May 23, 2002
By W. David Jenkins III
"All I can do at this stage of my life is write letters
to newspapers and other publications, and hope I won't live
long enough to witness the meltdown." - Matilda, age 81
I remember being a youngster and having an apple fight with
my sisters and cousins in the cemetery that was located behind
my grandmother's house in Marlow, New Hampshire. I also remember
seeing my grandmother, not only running towards us after she
saw what we were up to, but jumping over headstones as she
screamed at us.
"How dare you children make me look bad in front of my neighbors!"
I had never experienced that kind of anger before and I haven't
since. Grandma was older and wiser and had done many wonderful
things for us, yet our actions had stirred the full force
of her anger for being stupid and disrespectful children.
Based upon my mail, Bush has committed the same crime in the
eyes of one of America's forgotten populations. The only difference
is I and my sisters and cousins felt terrible about it.
Ed and Luella Smith live in South Carolina. They are classic
"grandma and grandpa" types. They take weekend vacations,
they love their family and they face the trials that come
with aging together. They also have the greatest little web
site which features a couple of puppets they've "adopted."
And they wonder what is wrong with almost everybody around
them. Like many other people I hear from, the Smiths live
in what's been branded as a "red zone" and it bugs the crap
out of them. They feel all the more ignored by Bush II and
the media because the rest of the world thinks they voted
for the way things are right now.
Like other senior Americans, Ed and Luella are folks I like
to refer to as the "Switch Brigade." They are thoughtful,
dignified and their experience in life has taught them to
be very wary of characters like "W" and his gang. And, although
they would never resort to rants and obscenities when referring
to Dubya, they would secretly love to take him behind the
barn, armed with a switch. A very large switch.
They're not just rocking in a chair on some porch in Anywhere,
U.S.A. They're out there paying attention and getting just
as angry as we "youngsters" are. In fact, Luella had an interesting
take on the latest news concerning the "memo of August 6th."
"What I can't understand is....if they own
the media, why is it coming out? Is it because they can
make us look like crazies with the truth? The truth is in
other countries etc and we can't be stifled from getting
it, so if they report it and make it look crazy, most of
the dumb sheeple will buy into it."
Not exactly what you'd expect to hear at the shuffle board
tournament, is it? Of course, that's because contrary to what
the media and Bush II photo ops would have us believe, many
of our elders are thinking, angry, cheated voters too. The
Smiths have been active members of Democratic Underground
and visit often ( "The Moosedogs" to all of you evil DUers).
Although they may not post much, they do read. They read a
lot. As frustrated as they are about the perceived ignorance
of members of their community, they are even more frustrated
by the feeling of helplessness and the desire to undo what
the Supreme Court did in December of 2000. Gramma and Grampa
are angry and they want to help.
We've all seen the video clips of Bush II trying to take
advantage of a population he under-guess-ta-mates. CNN or
MSNBC will show him shaking hands with our elders while he
lies to them about how much he cares about them. There he
is in some senior center lying about what he plans to do about
prescription drug costs. Some of them probably don't even
know who he is, and that's the way he and his handlers like
it. Then we see him talking about "smoking out bin Laden"
and somehow tying in the high cost of health care for seniors
as some kind of patriotic national security issue.
Meanwhile, those same seniors are watching HMO's pulling
out of insuring them while Baby Bush looks for more ways to
reward those companies in the name of fighting "terra-ism."
Meanwhile, our elders continue to have to make the choice
between medication and eating every month. Although the logic
behind Bush's attempted manipulation of your grandparents
can be confusing at best, they're not fooled.
Many are still angry about the jokes made at their expense
concerning the travesty in Florida. Oh, sure they can manipulate
27 bingo cards simultaneously but they can't figure out a
butterfly ballot? Remember when Bush supporters were using
that "logic" and actually thought it was humorous? Grandma
and Grandpa remember when Pat Buchanan actually said that
the Palm Beach seniors didn't really mean to vote for him.
Bush the Un-elected and his whiney brother Jeb forget that
there is a large group of thinking, angry voters who are not
as gullible as they hope, just waiting to get them back for
the injustices put upon them. I know they're out there. Ed
and Luella may not be from Florida but they know how Florida's
seniors must feel and they're as angry as my Grandma was in
"How dare you children make me look bad in front of my neighbors!"
But there's another angle our elders bring to all this chaos
we have to deal with. That brings me to Matilda. She also
has a great web
site. Consider this bit of mail I received from her in
reference to a recent article:
"I am an 81 year-old American and have been
living in France for the past 35 years. I wish Americans
could see and hear the world's reactions to Bush and his
cronies. They started out amazed at the coup that allowed
him to occupy the oval office....then shortly after that
he made a trip across the Atlantic (carefully avoiding France,
Great Britain and Germany) and made an ass of himself. The
Europeans were shocked and somewhat amused. But after September
11th, although their hearts went out to New Yorkers and
Americans in general, they began to truly fear for the future
of the world.
I was a Naval officer during World War II....I
truly love my country. I used to get goose pimples seeing
our flag waving and hearing our national anthem. Bush is
making me ashamed to be an American today. He is a political
disaster, a danger for America, and a humiliating international
embarrassment. The American media is dishonest....the governing
Democrats are afraid...
And even though Bush's popularity ratings appear
to be falling, I'm afraid too many Americans are not aware
of how really bad it all is.
All I can do at this stage of my life is write
letters to newspapers and other publications, and hope I
won't live long enough to witness the meltdown."
Like Ed and Luella, Matilda gave me permission to not only
quote her but also to use her real name. Our elders are not
afraid of this faux administration. And apparently, our elders
in Europe are wondering what the hell's wrong with us. I have
stated in an earlier article how our international neighbors
are a bit confused and fearful. All they see is what American
media wants to show, not only to us but the rest of the world.
Matilda recently wrote me asking how "West Wing" could be
such a popular TV show in an America that worshiped George
W. That's the perception they have "over there." I don't know
about the rest of you, but I'm getting pretty damned sick
and tired of explaining over and over that most of America
didn't want George W.! We didn't vote for him and we don't
trust him. Now, in light of the recent news of W. and "what
did he know?" I get this letter from Matilda:
"The other day I received an excited email
from my youngest daughter saying, 'I tried to call you late
last night when the news broke that GW had advance warning
of the terrorism.' At first I was completely confused. This
was breaking news????!!!! And then I realized that although
the rest of the world was aware that Bush knew before 9/11,
in the US of A, it was 'breaking news'...!!! Europeans,
although they love many things about America and Americans,
find us very na´ve and gullible, and I must say I find that
easy to understand. Some Europeans even feel that leaking
this piece of information was in the way of "damage control"....that
there was too much criticism of his sale of photos to raise
money, and that maybe people were digging a little too deeply
into the possibility of a Bush involvement in the attacks.
I find that easy to understand too. Personally, I shouldn't
be at all surprised to learn of more terrorism very soon."
Look back at the remark Luella Smith made about all this
recent "news" we've been watching since the 15th. Then check
out Matilda's daughter's take on the same subject. Looks as
though our "domestic" elders have much in common with our
foreign neighbors. But there's another theme which runs in
much of the mail I get from my elders. And it's one that affects
A long while ago, I received a message from a 70-something
Viet Nam vet who was dying from complications caused by Agent
Orange. This was prior to 9/11 and he was responding to something
I'd written and he stated that he was glad he wouldn't live
long enough to realize the damage Bush II would do to the
country he had defended. Unfortunately, I lost his letter
in the "crash of February" (see "13
Days in Captivity") but I was reminded of him and others
when Matilda ended her first letter to me with;
"All I can do at this stage of my life is
write letters to newspapers and other publications, and
hope I won't live long enough to witness the meltdown."
I am angered that a sitting, or squatting if you prefer,
"president" should elicit such feelings in a population that
we can all learn from. That we can all be proud of. To feel
that one's mortality is an advantage in the face of political
injustice and potential chaos is a sad testament to what should
be a world leader. This goes far beyond the sanctimonious
"shame" felt over a blue dress by some uninformed "sheep"
a few years ago.
I did respond to Matilda and stated that the consensus was
we all needed her in the fight against the right wing ideology
that threatens our country. The shame that is George W. Bush
is felt to such depths by so many of our elders that I think
they would take us all behind the barn if they actually believed
the polls. They have a fear and a sense of deja vu
when it comes to the Man Who Wants To Be President and they
have much to teach us all in how to work to defeat the apathy
that gave him power in the first place.
They are not the hopeless, quiet old folks with vacant stares
whose only care is when TV Land is going to show another "Andy
Griffith" marathon. They're not all sitting around waiting
for the phone to ring or biding their time until the nursing
home police come to take them away.
They're on the Internet with us. They're in the fight with
us. They're reading with us too. They're just as, if not more,
worried than we are. And they have much to offer us. Trust
All we have to do is listen.