Wednesday, November 23, 2005

This Thanksgiving, Try Some
Wolfe With Your Turkey!

Patriotism Redux
By Jennifer C. Wolfe

“When a whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice,

I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart.”

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Claire Dawson sat in front of her living room television set as she waited for her egg-timer to announce her frozen sausage pizza was fully oven-baked. The newly-re-elected US President had made a major press conference announcement: His chosen, prior-term Attorney General would remain in the position for his newest, final term. Claire shook her head as the President congratulated a familiar man, with a dour facial _expression, whose squinted-eye hateful glances and perpetual frown, combined with his fiery anti-terrorism rhetoric, had been demonized by political commentators and editorial cartoonists alike the world over. The President was managing to make the entire announcement very Presidential…, Claire thought, sarcastically. She disliked the current US President, and she disliked his chosen Attorney General even more so. She, along with a great majority of the rest of the country, had been gravely-disappointed by the recently-held November Presidential election. There were so many things, going wrong with the US…, she inwardly-surmised. …Skyrocketing poverty levels; dwindling Social Security funds; Lack of affordable health care, for hardworking families; Disappearing US jobs, etc. There were enough problems with the how the President was conducting his Administrative business, in the US, to, as her Southern Belle Aunt often ascertained: ‘Choke a horse.’ And then there was terrorism

Claire continued thinking, as the President and his Attorney General held their hands aloft in a victory salute, before the wildly-cheering press conference assembly. …The President was embroiled in three universal wars, with terrorism. The war against terrorism, being waged in Afghanistan. The war against terrorism, being waged in Iraq. And perhaps the most important: the war against terrorism, being waged against American dissent. This war clearly drew its battle-lines from the heated political debate of ‘National Security VS Civil Liberties.’ Claire gritted her teeth as the Attorney General readied himself to speak, stepping to the podium, bearing the US Presidential Seal across its front. The President stood to his immediate right, slightly behind him. “My fellow Americans…,” the Attorney General began, scanning the attending crowd, with a non-smiling, sour glance, as though he were sizing them up. “…Today, we celebrate a great victory, for both our President and our nation,” he continued, as the crowd erupted in applause. “Speak for yourself…,” Claire spoke, disdainfully, addressing the television screen as she vented her frustration. “On January 20, we will see the swearing in of our President for a glorious second-term-of-office.” “I haven’t heard of any leader’s term being called ‘glorious,’ since Adolph Hitler,” Claire commented, scowling. “Ve have von a victory, for our glorious Third Reich!” Claire impersonated a thick German accent. Undaunted by her unheard verbal innuendo, the Attorney General continued. “The President, having been given his mandate, for strong leadership by the voters, has now-honored me with a mandate to expand our resolve against terrorism within our nation!” The crowd members erupted, wildly, with applause, many of them jumping to their feet. “Expand our resolve against terrorism within our nation?” Claire repeated the phrase in her humorous Parrot’s voice. “And, how might we go about expanding our resolve against terrorism within our nation?” she demanded. “I am proud to announce, at this juncture, a new section, and phase of terror-preparedness, within our great Department of Homeland Security…,” said the Attorney General. “…The Department of Homeland Security has added a new wing. This wing is called the ‘Domestic Terrorism Enemy Combatant’ wing. Its sole purpose and function exists to target those individuals living within our great nation who seek to undermine our anti-terrorism resolve.” “DTEC—isn’t that precious???” Claire scoffed, her scowl deepening. “There are those within this country whose protest actions against the President and the policies of his Administration, directly-aid the cause of terrorism,” the Attorney General warned, attempting to sound charismatic. “Oh, please…,” Claire snorted. “…We’ve heard this recording, before.” “We must unite together, as one strong nation, if we are to defeat the forces of terrorism, on our home ground!” implored the Attorney General. Once again, the crowd leapt to their feet, cheering and applauding, wildly! “I want to make it extremely-clear, that we cannot tolerate dissent with our President’s policies, or distrust of his leadership…” Claire’s eyebrows rose in mild concern at this statement. The Attorney General continued. “…Terrorists live to fight another day—and continue to fight against and threaten—our great nation, in part, because of those individuals who engage in domestic dissent.” The Attorney General scanned the crowd for their reaction before expounding upon his chosen theme. “Those who protest the War in Afghanistan, or the War in Iraq, dishonor our brave men and women who are fighting—and, in some cases, giving their very lives—for the cause of liberty!”

Bullshit!” Claire now became angrily-animated, as she faced her thirteen-inch color television screen. “People protest the war in those places because they are fought against hopelessly-outmatched countries with no military capabilities to speak of—Because the cause of ‘liberty’ in those countries has turned into the cause of ‘occupation,’—And because no matter what you or any of the President’s miserable cronies say, don’t tell me the wars do NOT have anything to do with the OIL!!!” Claire shouted, her blue-green eyes narrowing into squinted, angry slits as she spoke. “We must understand, my fellow Americans...,” the Attorney General elaborated. “…In order for us to realize a truly-solid, beneficial margin of safety against terrorism—we cannot abide dissent with our leaders. Questioning our President and his Administration’s leadership only leaves us vulnerable to terrorists. We remember September 11, 2001. And, next year, which is the tenth anniversary of this heinous act of terror aggression against the US, we should only strengthen our resolve as a nation—as we re-install our great President—to never tolerate those who would willfully-engage in domestic terrorism!” The crowd rose to its feet with heartfelt applause! “USA…USA…USA…,” they began chanting in unison. “Unbelievable!” Claire was horrified at the direction the Attorney General’s remarks were taking. More horrifying, however…, she reasoned. …Was the surrounding crowd’s reaction to them? “Our President is the leader of the greatest nation in the world! The US must remain the beckoning beacon of freedom to all those countries who are striving for liberty!” affirmed the Attorney General. “Beckoning beacon?” Claire repeated, fighting the impulse to giggle. “Nice alliteration……Did you think of that, all by yourself?” she commented, wryly. “My fellow Americans…,” the Attorney General droned on. “…We must remain committed to our goals of supplying liberty to any/all Middle Eastern countries who wish to embrace it! We will not be defeated in this admirable goal! And, most importantly, we will not be deterred by those domestic terrorists within our own country who attempt to focus our attention away from faith and trust in our elected leadership!” The crowd, once-again, rose to their feet, applauding, as a fresh round of “USA…USA…USA,” was chanted around the room. The Attorney General focused his direct attention at the cheering crowd assembled before him. With his fiercest facial _expression, plainly visible, he glared directly into the eye of the main camera lens focused upon him. “My fellow Americans…remember these two affirmations carefully—for, we, at the US Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security, will not back down from the anti-terrorism mandate handed to us by our President! So, remember: You are either with us, or you are with the terrorists! You are either for us, or you are against us!” With that said, the Attorney General fell silent as the crowd lurched to its feet in smart-unison. Their applause and cheering screams were thunderous!

For the first time in remembered history, Claire noted the corners of the Attorney General’s thin lips turned upward in a demonic smile. Claire often equated the events she encountered within her life with memorable moments she had witnessed in Hollywood film. Listening to the Attorney General’s closing remarks had prompted a scene from the 1959 Warner Brothers movie, Ben-Hur, to come to the forefront of her troubled thoughts. In a dialogue-exchange, between the film’s two chief protagonists, villain Roman Tribune Messalah and Jewish Prince Judah Ben-Hur, Messalah has asked Judah to speak to his fellow-countrymen about not causing violence or unrest against the ruling Roman Empire. Judah had related to him that he had already spoken to a number of people on this topic, stating a great many of them agreed with him—though, not all. Messalah demands Judah turn informer, and tell him the names of his countrymen who do not subscribe to obedience to Roman rule. Judah stubbornly-resists telling Messalah the names, insisting he will not simply hand over his friends for Messalah to have them killed. Messalah utters a grandiose rebuttal to Judah: “Judah—you have no choice. You are either for me, or you are against me.” To which a heartbroken Judah felt compelled to reply: “If that is the choice—then, I am against you.” That is how I feel…, she pondered. If the choice offered by the Attorney General consisted of: ‘You are either with us (i.e. a US President and Administration she despised and had no faith in), or you are with the terrorists (i.e. those individuals who used their US Constitution-guaranteed rights to question the leadership of their freely-elected government)—then, I guess, I would have to be classified as being with the terrorists. Then, again…, she inwardly-continued. …I already was a terrorist—a domestic terrorist—since I have never been shy about voicing my dissatisfaction with the President and his Administration? A new incarnation of a favorite anti-terrorism term, “Enemy Combatant,” sprang to mind. How long might it be—if the majority of the US adopted the Attorney General’s attitude—before she, herself, was classified as a ‘Domestic Terrorist Enemy Combatant?’ Claire thought, setting her jaw-line in the wry, thinking philosopher’s posture she adopted when she was deeply-pondering something.

* * * * *

Claire awoke from a deep trance some fifteen minutes later. The CNN news reporter was in the midst of summarizing the Attorney General’s speech. “And, so, Marla…,” he commented to a very pretty young woman with sandy-blonde, shoulder-length straight hair. “…the Attorney General, delivering a stirring address, this evening, before a capacity crowd in the White House Press room.” “It was stirring…,” Claire resumed her dialogue with the television as she brushed a strand of blonde hair out of her face. “…It stirred my stomach, into nausea.” “I’m sure those both watching and listening to this press conference are wondering the same thing we are this evening?” “Yes, Steve, of course…,” the news woman agreed, showcasing her gleaming white teeth. “Oh, this should be stunning…Please, tell us exactly what it is we are wondering this evening, Steve?” Claire commented, sarcastically. “Does this new hard-line approach, to domestic terrorism spell the death-knoll for American Civil Liberties in the US as we currently know them?” CNN reporter, Steve Roberts, questioned. At this juncture, Claire’s egg-timer let out a lengthy, shrill clanging sound. “There’s the bell, tolling, right now!” Claire admonished, sardonically, racing to the kitchen to pull her sausage pizza out of the oven.

* * * * *

Claire was in the middle of her third slice of sausage pizza when the cordless telephone to her immediate right began ringing. Seated at the end of the living room sofa next to it she brought the receiver to her ear. “Hello?” she asked. “Rah-rah-siss-boom-bah! Some speech, from our precious Attorney General, hey?!?” the voice of her closest friend, Kelli Sprent, was soon heard. Claire laughed, nearly choking on her pizza! “Well, didn’t you hear CNN’s Steve Roberts?” she inquired, in-between giggling and chewing her food. “This is the supposed ‘death-knoll’ tolling for American civil liberties in our country as we know it.” “Careful…,” Kelli warned, clucking her tongue, comically. “…Sarcastic references like that regarding our magnanimous Attorney General’s ‘stirring’ comments, will get you labeled as a ‘Domestic Terrorist Enemy Combatant’,” she continued, struggling, not to giggle herself. “Pppft!” Claire snorted, derisively. “Our ‘magnanimous’ Attorney General, indeed! The only thing he’s magnanimous about is his tearing down of the US Constitution!” “Here, here!” Kelli applauded. “Seriously, though…,” she then continued. “…Some pretty creepy stuff, huh?” “Yes,” Claire agreed, growing serious. “But, we can’t dwell on the negative…,” she continued. “…We can only fight, for the positive,” Kelli finished one of Claire’s signature rebuttal-lines. “Right,” Claire affirmed. Shortly, a set of recurring, ominous-sounding clicking noises were heard over both girls’ telephone receivers. Claire’s eyebrows rose in mock amusement. “Oh—and Homeland Security, or Government, or whoever else might be happening to be listening in on our conversation, here is a lovely spoken-word poem, expressly-composed for those of us within the ranks of those you consider: ‘With the terrorists,’ for simply speaking our minds:” “Ready?” Claire asked of her best friend. “Ready,” she affirmed. Claire and Kelli, simultaneously began the poem the two friends had put together one particularly-drunken evening:

The President is a mighty, strong man,

And, his wife is a handsome, fine lass,

Though, we hope when we’re dead, to be buried, upside down,

So, the President can kiss our ass!”

Both friends collapsed into gales of giggles as they finished the makeshift poem. Several more ominous clicking sounds were heard over both girls’ telephone receivers. Claire yawned, widely. “I really need to get going…,” she told Kelli. “…I have an early day tomorrow.” “Me, too…,” Kelli replied. “…Just wanted to gage your reaction to our loving Attorney General’s speech.” “Gag me, with E.T.’s finger, as per usual…,” Claire stated, matter-of-factly. “Buh-bye, then,” Kelli stated, comically. “Bye,” Claire laughed, switching off the cordless receiver and placing it atop its base. She turned her attention back to the television. CNN reporter, Steve Roberts, was still droning on in his summarization of the Attorney General’s speech. “It’s a patriotism redux…,” Claire announced to no one in particular, preferring to spell (and refer to) the term “re-do,” in the more modern “cool” form of “redux.” “…If you do not stand with the President and his Administration, then you are not a good patriot…,” she further contemplated, speaking with a grand flourish as though she were performing in a Broadway play. “…Obviously, you are not a good patriot, since—if you do not agree with the President, that makes you a terrorist? If you are a terrorist, you cannot be a patriot. Hence, if you wish to be a good ‘patriot,’ you have to agree with the President and not challenge his leadership.” “It’s a Dick and Jane Patriotic Primer…,” Claire admonished, speaking at the television. “…See Dick and Jane publicly-criticize the President. See the US Attorney General have the Justice Department monitor Dick and Jane. See the Department of Homeland Security arrest Dick and Jane. See Dick and Jane classified as ‘Domestic Terrorist Enemy Combatants,’ and sent away to the nearest forest labor camp. The US can now sleep safer and more securely—knowing that Dick and Jane have been found-out as the terrorist-supporting scumbags they are—for daring to have the gall to criticize the President! Dick and Jane are never heard from again. The End.” Claire smiled. Reciting sarcastic commentary was one of the emotional-coping tools she utilized the most in the face of what she termed as: “The forlorn, discouraging political quagmire, the US was sinking in—on all available fronts.” Placing her jaw in her right hand, she wound back into her philosopher’s mode. Abruptly, a loud knock was heard, outside her apartment door. Peering through the peep hole, Claire glimpsed two tall men, dressed in smart, gray business suits. Keeping the chain lock to her apartment door secured, she edged open the door. “May I help you?” she asked. Both men flashed gleaming, police-like badges. “Department of Homeland Security,” they spoke, in unison.


Jennifer C. Wolfe has worked in varied fields of personal employment, ranging from ten years of music retail to fourteen months of branch secretarial duties within the Central Intelligence Agency. She casts her vote as an opinionated “Independent,” and feels a grave disturbance, in the Force—until the 2008 US Presidential election, anyway.

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