I became eligible to vote in 1964.


Only once during the years since have I not cast a vote. That came many years ago when I was not satisfied with either candidate – one a Republican and one a Democrat.


That decision not to vote left me feeling sad, sad that I had not made a difficult choice, had not taken the time to look closely at both candidates and picked one of them. I vowed then that I would never let that happen again.


Faithfully since, I have cast a vote in every Presidential election. There have been times, quite naturally, that I’ve been unhappy with both candidates. Nonetheless, I’ve contemplated differences between the two candidates, stepped into the voting booth and made my choice.


Most folks who regularly read this column will no doubt believe that I vote for the Democratic candidate without pause. You may believe it or not, but that is not always the case.


I prefer to make a decision that I believe will be best for the country and, of course, best for me.


In recent years, though, I admit I’ve leaned more to the left, mainly because the Republican Party has become more and more the arm of America’s ultra-rich, those folks who’ve never fought to make financial ends meet. They’ve never thought about rent checks, doctor bills and mothers who have gone through more financial struggles than many Americans can even imagine.


I still struggle to understand how this great country, the great experiment we call America, can have sunk so low to elect an avowed racist.


I struggle to understand how an antiquated American electoral system can put anyone in the White House who got more than two million fewer votes than the election looser did.


This same President has spent the first two years of his four-year term destroying a health care system that seemed to be working for most Americans. He’s issued almost daily “tweets” that have ranged from the preposterous to the outrageous to the out-right racist. Yet, his followers somehow believe he is the second coming of Christ.


Take notice, Christian-Americans, the Bible says that you should beware of “false gods.” I submit to you that Donald Trump is just that.


Christians do not verbally attack people simply because of the color of their skin, their choice of religion or because of their ethnicity.


Yet, that’s exactly what Donald Trump has done since he’s been elected. He claimed in one of his recent daily “tweets” that he didn’t think four duly elected House of Representative Democrats were “capable of loving our country.” He made those allegations, without any evidence, against Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.


Those four women, admittedly from the far left of the Democratic party, have been extremely critical of Trump’s presidency. He even said, last week, that the four should “go back” to the countries they came from. Well, Donald (I prefer not to give him the traditional “Mr. President” title), perhaps you and your followers didn’t know that three of the four were born in the United States and the fourth, a U.S. citizen, came here as a child refugee.


Did you know that your family, too, were once immigrants? Did you know that your family came from Germany?


Does that make you more American than four women who happen to disagree with you?


As an American, I am outraged at those ignorant comments.


Am I, too, less American than you?


Well, Donald, while you were nursing “bad feet” to escape the military draft — six times, by the way — most of that generation served honorably.


I’m proud to be one of them.


We battled sore feet, as well.


Have you ever marched more than a mile in combat boots, carrying a rifle and full back pack? Have you ever run a mile in full combat gear? Have you ever spent a wonderful few moments in a gas tent without a gas mask? Have you ever experienced the sadness and, yes, anxiety, of having a brother sent off to a war zone?


Have you ever known anyone who’s military “job” it was to bag bodies of young American men who died on the battlefield?


One true American, Elijah Cummings from Maryland said statements made by Trump and his racist supporters reminded him of abuse that he’d received as a black youngster in the ‘60s.


I’m white, Donald. I didn’t live through that abuse in the 1960s, but I saw some of it first-hand. I drove from my home in Iowa through Alabama on my way to Fort Gordon, Ga., in 1966. I saw those unpainted shacks of poor black people living on the fringe of the American dream.


And, I’m proud to say that some of my friends from 1965, until I returned home in 1968, were people who didn’t share the color of my skin.


They wore combat boots, just like me. They had Army green uniforms bearing stripes of rank just like me. They ate in the same Mess Hall and sat at the same table as I did.


And, often, we rode in the same car and sat at the same table sipping a cold one at the end of a day. And, we didn’t share the same religion, but we worshipped the same God.


Yes, America is still the “Home of the Brave.” And, yes, America is still the “Home of the Free.” Unfortunately, America is also still the home of bigots.


Believe it or not, Donald, those of us who served, served for all … the brave, the free AND the bigots.


Bill Haglund is a retired writer for the Boone News Republican and Dallas County News. He can be reached at Bhaglund13@msn.com.