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The Switch Brigade
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 the cemetery.

"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 me deeply.

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 me.

All we have to do is listen.

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