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The Jacksons By Rollin Penner

You seem out of sorts Dad.”

Randy Jackson leaned back in his chair as he spoke, and pushed his empty plate away. The other people at the table, Randy’s wife Jackie, his sister Jennifer and his mother and father, Rose and Andrew, kept eating, although it was clear they were nearly through as well. A few slabs of roast beef still lay on the serving platter and a few scoops of mashed potatoes could have been had yet from the potato dish, but other than that there wasn’t much left on the table except for a mess of dirty dishes.

“Your father is just cranky, Randy,” said Rose, “because there’s nothing on TV.”

Randy looked at his father quizzically “Is this true?” he asked.

“Dang straight,” said Andrew. “There is nothing on tonight and there’ll be nothing on again tomorrow, and the day after that there’ll be repeats of tonight’s and tomorrow’s nothing.”

“And by nothing,” said Jennifer, “Dad means hockey.”

Randy looked surprised. “I thought you didn’t watch hockey, Dad,” he said.

“I didn’t,” said Andrew. “Not for 15 years. I quit when the Jets left town. Who wants to watch hockey when the only game on is the Carolina Hurricanes and the Atlanta Thrashers, and you know that at least half of the fans in the stands couldn’t even spell the word hockey if their lives depended on it. Not me, that’s who. But I started watching again when the Jets came back.”

“Wow,” said Randy. “So you’re one of those Jets fans they keep writing about in the newspaper, who feel cheated and abused because the Jets finally came back and now they’re locked out?”

“I wouldn’t say cheated and abused,” said Andrew. “More like aggravated and annoyed.”

“So why don’t you watch the American presidential debates instead?” said Jackie. “There’s almost as many of those on as there would be hockey games.”

Andrew gave her his best incredulous look. “You’re suggesting that I make up for the lack of hockey on TV by watching American democracy wither and die on national television?” he said. “How cheerful.”

“Well, that seems a little overly pessimistic, even for you,” said Rose. “American democracy may not be the shining beacon of hope that it used to be but that doesn’t mean it’s withering and dying.”

“Oh it’s a shining beacon all right,” said Andrew, “but that’s just because it’s going down in flames.”

“Seriously?” said Jennifer. “Do you really think so?”

Andrew paused, realizing that Jennifer was indeed serious.

“Well,” he said, softening his tone a little, “it may not actually be crashing and burning yet, but if the middle class doesn’t figure out a way to dig itself out of the hole that the government and the bankers have put them in, then I expect the system will break down in a hurry. Because if there’s one thing history should have taught us, it’s that there are few systems that work worse than having an upper class and a lower class with nothing in the middle. Just ask the former monarchs of Russia or France or Spain. ”

“But the United States doesn’t have any monarchs,” said Jennifer.

“Try telling Donald Trump that,” said Randy.

“Exactly,” said Andrew.

“I don’t get it,” said Jennifer. “What happens if there’s no middle class?”

“Eventually the lower class gets fed up,” said Andrew, “and then they figure out some way to depose the upper class. It’s not generally pretty. And the fact that everybody in America has guns isn’t going to make it any prettier if it comes to that.”

Jennifer looked worried. “How soon do you think all of that is going to happen?” she wanted to know.

Andrew thought about that for a moment. “Probably a couple of hundred years,” he said.

Jennifer looked relieved. “Geez,” she said. “I thought it’d be like, next week.”

“Oh heck no,” said Andrew. “Watching democracy wither and die is like watching a very, very, slow car crash. It’s a long, drawn-out agony.”

“So it’s like watching the Bombers play football,” said Jennifer.

“Very much like that,” said Andrew. “Which is another thing that makes me cranky.”

“You need to get some perspective, Pops,” said Randy. “The death of democracy would be worth getting cranky about I suppose, but hockey and football not so much. And if you have to be cranky for 200 years while democracy slowly crumbles, that hardly seems like time well spent. Maybe you’d be better off trying to do something to help democracy survive.”

Andrew raised an eyebrow. “Like what?”

“Ooh, you could run for parliament Dad!” said Jennifer. “We could move to Ottawa.”

“There’s just one major flaw in that plan darling,” said Rose.

“What?” asked Jennifer.

“Moving to Ottawa,” said Rose, “would make ME more than cranky.”

“Case closed,” said Andrew.

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