Tuesday, June 1, 2010

And Touch the Face of God

March, 1986
Philadelphia, PA

Usually gardening was Jean Wyatt's best way of relaxing. She loved seeing the perennials come back year after year, the roses that reminded her of her dead mother, the yarrow that reminded her of her dead father. Not today, though. It was a gorgeous Saturday evening, perfect for gardening, but there was a hazy disquiet on her mind, and she found herself sitting and listening, or standing staring into space, thinking of nothing, as if waiting for a signal.

At last she gave it up, went inside, poured herself a drink, flopped on the couch, and turned on the television.

President Reagan was giving a speech. He was good to see. But he had become old and tired; the fire that drove him when he was elected six years ago (was it just six years?) was gone, and his hair was almost white.

"My fellow Americans," he said. And there was that voice that she loved, that sounded so much like her father's, an honest and proud voice; and when he said "Americans" there was a bit of a lilt, like he wasn't saying "Americans" but "family" or "beloved".

"Six years ago," he said, "you elected me because you believed in our country. You believed in our nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the freedom and equality of all before the law. You believed in a new dawn. Through all her history, America has always fought for freedom and justice. We have not won all our battles, but we have never lost faith that, with God beside us, and with courage and honor unwavering, we would eventually win the war."

He paused and looked at his notes. And suddenly she could feel what he was going to say, and the haze disappeared from her mind. Her fingers clutching her glass pricked with foreboding.

"And we will never relinquish that faith," he said, but his voice broke. He cleared his throat and said, louder, firmer, "We will never relinquish that faith. We will never give up that battle. But I am here to tell you today, my fellow Americans, that it is time to forge a new path to liberty."

Again he looked at his notes. When he spoke next, his voice was soft and tired. "I have decided, after long study, and long prayer, that we must enter into a new partnership with the Free States of America. For too long have we been adversaries. For too long -- for over sixty years -- our continent has been divided by trenches, barbed wire, machine gun nests, and checkpoints. For too long we have been one people, divided."

He gave a little cough and stared at his notes a long time, as if afraid to look her in the eye. But now she know what he was going to say.

He would say that the Free States and the United States would be entering into an equal partnership. He would say that there would be an easing of trade restrictions (which meant FSA cooperatives taking our jobs and livelihoods), and a sharing of military duties (as if the UN had allowed the US to have a proper military at all for the last thirty years), and a new joint commission to work toward eventual political reunification. Maybe he'd even call it a new Continental Congress. And then he'd quote Abraham Lincoln out of context, to make it seem like that great man would smile on this unholy union. But it would just be the final victory of the South over the North, and the Indians over the White Man.

Jean knew what he was going to say, so she barely listened as she went to the gun cabinet and unlocked it.

Jean knew there would be plenty of people who would see through Reagan's pretty rhetoric, who would realize that this was not a "new path to liberty," but a final acquiescence to communism. But their hands were tied; they could do nothing now, because Reagan was so popular.

And God knows, Jean thought, I love the man. He brought us back from the brink after Kennedy was shot in '79. I voted for him, my father voted for him. He was a fighter.

Now the fight has gone. He's given up.

But I haven't.

"In the words of Abraham Lincoln," said Reagan, "this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth..."

If Reagan were removed, this madness would end.

Yes. Her guns, and her father's guns, and even her grandfather's guns, were here. They taught her how to use them, and she kept them ready, always in working order. It would take just one bullet.

"Let us reach out to our sister nation," he says. "Let us reach out to the new future that beckons. Let us reach out, and touch the face of God..."

One bullet. ...And a plan.

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