“My country doesn’t feel so special anymore,” says the Millennial waitress pouring our coffee.
“Just because we’ve elected a spoiled brat as President?” says The Boomer. “Oh, we’ve done worse.”
“When did we do worse?” she says, startled.
“Well, John F. Kennedy.”
“Whoa,” I say, shoving aside my coffee cup. “Didn’t JFK avoid a nuclear war over Cuba that would’ve blown us all to pieces? How is he worse?”
“He promoted civil rights for all citizens regardless of race or anything else, him and that ghastly Lyndon Johnson,” says The Boomer.
“That’s bad?” says the Millennial.
“It interferes with the traditional way things are done in this special country of ours and just can’t be allowed,” says The Boomer. “It’s like the Federal anti-lynching law.”
“What about it?” she says.
“We don’t have one. Lynching is as American as apple pie.”
“Are you trying to make me sick?”
“Nixon was pretty bad, too,” says The Boomer.
“You mean,” I say, “because he was impeached and forced to resign?”
“No, no, that was silly politics. He expanded the social safety net for the poor, established agencies to protect the safety of workers on the job and to preserve the environment, and made our peace with China.”
“Those aren’t good things?” says the Millennial.
“Only if you think Christian charity to the poor and the health of American workers are good things and that doing business with the Communist enemy is in any way smart.”
“I don’t even know what ‘Communist’ means,” she says.
“There you have it! See the damage Nixon did to American values? There’s also the monster Truman.”
“I’m almost afraid to ask what crimes he committed,” she says.
“Integrated the Armed Forces!” says The Boomer. “Really messed things up for lots of traditional-type guys who should have been promoted if there hadn’t been so much competition from those others. And it led to women in command of soldiers in combat.”
“I suppose you have something bad to say about Franklin Roosevelt who got us through the Depression and World War II?” I say.
“Oh, yes, he’s the worst of all, him and Lincoln. FDR proposed national health care, a real crime against traditional American do-it-yourself medicine.”
“You’re exhausting me,” says the Millennial, “but I have to know how Lincoln was a monster.”
“Why, he’s where America really started going downhill.”
“You can’t mean because he fought a war to free the slaves?” I say. “Then I’m going to need more than coffee to listen to this.”
“Hey,” says The Boomer, “slavery offers the advantage of depressing the cost of labor and drives out those awful unions. That keeps down the cost of everything we buy. If it weren’t for the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, we could try it again, using illegal immigrants this time.”
“You make me want to scream, Boomer!” says the Millennial.
“But Lincoln’s real offense was promoting land grant colleges, a national banking system and free land in the West.”
“What’s wrong with all that?” she says.
“Can’t you see, child? They’re all crimes against the American Dream to get rich. Do you really want working men and women educated to complain about how you make your fortune? Why have a national banking system when trading gold nuggets allows easier Wall Street manipulation? Why give away free government land in the West when billionaire bankers and real estate moguls can sell it to make personal fortunes?”
“Boomer,” cries the Millennial, “I think you’ve lost America from your heart!”
“Oh, I believe in America,” says The Boomer, “just not the one we’ve got right now. I believe in that other one.”
“What other America is there?”
“The America that still says, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’”
“You make me want to cry, Boomer.”
“Go ahead. Then wipe off your tears and let’s all go find a way to bring back that other America.”
© 2016-17 Steven Hardesty