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State of the Union January 29, 2014

Posted by vsap in Blogroll.
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I turned to him and said, off-handed, like I hadn’t given it much thought,

“The country is over-run with communists, socialists, and worse, those who don’t care.”

His eyes narrowed as if he half-expected me to say something that would get a rise.

“True,” he nodded, “And we spawned every one of them, didn’t we?”

I agreed that with each small decision over the decades we basically damned ourselves.

“It’s hell on earth for the likes of you, isn’t it? I mean, you see the evil, everywhere.”

Pervasive came to mind and I smiled in agreement but I’m not sure he understood it.

“There is dark and light. that’s just fact,” I replied, still with the wisp of a smile in my voice.

“it’s all black and white, and you know it better than most,” my voice lowering to be respectful.

“No,” he replied calmly, “It’s not black and white, dark and night, good and evil.

That’s all too easy. Like blind patriotism. My country right or wrong. No, not at all.”

My perspective was shaped by the streets, the trade union press and working-class values.

He was instructed by field and stream, long guns and military service in the jungles of Vietnam.

Yet, here we sat, in the lounge at the Ritz Carlton, decades removed from those influences

but still drawn into conversations about the irreconcilable, the inconsolable, the nature of man.

He held his bourbon and water in his right hand and waved it like a wand as if to encircle the room.

“This whole scene,” he said as he stared passed me, maybe through me, “It’s surreal when you think of it.”

His mission was to serve the poor and yet he allowed me to pull him into a world that he didn’t know.

“It’s your natural curiosity,” I responded, trying to sound sarcastic, but I wasn’t, really.

“You believe in the questioning. That’s the thing for you. Then you won’t settle for an answer,” I offered.

“That’s what I look like to you?” he asked, seriously, “Why do you think I’m here anyway?”

“Asked and answered,” I replied, the smile creeping back across my face, “You like the bourbon,

you like this place and, maybe, just maybe, you like me, if you take time to think it of it at all.”

His eyes came back to mine and glared at me as if he were a police officer I offended during a traffic stop.

“Oh, I don’t know,” he finally said flatly, “I never really liked you worth a damn, but you been kin for so long

I had to find a way to tolerate you. Maybe bring you along in some way. Like it was my job to do that,”

he let his lips curl a bit at the ends but didn’t really smile, not wanting to give me the satisfaction.

“So, you’re good with the economy, this president, all that health care socialism, everything’s Jake?”

He took a long draw from his glass, finishing it off, shaking his head ‘no’ the whole time.

“Jake? Did we throw back to the fifties? No, everything is not okay. I’d be a fool to agree with that.”

He waved the waiter back over and ordered another round, which I thought was progress.

We hadn’t shared more than one drink for at least five years, maybe longer, so he seemed engaged.

“The state of the union is not good,” he said like he was on a CNN talk show, “And it’s a damn shame

that there is so much promise and so little delivered on the promise. Politicians ransack the house

and we’re stuck to clean it up and pay the increase on the insurance when it comes around,” he said indignantly.

“It was ever thus,” I interrupted, but he continued.

“Those good people living around Little Grassy, you know the place, in Southern Illinois?”

I nodded and said, “Yes, I know it well. You’re the one who took me there. Been back many times”

“None of those Great Society things did anything for them. Neither did the trickle down economics you like,”

he was stopped by the waitress bringing the next round, top shelf bourbon for him, with some ice and water

and house gin and tonic for me. He was affable for a moment, watching her ass as she walked away, then

he returned to his thought.

“What works is just getting down to work. The government interferes or doesn’t makes a difference of a few dollars

on your tax return or on a Friday night on the first of fifteenth of the month, otherwise, it’s empty arguing.

but you’d sit and argue with me all night. Your tea party obstructionism and your libertarian tendencies.

Why, I don’t even think you know what you think.,” he paused for a moment.

“I know what I know, not what I don’t,” I responded, sounding a little defensive, “But it’s truly a black and white world.

It’s a battle of good versus evil. And, as we plunge further toward darkness, the state of the union is grave.”

“I don’t know,” he said, eyes now following the waitress around the room.

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