Me: Uncle Rip, how are you feeling?
Rip: I'm okay. But I really need to brush my teeth. What year is it?
Rip: Wow. I've got a library book I better return pronto. So, nobody blew up the world. I guess the U.S. has been making sure the whole world listens to the U.N.
Me: Uh, not exactly.
Rip: It must be great to live in a world where we'll never have another Vietnam. What's it like where everybody feels safe, knowing that no president will ever take us to war again without telling Americans the complete truth and having certain intelligence?
Me: Well, actually, we're fighting in Iraq now. And the intelligence was pretty messed up. You see, we were attacked, and ...
Rip: We were attacked by Iraq? No wonder we retaliated.
Me: No, Iraq didn't attack us. It's complicated.
Rip: Say, did the Republican Party ever bounce back from the Nixon fiasco?
Me: Oh, yeah, the Republicans are doing just fine.
Rip: Good. America always works best when we have two strong parties with respect for each other.
Me: You've really been sleeping pretty soundly, haven't you?
Rip: There must have been some amazing scientific breakthroughs in the past 30 years.
Me: Definitely. Now you can cook a hot dog in a minute.
Rip: Why would you want to?
Me: Well, people are in a hurry.
Rip: Have scientists found an alternative for the gasoline-powered car?
Me: They've found some alternatives. But they're not making them that fast.
Rip: I guess not everybody's in a hurry.
Me: Also, remember when you studied American history, and read about evolution being a controversial subject?
Rip: Sure, that was way back in the 1920's.
Me: Well, it's controversial again.
Rip: You're kidding. How about gravity? Do people still believe in that?
Me: Yes. And the theory that the earth is flat, not round, hasn't made a comeback. Yet.
Rip: With all this going backwards, I've got one important question: Is my Nehru suit back in style.
Me: No, but Paul McCartney sang at the Super Bowl.
Rip: At least the world must seem like a more humane place without the death penalty.
Me: Actually, the death penalty's back.
Rip: All over the world?
Me: No, most countries consider it inhumane punishment. But not us.
Rip: What about women's rights? Since Roe vs. Wade, it must be nice for every American girl to grow up, knowing she'll always be in charge of her own body.
Me: Actually, Uncle Rip, there are a lot of people who want Roe vs. Wade overturned. The government's gotten more and more involved in what people do in their private lives. They call it "morality and family values."
Rip: How about television? There were some great shows in the '70s. What's going on in TV today?
Me: Instead of having just a few channels, now there are hundreds of them. But most of the shows seem to be about daring people to eat bugs or wives swapping families.
Rip: What about that "morality and family values?"
Me: Hey, these shows make money.
Rip: I guess my eyes haven't adjusted to being awake yet. When I look outside, the air looks filthy, and I know we were making good progress against smog.
Me: It's not your eyes, it's the air. The environment's not such a big priority anymore.
Rip: This is terrible. How did Americans let so many things move backwards while I was asleep?
Me: I guess you aren't the only one who's been sleeping.
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.
By Lloyd Garver