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New Silent Majority Discovered in Fallon, Nevada
December 12, 2003
By Dan Gougherty

On a recent trip to Fallon, Nevada, I had a brief but eye-opening conversation at the local Wal-Mart.

Realizing I had left my shaving kit at home, I sauntered over to the local Wal-Mart to pick up some toiletries after finding no other local businesses that carried these items. (I guess Wal-Mart ran those businesses out of town, but that's another story.)

As I made my way through the checkout line, I was served by Barbara. Judging by her thinning gray hair and frail physique, Barbara was well past standard retirement age. Wearing her oversized Wal-Mart cashier's vest, I noticed two photos pinned to each of the vest front panels. On the left side was a vintage black and white WWII shot of a young solider. On the right panel Barbara wore a color photo of a much younger soldier that appeared to be brand new.

I asked Barbara who were the men in the photos. "This one is my husband," she said, proudly pointing to the WWII photo. "He served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam." I asked who was in the other photo and she said somewhat more quietly that it was her grandson. "He's in the Army and is serving over in Iraq."

Being that Fallon is a politically conservative rural area of northwest Nevada whose largest employer is the Fallon Naval Air Station, the real home of the Navy's "Top Gun" school, my guess was that Barbara and her husband probably retired in the area to be close to the base to take advantage of the services. Although our conversation was brief, I could see that while Barbara was mentally sharp, my gut feeling was that she was working out of necessity. Perhaps she was working there to make ends meet; perhaps it was to help pay for medications. What other reason could there be? I quietly thought.

"You must be very proud of both of them," I asked her. Barbara said that she was indeed proud of both of them but then she paused, looked around to make sure no one was within hearing distance, like one of those characters we saw in grade school films during the cold war about the evils of communism. After allaying her fears, Barbara very quietly whispered to me, with muted vigor, "I think it's a shame they have our boys over there. I think they are sitting ducks. They need to come home. We shouldn't be over there."

Given the setting, I was surprised - and pleased - to hear this from Barbara. The fact that she had to whisper it to me also speaks volumes about the environment that many people find themselves in. It is obvious that Barbara and her family have honorably served our country and yet, perhaps out of fear of being labeled unpatriotic, she found it necessary to whisper.

Leaving the store, Barbara reminded me of the Nixon's co-called "Silent Majority." In his version, the silent majority opposed civil rights, anti-war demonstrators and were reactionaries. Today, I believe most Americans can now be classified as the New Silent Majority. Specifically, there is a plurality of people, like Barbara, who not only oppose the war in Iraq, but the neo-con policies of the Bush administration as well. They are out there and not only do they lack a forum to voice their opposition, they are afraid to do so in public lest they be labeled unpatriotic. They have been silenced.

So to Barbara, and all the others who are afraid of speaking up against the flag wrapped extremist, don't be afraid. This is exactly how they want you to behave.

Stand up and become the voice of the new Vocal Majority.

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