COLUMBUS _ ``Well, the nightmare's almost over,'' said Uncle Chet as we sat down to lasagna, salad and dinner rolls on Saturday night. ``Makes me glad I've lived this long.''

``Some polls say Obama in a landslide,'' I said, pouring cider for the kids.

``Hallelujah!'' said Hon, starting the serving dishes around the table.

``I think of this election as an I.Q. test,'' said Alice. ``Do we want affordable health care or four more years of war?''

``Not war,'' said Buddy, our second-grade activist.

``That-a-boy,'' I said.

``I see it as a values test,'' said Hon. ``Do we elect someone who stands up for the rich, or for the poor and middle class?''

``Now what would Jesus do?'' I asked.

``That's an unfair question,'' said the little miscreant, who's been paying close attention because she'll be old enough to vote in 2012.

``Would He sit down with our enemies and talk?'' I asked.

``Of course,'' she said.

``Without preconditions?'' asked Hon.

``What is a `precondition,' anyway?'' asked Uncle Chet. ``Sounds like something an insurance company comes up with to stop payment on your operation.''

``It's a condition before a condition,'' I said.

``It must be the opposite of a post-condition,'' said Alice.

``It's baloney, like so much of the last eight years,'' said Uncle Chet. ``The lingo's loaded, then they harp on it, trying to dumb you down with Joe the Plumber, Terry the terrorist, Wendy the waitress, until you don't realize what they're really saying is they want to give the rich another tax break, and only a little bit's going to trickle down to you.''

``Amen,'' I said.

``Well, I say, goodbye, Bush II, worst president ever; and goodbye, McPalin, back to Alaskazona. Goodbye war in Iraq, travesty all around, for those who paid and those who profited from it,'' he raised his glass in a toast. ``May the war end soon. And may we never again hear about pre-emptive war or privatizing Social Security.''

Glasses of wine and cider clinked.

``Or about government spying without a warrant, or telecoms dumping Net neutrality, or how bad the French are.''

``To the French,'' I said, ``who gave us the Statue of Liberty and helped us win our independence.''

``Remember freedom fries?'' asked Alice.

``The right wing hates the French,'' said Uncle Chet.

``They must all be Democrats,'' I said.

``Socialists,'' he said, ``as in Social Security, Medicare and the military, for that matter; things we taxpayers pay for together because it's in our collective self-interest to be insured against old age, disease and marauding armies.''

``Bring on the socialism and brotherly love,'' I said.

``In just three days,'' said Alice.

``Just three days?'' asked Buddy, as if we talking about Christmas.

``Yes,'' I told him. ``And people around the world are holding their breath, hoping we do the right thing.''

``Why?'' he asked.

``Because what the United States does affects everyone,'' I said. ``And if we elect a real leader, he'll bring nations together to solve problems like global warming.''

``I don't know if I can take it,'' said Uncle Chet. ``Half of me's grinning and half's afraid we're going to go through another December in hell, like 2000, then get crushed by the right-wing court.''

``Obama has lawyers, activists everywhere,'' I said. ``He's ready for that.''

``And these days, everyone has a cell phone or digital camera,'' said Hon. ``Anything happens, it'll be on the Internet within hours.''

``I don't think it's going to be that close,'' said Alice. ``I think people are fed up this time and the polls are right: Obama's going to win a mandate.''

___

Cooperstown News Bureau Reporter Tom Grace is traveling with his Uncle Chet, who he says is imaginary. Grace's column appears every other week.

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