th anniversary will be marked on July 5, 2021.

So where have these wars, struggles, blood, tears, and victories and tears of joy lead us?

The Valley has ceded its place in American life. Today, 6.5 of every 10 Texans vote. In the Valley it is two of every 10. Doing the math, not hard, 2/6.5 = 0.30769. This is about 31% of Valleyites vote compared to other Texans. Sad. Even blacks counted 3/5 of whites (60%).

Worse yet, Valleyites can only blame themselves. No one is keeping us from voting. No poll taxes, no literacy tests, no voter intimidation. Just the guy or gal in the mirror.

But there is hope. Valleyites are fighters. Here is an action plan to increase voter registration and honor fallen soldiers and civil rights activists.

Social Media: Change your banners on your social media accounts — all of them — to Register to Vote banners. These images can be found on the net. Find a nice one.

Emails: Add a Register to Vote reminder on your auto signature. Add a link to AACTNow, your county clerk’s office, or Add a picture. No kitties. Well, maybe voting kitties.

Phone Messages: Re-record your cell phone message to include a reminder to register. Give deadline, details, etc. Make it entertaining.

Register as Registrar: This is next level stuff.  Contact your county Elections Administrator and get trained to register friends, family, neighbors.

Other: Innovate. Get yard signs. IDK. No one’s a monopoly on ideas.

Chillax: You are a modern American warrior. Captain America, Captain Marvell, step aside. Save your strength for the next phase of our plan to defend democracy: Get Out The Vote (GOTV).

Tick tock, Clarice. The last day for Voter Registration is Monday, October 5. Don’t wait. Let’s show some respect for the Valleyite in the mirror.

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by Rio Grande Valley native Leonardo Olivares. Olivares says he displays the stars and stripes on Independence Day. He says he also daily tries to live by the American ideals the flag represents. Olivares can be reached at: [email protected].

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