Dear Benjamin Franklin:
Hello, wherever you are. Just thought I’d catch you up on the state of the nation after all these years.
You wouldn’t believe how much things have changed since you were editing Poor Richard’s Almanack back in the 1700s. You should hear our president on television talking about how the economy is getting better and better, and all he needs is four more years. The Republican who’s running against him says this nation’s economy is in the pits and that we can’t stand four more years of the Democrat. We’re liable to enter another Great Depression. Both are exaggerating.
Of course, you haven’t heard of the Great Depression — or television, or even Republicans. Let me explain. The Great Depression started about 1929 when something fell down on Wall Street.
The Democrats — you remember Thomas Jefferson, don’t you? — blamed the Republicans for the Depression, referring to the era as the Hoover Days. President Herbert Hoover was a Republican, who is sort of like a Whig except he doesn’t powder his hair as much.
You’ve never heard of him, but Abraham Lincoln was a great Republican. Of course, neither Jefferson nor Lincoln would recognize his respective political party today. They’re always fighting now. The Democrats say the Republicans are going to set us back to the dark ages, penalizing the poor with cutbacks and no insurance. The Republicans say the Democrats are going to bankrupt the country.
Most people don’t know what to think. They just know that peanut butter is about four dollars a jar and gasoline prices go up and down like a yo-yo. I’ll explain later what gasoline is. And peanut butter.
Long before your demise, Mr. Franklin, someone discovered that the earth was round, but now some politicians say that income tax ought to be flat. The American taxpayer doesn’t care about the shape as long as he can save an occasional penny he’s earned.
Now let me explain about television. You remember flying that kite during the lightning storm that day? Well, that didn’t seem too smart, sir, and you were shocked by what came through the air. That’s how TV works: things come through the air and into TV sets, and people are shocked.
You’ll be happy to know, by the way, that many of the things you said and invented are still holding up today. You once referred to the vice president as “His Superfluous Excellency.” Well, the job is still rather superfluous. And unknown. The police once searched for a fugitive from justice for months until one day someone noticed him. He’d been vice president the whole time.
We find after all these years, Mr. Franklin, that honesty is the still the best policy. It’s too bad this country doesn’t have a statesman with your wit and wisdom. More than anything, we need someone who can cut through the bureaucratic, partisan rhetoric and tell the truth.
But you’d probably get a bigger charge from flying a kite.
— Hudgins, a former community newspaper editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.