12/03/16 I was getting ready to write a blog entry today and some sort of temporal distortion occurred in the cloud and I ended up downloading a blog entry that I guess I will be writing 30 years in the future. Rather than write something today, I decided to post it instead, and here it is:
Wally Nut: 12/03/2046
“Poppy, . . .Poppy . . .Poppy.” I awoke with a start with my great granddaughter standing over me. I had fallen asleep in my recliner reading an old book written by J.K. Rowling back in the late twenties, one of my favorites. E.H. was ten years old. Her friends kidded her that the EH stood for Engineer Healer. I had no doubt she would be both when she grew up. I called her Lizzie or Sweetie, usually Sweetie.
“What is it, Sweetie?”
“Can you help me with my homework?”
I was fully awake now, for most of her homework was beyond my comprehension, and she seldom asked for my help.
“It’s U.S. History and there is something I don’t understand.”
I looked over her shoulder where she had been typing a report about the presidents on one of her pads. I could see a color-coded timeline on the top of the screen with a list of the presidents, and she pointed to one section.
“I can’t see that little print honey. Can you put it up on the big screen?”
She did, and I could see that the section she was pointing to started with #45, and my heart sank.
“Why does this section have so many presidents all stacked together? Most of the presidents served eight years – but I thought their term was six years – now I am getting confused. But in this section they served very short terms.”
I decided to address the length of term first as that would be easy. “The presidents term of office was changed from four years to six and restricted to one term in the thirties, 2035 I think. Haven’t you studied the 28th Amendment”
“Oh yea, I forgot, but you haven’t answered my question.”
I tried to divert. “I know your mom wasn’t born yet during that time, but have you ever asked your grandma?”
“Yea, but it was strange. She changed the subject and I could see a tear in her eye and she hugged me tight. I love her hugs, but I thought it was strange and I didn’t bring it up again.”
I become resolved that it was up to me. “Let’s sit on the couch together sweetie and we can talk about it.”
We did, and she looked a little puzzled. “Don’t worry sweetie, it isn’t going to be a lecture. It is just that we called that period “the bad time.”
EH’s face changed to one of concern, checking to see if I was going to cry too. I wasn’t. I was at peace with it. “Slide back to # 40. I am afraid we have to start with Ronald Reagan.”
She sighed but did as she was told. “Reagan was the beginning of the slippage to the right.”
“What was he right about, poppy?”
“No, I don’t mean right as in ‘right from wrong,’ but rather ‘right as opposed to left.”
“We talked about that at school last week. Emily and Darren and I are the only ones who are left-handed in our whole class, except Mrs. Phillips. But what possible difference would that make for the president?”
I realized this was going to be even more difficult than I thought.
“O.K. between the 1980’s and say 2025 or so, the country was divided between conservatives and liberals, or sometimes called progressives. The conservatives were called ‘the right’ and the progressives were called ‘the left.”
“That sounds pretty weird to me.” Out of the mouths of babes I thought.
“”The right didn’t trust government and they wanted to let big companies control things. They made it easier on the very rich and harder for regular folks. They also wanted to make it harder for people to get health care, and for women to decide when they wanted to have children, and some of them wanted our country to become officially Christian.”
“Now I am confused again. If they didn’t trust government, why did they want the government to restrict people’s rights? And I thought the first amendment meant you could be any religion you wanted or no religion.”
“It’s hard to explain. I don’t really understand it myself.” Smart kid.
“So let’s go back to the presidents. #39 was Jimmy Carter and there was very high inflation then. Do you know what inflation is?”
“Duh. We learned that in third grade. It means my hundred dollar allowance isn’t worth as much as it used to be.”
“That’s right, but when Carter was president it got really high and it scared a lot of people and hurt the economy. Carter was progressive, and the country decided to elect a conservative president and that was Reagan. He gave huge tax cuts to the very rich and the country’s deficit soared. To pay for it, he cut government benefits and the conservatives convinced regular folks that the rich people would create jobs and the economy would grow and the wealth would ‘trickle down’ to normal folks. But of course it didn’t happen. Still, he had been a movie star and he was sort of a sweet guy, and lots of people liked him. Are you following this?”
“I think so. Go on.”
“So after that we had two conservative Bush’s with Bill Clinton in between them. Clinton was supposed to be a progressive, but today we would consider him to be conservative because he made it hard for people to get government benefits and he made it easier to put people in prison, especially people of color.”
“I am beginning to see why you called it ‘the bad time.”
“No, sweetie, that wasn’t the bad time. Let me go on. 9/11 hit shortly after George W. Bush was elected, and instead of grieving, our country sought revenge, and Bush started a couple wars. I know you studied this.”
“Of course I did, but it was because of Bush that we were able to elect President Obama, and that changed everything.”
“Well we hoped it would, but it didn’t work out that way.” I couldn’t believe her classes glossed over what happened after that, but maybe they thought it was too much to take in for the little ones. I gave a long look at E.H. Her skin was the color of milk chocolate, and her eyes had epicanthic folds. Her afro-textured hair was a little wild looking today, which seemed to fit her mood. I had a hard time thinking of her as being only ten given her propensity to complicated science experiments, but I knew it was time to talk about the bad time.
“Didn’t they teach you anything about Donald Trump?”
“Well, I was told he had the second-shortest term of office, just a little longer than #9 William Harrison.”
“Not really, they just sort of jumped forward to Elizabeth Warren and how this was the beginning of our prosperity.”
“O.K. then. Do you want the long or short version of the bad time?”
“Short, I think. I do have to finish this report.”
“O.K. Here goes. Trump was a very sick man. Not sick like Harrison who died of pneumonia primarily because he delivered his speech in the rain and talked too long. Rather he was sick in his head. He was born very rich and could have whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. So people told him what he wanted to hear because he could reward them with presents. He craved attention and would do almost anything to get it. If someone disagreed with him, he would attack them viciously. He won the presidency by making promises to working people that he couldn’t possibly meet and he courted people who thought that white people were superior to other folks, and that men were superior to women. When he took office, he was so overwhelmed with the responsibilities of the presidency, that he handed almost all the tasks over to his vice president.”
“Yea, I remember him. He was #46 Mike Pence, the one who was assassinated?”
“Yes, but we are getting ahead of ourselves. The technical reason Trump left office was because he did an illegal deal with a company overseas and the Senate threatened to impeach him, so he resigned. But prior to that he almost started a nuclear war because he offended China and he created such havoc in the world that world economy started unraveling. No sooner was Pence sworn in than he pardoned Trump. Less than a month later Pence was killed by one of Trump’s supporters who thought that Pence stole the presidency from Trump.”
“O.K. that explains #45 and #46, but how about #47?”
“Since there was not enough time for Pence to select a new vice president, the speaker of the house Paul Ryan became the president #47. At this time, people were really scared and worried. Ryan pushed through lots of laws that restricted people’s rights and denied services and benefits to millions of people. Many lost health insurance. Many LGBTQ folks were beaten and killed. There were riots in the streets, many of them actually encouraged and paid for by Donald Trump. Mosques were burned. Muslims were told they had to register and many non-Muslims registered as Muslims in support, which created havoc. Then a group called Anonymous hacked into the registry and signed up all the members of Congress and all the governors as Muslims. It was a terrible time!”
I was starting to become emotional as I remembered scenes from that time. I glanced over at EH. She had tears in her eyes and jumped into my arms.
“That was when Elizabeth Warren was elected, then?” She was trying to cheer me up.
“No, there was a mid-term election and many Republicans were voted out of office and the Democrats regained control of both the Senate and the House. Ryan vetoed almost every bill they passed and became famous as the president with the most vetoes. Things actually got worse in the country. I could tell you stories, but I won’t. You are right, in 2020 Elizabeth Warren was elected and that is when things started to get better and she served eight years. Yes I see it on your chart. So she was #48 and she served until 2028. Who was #49?”
“Chelsea Clinton, of course!”
“And who is the president now? # 51?
“Everyone knows that Poppy, it is Dalton Driscoll.”
“And do you know who his great grandfather was?”
“No, of course not. How would I know that?”
“His name was Bernie Sanders, and I met him in 2015. You can tell that to Mrs. Phillips. Maybe you will get a better grade.” I winked.
“Oh, poppy, you are so old-fashioned. You know we don’t get grades anymore.”
I love my little E.H., my little sweetie, my little Elizabeth Hillary.