RALL: Gramps' Last Call: The Elderly Make Way for a Brave New World

The Man in the Box was yapping again, trying to make his usual inside-the-Beltway pap sound important. "Under the welfare reform bill President Clinton signed last year," he said, "legal residents who haven't yet become American citizens will lose their SSI benefits. Catholic and Jewish groups are expressing concern that many of the 320,000 elderly immigrants who became disabled after entering the United States will commit suicide upon finding themselves without any source of income." "Turn that crap off," I demanded. "Why can't 'The Simpsons' be on every night? Damn Matt Groening's infernal hide!" My wife came in, glanced through me and slowly petted the cat with that glazed-over stare that comes from too many years of marriage. I killed the power and watched whatshisface fade into a tiny blue hole at the center of the screen. That's when the phone chirped. "Why can't phones ring anymore?" I yelled at no one in particular. My wife had already gone off to her third job, separating tobacco leaves by size and color. I picked the thing up. "Hi, Frederick," said a gravely voice. I hate it when people call me by my first name."Hi, Grandpa.""Listen, Frederick--""My name's Ted. Please call me Ted. Ted Ted Ted Ted Ted." "Okay, Fred, whatever you want. Anyway, I'm sure that you've heard about how they've eliminated my Supplemental Social Security payments." I took a deep breath. "It serves you right, too! How come you couldn't manage to become a citizen after being here over 50 years? Clinton is right: Legal immigration is killing America and home taping is killing the record industry!"Grandpa sighed. "I could never remember those Amendments and that Bill of Rights stuff. Besides, it's not like it was back in France, where the political parties are all different. I didn't see the point of going to all that trouble just to vote.""Christ, gramps! The Supreme Court forgets the Bill of Rights all the time--and you don't see any citizens voting, do you? But still, they did what it took to become real Americans!" "They were born here," Grandpa said.

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