talonkarrde: (Default)
 A year ago, they took my son away.

His name was Adam, and he was a wonderfully bright, active young man. He had his moments, of course, as every parent knows, and occasionally did things that made us shake our heads in exasperation. He wasn't perfect: he said foolish things in anger sometimes, and lied to us when he thought he could get away with it, even though we knew. We always knew.

But he was a good kid, and had always been friendly and outgoing. When he was eight, he won the student council election for class president after we encouraged him to run, which I suppose set him up for the rest of his time in school. Five years ago, he had just been elected student body president of the high school when the D.C. bus bombing attacks happened, and I suppose the students looked to him for leadership. He made a speech.

And he made me so proud, I thought my heart would burst.

Instead of simply mocking or disparaging the government, as many did, he had always believed in fighting for the future he wanted. So he made a speech about coming together instead of falling apart; he asked the Muslim students to come up and tell the school more about their faiths and how they were nothing like what the terrorists preached.

He got a standing ovation.

Adam was always writing editorials and making speeches, pleading for everyone's support in what he believed in. He campaigned for many things in these last few years — some I didn't agree with, but he was following his heart. Gay rights, anti-abortion, simplifying the tax code, harsher penalties for drugs; it seemed like there were a million things he wanted to change, and he was active about every one.

Then, two years ago, there were the stadium attacks. Islamic extremists again, who had refined their targets. I guess the government decided enough was enough and instituted the Protecting America From Extremists Act, requiring them to take polygraphs, loyalty oaths, things that I never thought America would’ve accepted, but that’s what fear does to you. At least we didn’t throw them into internment camps.

Adam would have none of it.

The speeches, the rallies, the protests, whatever they were before, they had always gone smoothly, and when they were done, he would come back and say, 'This is what the people believe. This will happen'. But today, last year, he was protesting against the Protecting America From Extremists Act, and the government decided that it wasn't okay to do that.

Someone decided that day that he was a threat to the security and stability of America, and executed an order to have him taken away for questioning. He was taken away, without his lawyer, without being read his rights, and most of all, without doing anything wrong. He was exercising his fist amendment rights. I, his parent, only knew because his friends told me of the van with Homeland Security license plates that bundled him into the back and drove away.

My local police had no information; neither did the state. The FBI told me that he was a person of interest, suspected of helping terrorism, and wouldn’t give me any more information. No, that’s not strictly true — they gave me a six hundred page act to read through, where it outlines where they have gotten the rights to do what they want, whenever they want, to whoever they want, and then they told me to go away.

I haven’t heard from him since.

How could it have come to this? Who said, suddenly, that protecting ourselves meant it wasn’t okay anymore with disagreeing with the government? When did we decide that the steady erosion of rights was okay, that foreigners didn’t have rights, that our mail could be read, that our phones could be tapped simply because someone thought it’d be a good idea?

In retrospect, I ask myself sometimes, how did we not see this coming?

I have learned from my son, my bright-eyed, tousled-haired child that I raised for twenty years. I am flipping a soapbox and standing on it, and I’m hoping to make the change that I see in this world. I’m sending this as far and wide as I can, and I’m asking that we stop accepting this police state we’re becoming. I ask that we reclaim our rights, and stop accepting that the ‘government knows best’. I ask that you join me, today, in doing what is our given right.

Assemble with me here, upon this street corner, and spread it to every street of America. We will not go home until those who were taken are returned to us. We will not stop until our rights are restored. And we will not accept the sacrifice of freedom for security.

Do what Adam would’ve done.
talonkarrde: (Default)
A one-time engagement, Darius said: one performance, a huge audience, recorded for posterity. Thirty thousand dollars for a hour long show, half right now and half after. It was of utmost importance, he assured me, and my participation would make all the difference.

It had all the hallmarks of an offer too good to be true. What sort of a person — dressed like he owns half of Chicago — waltzes into a dingy bar, offers a person a drink, and then turns it into a job offer, all in the span of thirty minutes? There were too many strings, and I couldn’t tell where any of them led.

But the check was sitting there, burning a hole in the bartop, and I was between engagements at the moment, professionally. I had been for the last three months, and money was... well, it had been tight a month ago; now it was nonexistent.

My father always told me that fast money made a fool of people. Look at all the lottery winners, he said. Look at all the children who inherited millions and blew it all. Look at all the people who sniped and backstabbed each other to get a promotion for another thousand dollars a month.

I picked up the check.

#

They showed the face of the man i was supposed to impersonate on the screen, and a sudden, the strings became clear.

It was the President. The most powerful man in the world. The most recognizable.

I was sitting in an empty classroom with a projector, watching him making a speech about civility and peace, and all of a sudden I understood the secrecy, the money, the trap. Darius came in after a few seconds, and I spent a good couple of seconds trying to figure out if I should hit him or just run for it.

“Why me?” I asked. What I really meant to say, though, was some combination of how did you find me, how do I get out of this, and why did I pick up the goddamned check?

“Because you can do it,” Darius responded, and blinked. I turned back to the face on the screen and watched for a second, observing his mannerisms and his tics and his diction, and I thought... yes, I could probably pull it off. There would need to be some precise makeup work so it would be perfect, but I could apply that myself. Some of my hair roots would need to be inhibited, some prosthetics applied on my chin, but with the right equipment, we would be indistinguishable from one another.

And the way that he angled his face, the way that he rubbed at his ear between statements, the time between looking at the prompters and the camera, the way he scanned the audience, all of those were easily picked up. The exact delivery would be harder, but he was an orator; he knew where to pause for effect and when to hammer the words home. It could be done. I could play this part.

“Okay,” I granted grudgingly. I could do it. “Why can’t he do it himself?”

Darius’ face fell. “The president has been — and this knowledge is only known by six people right now — poisoned. He's not in any shape to do anything, though the doctor says he'll recover. We've canceled all other non-essential everything and bought ourselves about two weeks, but even then, he won't be able to make it to the opposition rally himself. But since he’s been promising he’d attend, if we cancel his attendance, then the opposition will jump on it, and the coalition bill will fall, and...”

“Why is this bill so important?” I asked.

He almost smiled then, and beckoned for me to follow.

“Let me show you a video.”

#

There is a line familiar to actors that goes something like this: ‘It is impossible to play someone well without loving them, or killing yourself.’ Those of us who act, who do more than mouth lines and make motions, understand the truth of the statement. It is a frighteningly true statement sometimes — when we play those who are murderers and lunatics, for us to truly play the part, we must fall into their psyches, and sometimes, we can’t pull ourselves out.

I had always been apolitical. But as I studied his work, I realized that even if I did not agree with everything the President said, I agreed with what he wanted — a world that would be better for our children than the ones our parents handed to us. Everyone made that statement, of course, but for most, it was a matter of doing things their way. To him, it was about letting everyone have a say in things that affected them. To him, it was about having locals making choices for themselves on local matters, and federal policies being giving people choices instead of taking them away.

Politics, I had always thought, was a dirty game. But in studying him, in trying to become him, my mind was changed. There were dirty players, and there always would be. But there were also those who were not third-rate stooges to special interests, and whether they succeeded or failed, they existed, and that was important.

By the end of the two straight weeks of study, I realized that even if I did not hew to the party line, I respected and admired the President and what he stood for. If nothing else, I was a very good student of his body of work, and I believed in it.

#

I do the dress rehearsal of the speech in front of Darius, Penelope, and the four others that are in on the impersonation, and they are speechless for a few moments before they start applauding. Penelope, I suspect, is in tears, and simply sniffles as she claps with the others.

It’s the only applause I’ll ever get for the role. It’s enough.

“Mister President,” Bill, the Chief of Staff, says, “that was incredible.”

“Let’s change the world then, shall we?” I respond, smiling the easy, characteristic smile, and we head for the limo.

Darius lingers and stops me just before I get in.

“We’ve gotten some threats — there are those who don’t like what you’re proposing, who are talking about exercising ‘second amendment remedies’. We could cancel now and save face.”

Once, I think, I would’ve bowed out, citing that no performance was worth a danger to my life. But there was more at stake here, and the audience had already taken their seats. “He wouldn’t stop for it, Darius, simply because some crackpot made threats. This speech has to be made. We have to press on.”

#

It is a sunny day, and the people out there are hanging on to my every word. There were some hecklers as I first took the stage, but as the words flow over them, as they listen, as they recognize that they want the same thing I do, that we are one people on one side, they fall silent, and nod, and stop seeing their fellow countrymen as the enemy. I have changed them, today, by being here.

“We must look to one another as friends and family, not as enemies and those who wish destruction upon this country. We all want a better future, even if we think it will come about in different ways. In the end, though, we are all—”

And then the bullet hits me.

I see the flash of the scope a second before he takes the shot, I feel the impact, and then my strings are cut and I feel myself start to fall. It hurts.

Oh god, does it hurt.

The sniper’s aim is off; it passes through me almost dead center, a shade to the right of my spine, instead of where my heart is. Not a bad shot, though; he’s earned his pay - and jail time. But his error gives me a few seconds, and I still have a line to deliver, a performance to finish.

I stagger and clutch for the podium, trusting that my arms still work for a few seconds, even if my legs don’t. I cough and taste blood, but I need to continue.

“—all...one people.” I finish, in a harsh whisper, spitting blood against the microphone. Only then do I let myself collapse.

We strut and fret our hour upon the stage and then are heard no more.

The Secret Service is bundling me away, as people try very, very hard to stem the flow of blood. I might make it, I think, but perhaps it’d be better if I didn’t — my performance is done, and I have played my part as well as anyone could have expected. The bill will pass, and perhaps this time will be the last time a public official is shot.

Smile for the cameras, I think to myself. Look up at the night sky one more time.

Remember what it was like to command the attention of thousands, of millions across the globe, and be the the most powerful person in the world for an hour. Feel the satisfaction in giving a master performance, of playing the audience and bringing them to laughter and tears, in giving them hope for tomorrow. And take warmth in being given a chance to weave the future, to create a better world for our children than the one our parents handed to us.

And finally, close your eyes as the curtain falls.

Whorehouses

May. 2nd, 2009 03:12 pm
talonkarrde: (Default)

Her name was Lady Callisto and they called her a whore.

Born Callie Jaren, she grew up with only her father, a congressional staffer, who unfortunately was the fall guy for a bribery scheme his senator started. He received a life sentence for corruption when Callie turned 14; it was about this time that the story about the D.C. Madam came out, and little blond-haired Callie got both her direction and her cause.

By 24, she had opened up her own shop and taken the name she would use professionally. Slowly, Lady Callisto started learning names and getting closer to those who made the real decisions. The Lady had learned from past services and changed the way the business was run – girls were attached to clients, and sometimes they even left the service to marry those clients, though the Lady of course kept contact with them. Through one of her former girls, she learned about a rising congressman who had been buying and burning his way into power. She resolved to stay neutral at the time; there had been many worse vices than megalomania in D.C., and this Evan Kendrick was just another prick, as far as she was concerned.

But then she had gotten a frantic call from one of her former girls, saying that her husband had been having Kendrick over and he kept looking at her – and by the time that the Lady had gotten there, it was too late for Evangeline - or, as she had been known once upon a time, Angel.

Six months before the election where Kendrick would be elected president, Lady Callisto called in all her girls, asking them find out everything they could about him; after a month, she knew more than she wanted to. There were the political things, but Lady Callisto was far more concerned at the way that he treated his secretaries and his wife; she learned of the marks that they wore long-sleeved shirts to conceal, the appetite that he had. She was patient and planned on biding her time until another one her girls died, and then she called the last meeting of Callisto’s.

The next morning, every paper in the country ran the story of Kendrick’s fetishes, his secret politics, and his future plans; though the Lady wasn’t able to connect him directly with the rape or murders, his career was finished. It came with a price, however, for she had to publicly expose herself and the girls…and though she did everything she could to protect them, thirteen of her girls died before she realized that it would only be stopped one way.

She met him on a Sunday night in Arlington, and the autopsy report noted that it was after 6 a.m. before she finally died. It was a price she was willing to pay, though, because she had influenced the course of politics; a bonus was that the inquiry into her death, spearheaded by a dozen of the most powerful on Capitol Hill, finally put Kendrick behind bars for the rest of his life.

The newspapers said she did it for democracy and freedom, to save the world from a madman who would have destroyed America; the truth is, though, that she did it for her girls - she showed them that anyone could change the world.

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