Day of Change

Lawrence Holofcener

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 “However, until other nations are convinced of our peaceful intentions, we shall maintain a reduced military force and our hardware on the ground, in the air and on and under the sea.”  Audible sighs of relief and hard clapping from the delegates.  “The political establishment, by leaving Washington has surely avoided its violent overthrow.”

Richard.  “Our new government, of which we hope you will be a part, is to be called the Council of the American Society.  Councilors will hereafter be elected by local councils and join or form no political party or separate sphere of influence and may serve one four year term.  The Council’s chief function is to oversee the functions of the Prime Directive.” 

Clark.  “As temporary Chief of Security, I will join the Council and look after the safety and security of the Society.  Along with our military forces, all state and local law enforcement personnel will be relieved of duty and their weapons.  Each commune will have one unarmed officer of security, the communities many. There’ll be no prisons.  Adult criminals and malcontents will be expelled from the Society.” 

Richard.  “Our new American Society will not look on a map like the old U.S.A. We will occupy areas only suitable for underground residence.  Almost since our nation’s founding, we have been divided by artificial boundaries.  No longer.  Less bureaucracy, fewer people languishing in power.  And no lobbyists, accountants or lawyers (this got a large chuckle).  The Constitution is merely a treasured historical document, same with state constitutions, but they will no longer apply.  We are determined to be truly united.  Questions?”  

General, overnight, you and the Amwells intend to dismantle an elected government and discard a constitution that has served this nation for two hundred years.

Clark deferred to Richard, who said, “That is until recently, Congressman.  As you are surely aware, some years ago many millions of Americans decided to ignore our government and abandon their own selfish, acquisitive lifestyles.  We will have a very small body of individuals who respect and serve all species, planet earth . . . first.”

The man remained standing.  Assuming we will be meeting shortly in our former places in the nation’s Capital, I ask why Washington has not been protected as, I understand, is New York City?

Clark took it.  “Sir, in all our careful planning for this day, we somehow forgot to mention where we would henceforth be meeting.  Not in Washington, which is why we have not bothered to secure it, but in the United Nations complex in Manhattan.  Being an island, it is far more easily protected.  Tunnels, bridges and train and ferry terminals gated and guarded.  Weapons will be confiscated or turned in. Best of all, it has what Washington has not, a major ocean port that will berth beautiful modern sailing vessels.”

Richard.  “Manhattan as well has a city below ground.  Buildings with deep cellars, like the libraries and museums.  The delegations to the United Nations have already fled to their home countries.  They will be asked to reform and comply with out peaceful, non-competitive ways.   Once all other above-ground structures are removed, why, we simply enlarge Central Park,” and he smiled to the lady concerned for the parks.

Clark.  “All lethal weapons will be outlawed from the Society, including those used by security.  Like the United Kingdom whose ‘bobbies’ carry no guns.  No swords, ornamental or otherwise, and not even knives except for garden or kitchen use.  And no dangerous or addictive substances.”    

Richard.  “Language.  The United States was made up of immigrants from every corner of the globe, the first of them from England.  The official language of the American Society, therefore, will be English and English only.” 

Clark.  “Citizens of The American Society are first, those holding U.S. birth certificates.  Second, only those who are prepared to give up all political, ethnic, religious or social allegiances, and take an oath to think and behave as individuals.  Citizens will be issued identity cards that serve as passports to any community of the Society, and to any other country or society.”  

Richard.  “About names.  Having many names, plus letters signifying family history, rank or degree, tends to place one separate from or above another.  All individuals are unique and equal.  One name plus their location, as in Clark of Charleston, will be sufficient.”

Came shouts.   This is madness, taking away our right to bear arms. 

What about the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution? 

What about guns for hunting?

Richard.  “This Congress, after today the Council, will not recognize any other body or document or organization, no matter its age or how esteemed its members.  From now on, the Prime Directive is law.  The killing, destruction, distortion or manipulation of any species including our own is forbidden.  All life is sacrosanct.”

What about pests?  Cockroaches, mosquitoes, termites and ants—fire ants? 

Richard.  “I answer you, sir, with a question: of all the species that inhabit the planet, which is and has ever been, the most dangerous pest of all?”

Raucous comment and laughter in the stands as the man sank to his seat.

What do you consider ‘dangerous or addictive substances?’ 

Clark. “Tobacco, mind-altering chemicals, distilled spirits, plus manufactured drugs, foods and beverages.  We will have nothing that plays with or controls our minds or bodies.  However, wine and beer may be produced and consumed.” 

No drugs—no pills for pain, arthritis, heart disease—not even aspirin?

Richard.  “We have become far too accustomed to having a doctor prescribe drugs or tests or even questionable procedures.  Very few other countries waste as much money and time, and why?  Because their health care is free and kept under strict regulation.  About pharmaceutical drugs, many are derived from plants.  Pharmacologists, chemists and the Earthen will work together to produce them.  We believe in preventive medicine.  Tests, yes, surgeries also, but not cosmetic.”

 I’m sorry to leave this so late, but since no one has had the gumption to ask the big question, I might as well.  The corpulent senator from Mississippi got to his feet and waited for quiet; real quiet.  The great audience itself seemed to wonder exactly what was the ‘big question’.  He sucked in a breath, let it out and fairly bellowed:  Come on, why y’all doin’ this?

Clark also took a breath before responding.  “I believe, after all this time, that we have thoroughly answered that—“ but he stopped at Richard’s touch behind him.  Now at the general’s side, Richard waited for quiet before speaking.

“Say you’re a nature lover.  Always was, even from before you went to school.  Loved the outdoors.  First your back yard, next the neighborhood park.  Then, dissatisfied with man-made nature, you became a cub scout and went on hikes into the country.  One spot you particularly loved.  Not mountains.  Hills really, where the asphalt ended, became dirt, became a path into the forest.  You left the scout troop, ran in, found a meadow full of wild flowers and lay among them looking up at the clouds.  You found a rushing creek with a funny Indian name and drank the clear water and watched tiny fish dart about.  You ran into the forest and promptly lost your way.  You saw a deer and followed it, found the path, and rejoined the troop for the ride home. Every summer you would ride your bike to that spot, spent a marvelous day doing nothing and rode home with a wide grin.”  

He paused then said, “Eventually you grew up and went into advertising.  Did pretty well, got married, had two handsome sons.  And one Sunday, over their loud complaints, you threw ‘em into the car and drove way out west—in New Jersey.  To that bit of raw nature you’d found as a child.  While you set up the picnic your wife fixed, you saw them climb the rocks, smell the wild flowers, splash in the creek and run into the forest. 

“The drive home was entirely different.  The boys begged to return, and so there were many such Sundays and weekends where the four of you camped out.  Then tragedy struck: your wife died of cancer.  You were miserable, but you had two boys to raise, so you stayed in advertising.  All the while becoming restless, tired of writing commercial jingles and television ads that tried to make laxatives attractive.  One day, just before going up into your skyscraper you . . . you sat on a bench.  You didn’t want go to work.  What did you want to do?  You thought about it all day until it came to you. 

“You got on the train, then into your big station-wagon, drove home and discussed it with your sons.  Then you called a realtor.  That wonderful spot with the creek and the meadow and the forest where you took the boys?  It was for sale, real cheap.  Matter of fact, you paid for it with your car.  You took it to a lawyer’s office in Clinton.  There, you spotted an old Jeep and when the business was complete, you bought it and drove home in a cloud of smoke.  Day after your house was sold, and the jeep and a trailer was piled high with stuff, you took yourself and your boys there.  And when they finished running here and there whooping and yelling for sheer free joy, the three of you started building a cabin—that cabin up the hill there.  And, well, that’s why I’m doing this.  And it seems quite a few others felt the same and they—“

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