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Elections and good vs. evil on the Internet

The Jacksons: From the August 27 issue of the Manitoba Co-operator

cartoon image of a family seated at a table

Andrew Jackson ambled up the street in the direction of the coffee shop, adjusting the peak of his John Deere hat to keep the sun out of his eyes, and nodding to the few people who drove by on their various Saturday errands. He paused at the door to the hardware store, then turned to open it and stick his head inside. The young woman behind the sales counter looked up as he did so and broke into a cheerful smile.

“Hey Dad!” she said.

“Good morning to you Jackie!” said Andrew. “How’s everybody this morning?”

“Great!” Jackie stepped out from behind the counter and made her way to the door to give her father-in-law a hug. “Andy was still sleeping when I left this morning, but Allie’s always so excited to have Grandma looking after her she can’t wait for me to get out of the house!” She picked up a hammer from the rack on the wall next to the door. “Don’t you need a new one of these?”

Andrew laughed. “Not just now,” he said. “But I may need to get one before next summer’s Folk Festival!”

Jackie gave him a quizzical look. “You need a hammer for Folk Festival? Why?”

“Oh you know how it is at Folk Festival,” said Andrew. “Sure as shooting at some point someone’s going to whip out a banjo, and if you don’t have a hammer on you, there’s just nothing you can do.”

“I see,” said Jackie. “So is that what they mean when they talk about playing the banjo claw-hammer style?”

Andrew laughed again. “Good one,” he said. “I’ll remember that! But I gotta go. Grant’s waiting for me at the café. Have a good day my dear.”

“I will,” said Jackie. “You too.”

Andrew let go of the door and it swung closed behind him as he headed further up the street in the direction of the café, and in a few minutes found himself seated at his usual table by the window.

“Hey howdy,” said Grant Toews, who indeed had been waiting for him.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” said Andrew. “Stopped to say hi to Jackie at the hardware store.”

“Oh yeah,” said Grant. “How’s she liking it there?”

“Good,” said Andrew. “She always tries to sell me stuff whenever I go in.”

“That’s her job,” said Grant. “And how’s the grandkids?”

“They’re great,” said Andrew. “Rose looks after them when Jackie’s working. Everybody’s happy.”

“Are you happy?” asked Grant.

Andrew pondered that for a moment. “I’m happy,” he said, “but some days I worry.”

“Everybody worries,” said Grant sympathetically. “But, what about, do you worry?”

Andrew stared out the window for a moment. “About my grandkids,” he said. “About what kind of a world we’re gonna leave for them when we go.”

“Oh,” said Grant. “Wow. And I worry about whether the summer tires on my truck will last till October when I can put the winter tires back on.”

“My summer tires are fine,” said Andrew, “but I’m not happy about the direction this country seems to be headed.”

Grant took a thoughtful sip of coffee. “When you’re headed in the wrong direction,” he said, “it’s even more important to have good tires.”

Andrew smiled. “Indeed.” He paused. “This election campaign is making me ill,” he said. “I’m afraid if things don’t turn around we’re going to be leaving our grandchildren a country where there’s just two extreme options with the people on either side convinced that the other side is evil and dangerous. No compromise, no nuance. Just nastiness and hatred.”

Grant stared at Andrew for a second. “Dude,” he said. “You’re spending too much time on Facebook.”

“You think?” said Andrew.

“Yeah,” said Grant. “The Internet only likes good and evil. And life is like a pendulum. Right now people are tired of trying to compromise. It’s hard work. So they’ll settle into set positions for a while and just try to fight it out. Eventually they’ll get tired of that when they realize it’s never going to work and then they’ll go back to compromising. For a while.”

“I hope you’re right,” said Andrew. “Because according to the Internet after the election we’ll either be living in a Fascist State run by Nazis or a Communist State run by Stalinists.”

“Naw,” said Grant. “We’ll be living in a somewhat dysfunctional Democratic State run by corporations and banks. And we can fix that.”

“You think so?” said Andrew.

“We’ve done it before,” said Grant.

“I value your input,” said Andrew.

“Good,” said Grant. “Stay off the Internet.”

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