May 8th, 2007 by alex
COLUMBUS _ Uncle Chet came into the church supper, stood straight behind his chair in the busy room while Alice sat down. He unbuttoned his blue jean jacket, drew back his lapels like curtains opening at a matin�e, and underneath he was wearing a neatly silk-screened T-shirt emblazoned “Gravel 2008.’’
“Gravel for president?’’ I asked.
“Gravel,’’ he corrected and sat down. “Rhymes with gazelle.’’
“Who made your shirt?’’ asked the little miscreant.
“I did,’’ said Alice, flower child of the ’60s.
“It’s awesome; I want one,’’ our eighth-grader said.
“I want one, too,’’ said Buddy.
“I’ll make them,’’ said Alice, “but you’ll have to wear them.’’
“Who is Gravel?’’ I pronounced the name the way it looks.
“The next president of the United States,’’ Uncle Chet said, then asked for two tacos with everything on them.
“Never heard of him,’’ said Hon.
“Neither had I until last week when the Democrats were debating in South Carolina,’’ said Uncle Chet. “I didn’t see the debate, but I was checking it out on the Huffington Post the next morning, They said Obama bombed, Clinton double-talked, Edwards was daydreaming, but Mike Gravel wowed the audience.’’
“Who is he?’’ I asked as the tacos were served. I slathered mine with salsa, and sour cream because I got a good cholesterol report last week.
“That’s hard to find out,’’ said Uncle Chet. “Of course, The New York Times didn’t have anything. All they yakked about were the top three, the ones with the millions, but finally I went YouTube, and there he was, giving the `top-tier’ candidates a good tongue-lashing.’’
“On what?’’
“On everything,’’ said Uncle Chet. “He’s for single-payer health care, a graduated sales tax to replace the income tax, ending the war. He said the Democrats could end the war right now if they had the guts. They’d just have to enact a law making it a felony for Bush to prolong it.’’
“Has he ever heard of a veto?’’ I said.
“Sure, but Congress could override a veto,’’ said Uncle Chet. “Gravel suggested they hold a televised vote at noon every day on TV so the whole country can see who’s for war and who’s for peace. After a few days of that, watch the Republicans cave.’’
“Who is he? How did he get on TV?’’ I said.
“He was a two-term senator for Alaska,’’ said Uncle Chet. “In 1971, he staged a one-man filibuster to end the draft. And he’s the one who released the Pentagon Papers, so the rest of us could see how government lied its way into the Vietnam War.
“Funny thing is, even after I read all this last week, I couldn’t remember him from back then,’’ said Uncle Chet. “There must have been a news blackout on him for the last 40 years. But the cat’s out of the bag now. By the time I watched him on YouTube, 45,000 people had seem him already, and his campaign was swamped with $20 checks they couldn’t even process.
“I checked YouTube again tonight, and he had over 200,000 hits. CNN wasn’t going to let him debate in New Hampshire, but now they’ve changed their mind because they were being hammered by e-mail.”
“Since when does a TV network decide who’s going to debate?’’ asked Hon.
“Welcome to the brave new world,’’ said Uncle Chet. “Everything is decided by the rich, and nothing’s made in America. The investment class has sent our jobs to cheap labor markets so they can maximize returns, and there is no middle class anymore. We have a caste system now: the super-rich, who now have more money than most countries; the rich, who live off investments and don’t have to work; the bureaucrats, who serve the rich in and live like the middle class used to; the working stiffs, who work harder for less every year; and the destitute, who are supported by the working stiffs.’’
“The world according to Chet,’’ I said.
“America the way it is,’’ he said. “Just look at those eminent-domain laws that say if a rich person wants your house and can make a buck on it, it’s his. If that isn’t the rule of money, rather than law, then what is it?
“I’m 66 now,’’ he shrugged, “and the scariest part is there aren’t too many left who remember the way it’s supposed to be, who know that economic democracy is the essence of democracy, and that `union-made’ is something to be proud of.
“Then last week, I saw a real patriot get up there on stage, taking it to the sycophants, and it was great. So unless Gore gets in, I’m going on the road to support Gravel.’’