This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and events are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2016 by Arthur Bliss
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/.
First edition October 2016.
“Anybody who has watched the House in this Debate knows perfectly well why we are met here, and why we have to sit here. It is because various Gentlemen below the Gangway sitting in one quarter of the House desire to express their views to us. We know perfectly well this is not a Debate upon the tremendous national issue brought before us earlier in the day. Nominally we are discussing the same subject, whereas the House of Commons, in its strength, was called together this afternoon to hear an exposition of policy upon an occasion to which there has been no parallel in our lifetime, and may be no parallel in the lifetime of those of the next generation. What we have been having tonight are the very dregs and lees of the Debate, in no sense representing the various views of Members of this House.”
— Arthur Balfour, August 3rd, 1914
The bus stop was empty when my mom dropped me off. I hadn’t noticed how insufficient the sole streetlight’s lamp was until dusk had come. Five other students had crowded into the tiny plastic shelter, escaping a rain that seemed to grow as each person arrived, mostly dropped off by half-sorrowful, half-relieved parents much like my own.
With practiced obliviousness, smart phones glowed in our hands like votive candles, our eyes entranced by the portal we had opened into the real world. Clinging to the warm white light, we knew we were not not alone. We were never alone.
I switched off my iPhone and dropped it into my pocket, shifting my shoulders in an awkward stretch that meticulously avoided either bumping into or directly acknowledging my peers. The green light swaying in the wind a hundred feet away switched to yellow then red, and a pair of headlamps turned towards us at the intersection.
It had been several minutes since the last vehicle had passed so I allowed myself a moment of hope. But the headlamps didn’t slow and the minivan passed. A few seconds later, the van’s brake lights came on and its engine slowed. It made a u-turn back towards us and we collectively looked up as the rusty Dodge Caravan pulled up to the curb. The passenger side window lowered with dying battery slowness.
“Are you the kids going to the mountain?” the driver said in a scratchy voice, continuing without waiting for a reply, “Throw your stuff in the back and hop in. We’re running late.”
I hesitated a moment and exchanged glances with another student. How did we know this guy was with the college? But she thought better of questioning the opportunity and just rolled her eyes at me as she hopped off the bench.
I slid my backpack off my shoulders and lightly placed it alongside the others, then swung the rear door closed. “MERICA6” read the license plate alongside a grimy College of the New America bumper sticker. Everything would be fine, I forced myself to think as I scooted onto the worn vinyl passenger seat my peers had wisely avoided as they returned to their Internet rituals in the back seats.
The driver monotoned his introduction while staring blankly at the road ahead, “Hello. My name is George. It’s a four hour trip to the top of Mount Liberty and we’ll be stopping along the way for a bathroom break. It’s a windy road so if you have to throw up, tell me so I can pull over. Any questions? Good.”
The van lurched forward and we were soon out of the city and on the highway in the country. As the straight two lane asphalt beckoned us forward into the darkening night, I pondered sleeping but was distracted when George took out a crackling candy wrapper from his jeans.
Balancing the steering wheel between his knees, he ripped the wrapper open and pulled out a golfball shaped lump, filling the cabin with the smell of stale peanuts and chocolate. Despite watching too closely out of the corner of my eye as he bit the chunk in half, my stomach growled and I tried to think of the food that would be ready for us when we arrived.
Orientation was reportedly just getting weirder and weirder. The weekend at Mount Liberty was supposed to be a bonding experience for freshmen, a way for us to lose our old selves and form a new family. Rumor had it that it was also a kind of evaluation by professors and department heads where they’d decide their future favorites based on how we did in different group activities. Twelve years of school, countless extracurriculars, forty-thousand dollars a year in debt, and now a circus performance. What a privilege.
As George loudly finished off the dark lump, the wrapper tumbled to the gear shifter console and momentarily reflected the lights from a gas station we were passing. BudNutBar read the label, decorated with conspicuous leaves. I discreetly shifted towards it to get a better look, but George nonchalantly brushed the sticky wrapper off to the dark, dirty floor.
I looked up at George but he ignored my stare, smiling at the road ahead, “We’re reaching the base of the mountain. It’s going to be curvy so y’all might want to just take a nap.”
“You know, I went to college,” George continued to the silent van, “Was a music major. Ended up working in the studio with some pretty big names. Rare Earth, Coven, Television, Blue Öyster Cult…”
“Blue Öyster Cult? Like ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’?” a poor soul in the back took the bait.
“Yeah, man. I went to Hobart with Eric Bloom. I worked on the mix of ‘Reaper’ back in 1975. How cool is that?”
“Did it need more cowbell?” someone snickered.
George continued, “Man, Eric and I had some good times. This one time Buck Dharma, Eric, and I all went out to the Dutch Country and found this Amish girl hitchhiking around. She was doing this thing, rumspringa, you know, where the Amish kids try the wild life and decide if it is for them. Listen, we took her with us to this party in Pittsburgh and…”
For the next two hours the van glided up from the foothills into the deep woods of the mountain as George regaled us with his warmed-over tales of debauchery and degeneracy. Mile by mile he became more and more animated, draining a liter of bottled water and then half of another one before he blurted between hurried breaths, “5-minute bathroom break, toilet paper is by the door.”
Pulling over suddenly, he almost jumped out of the car and jogged a few paces into the woods. I opened the door a crack and stretched my legs, debating whether to actually walk around in the pouring rain. The van side door slid open and the other kids shuffled out, a few wandering off behind trees.
We hadn’t seen another car since reaching the turn off for the summit an hour previously and the forest was devoid of the sounds of civilization, despite the loud whistle of wind in the trees and the patter of raindrops. I decided to get some air and stepped out into the rainy wind just as George returned from the trees.
He was panting and stretching his arms so rapidly that he looked like he was flapping wings. He hurriedly ran his bony fingers through his long, greasy gray hair and took a deep breath of air.
“I think we’re going to need to take a little longer bathroom break. Just for a moment. I don’t…” he stopped with his jaw tensely open and looked at me with startled, wide eyes.
His hands pressed onto his chest and anguish filled his face as he stumbled onto his knees.
“Help!” I cried as I ran to him and caught his fall.
His gray eyes focused on mine for a moment and I realized with shock that he was handsome once, long before he had trifled away his life. His eyes shifted upwards and then blurred into the distance as we crowded around him. We held him up, but could do nothing for the blockage in his heart. His life faded in front of us and seconds later he became twice as heavy. One by one we let go of him, until he was lowered on to his back in the muddy ground, blankly staring into space as the headlights dimmed.
I was frozen, staring at him as he laid on the ground. I could hear crying around me and one guy was repeating “oh my God” over and over again. A girl brushed George’s eyes shut and then she turned to me, a suspicious scowl on her brown face, and asked “What the fuck just happened?”
“I don’t know. He ate some kind of candy called a BudNutBar. I think he overdosed,” I replied.
“You can’t overdose on pot, you idiot,” said a guy to my right, his face squeezed in disapproval at my ignorance, “He had a heart attack. It was just shitty luck that it happened here in front of us. Let’s get him to the van.”
“I’m not fucking touching him,” insisted a guy with dark curly hair that trembled in the cold, wet air.
“Whatever, pussy. Come on, someone open the back of the van,” said the first guy to the rest of us.
“The name’s Daniel, dickhead,” muttered the curly haired guy and he stomped off to open the back.
I looked intently at George’s crumpled figure and wanted to help as the others lifted him off the ground, but my feet felt wooden like I couldn’t move. A hand softly touched my back and a girl with an accent said, “It’s okay.”
After George was placed in the van, everyone hurriedly reconvened at the dim light in front of the van. We were shivering in the rain and wind, but I’m sure none of us wanted to go sit in the van with dead George.
“Can anyone get a signal?” asked the girl with an accent.
No one could.
“Look. We’re probably almost there. I’ll drive us the rest of the way there and we can get help then. We need to get out of this rain,” said the boy who had been giving orders, his short-cropped red hair flattened to apparent baldness in the drenching storm.
“Oh really?” asked the girl who had closed George’s eyes, “Who made you boss? Another car will be along in a little bit. Let’s just wait.”
“I know affirmative action means everyone gets to go to college now, but since you didn’t notice, we haven’t passed another car for over an hour. We were the last van up the mountain and no one is going to be out driving in this storm if they don’t have to,” the boy replied.
“Affirmative action? You fucking racist piece of shit.”
“Everyone just calm down,” a third boy spoke, his Southern accent oddly harmonious with his clearly Asian face, “Let’s just take a deep breath and focus on getting there safely. You can hate each other later.”
“Did you not hear him?! I want you all to be my witnesses about what he said,” turning towards the short haired boy she continued, “That kind of racist, fascist bullshit does not belong in college. It doesn’t belong anywhere. You’re fucking done.”
“Whatever, Shaniqua,” smirked the boy, “I’m fucking driving there. If you want to wait, go ahead. Anyone else who wants to come with me can.”
“The name’s Kara, you white trash motherfucker!” she shouted at him as he open the door and jumped into the driver’s seat.
It was then that I noticed the headlamps had dimmed to the strength of tiny night lights. I sighed as I heard the engine lamely turning over. The boy tried four times, and the last time the engine barely moved. The light of the headlamps was completely gone.
“Fuck!!” yelled the boy, slamming the door behind him as he stormed off towards the road, Kara loudly snickering behind him.
For a moment there was near silence. Even the rain momentarily let up and we realized how cold we had become as the typically submerged awareness of our own bodies, our own mortality began to creep back into our consciousness.
Her expression was too genuine for even our masterful deafness to ignore. The girl with the accent was pointing into the woods at a point in the darkness beyond a small trail from the road. And there flickering amid the dance of windswept trees was a small orange light, a beacon in the distance.
“Thank you, Lord,” said the Asian boy.
“Wait a minute. It’s probably some crazy Walter White hillbilly cooking meth in the woods. And what if we get lost?” Kara cautioned, “We’ll die out here.”
“You’re right, Kara. We will die if we stay out here in the rain much longer,” said Daniel, squeezing the rain from his curly hair, “And dickhead is right, too. There’s not going to be a car coming until morning. We’re supposed to go right to our cabins. No one is even going to notice we’re not there until we’ve died of exposure.
“We don’t really have a choice. Besides, worst case scenario, we have a look, change our minds, and come back to the van. It’s not very far and I’ll bet a dollar it’s just at the end of this trail, so we won’t get lost.”
He was right. The light was coming from the end of the trail, specifically from a small lamp in the window of a mossy cottage a few hundred feet from the road. A chimney released a small stream of gray woodsmoke into the black night sky and a wooden door beckoned as we stood mutely at the end of the trail.
The red-haired boy could scarcely let the opportunity for insult pass, “If you wimps aren’t going to knock, I will.”
But before he could say another word, the door opened and all of us, red-haired boy included, instinctively took a step backwards.
A tall, imposing figure stood silhouetted in the doorway, its head nearly touching the top the frame, something long and dangerous held in its hand. As it stood there silently facing us, its feet planted firmly apart like the roots of a huge oak, I felt a very strong impulse to immediately turn and run. But then it spoke.
“You folks look lost. Are you okay?” the deep, gravely voice of an old man intoned as he shifted slightly to the side of the door.
“Uh, hello. I’m Austin and we’re students at College of the New America. Um… we….” the axe in the old man’s hand glinted and the red-haired boy noticeably lost his train of thought.
“Students?” said the old man and he stepped outside into the rain after first setting the axe down inside the cottage, “What are you doing out here in this storm?”
“Our driver was taking us to the cabins at the top of the mountain and he had a heartache. He died,” explained Kara blankly, “He’s back at the road and we can’t start the van.”
“Yeah, do you have a phone we can use? Or maybe you could jumpstart the van?” finished Austin.
“He’s dead? I’m sorry. That must have been very upsetting,” the old man furrowed his brows, “Well, I don’t have a phone. And I don’t have a car. I don’t even have electricity. However, what I can offer you is shelter and food for the night. Then tomorrow morning you can flag down a car on that road. How does that sound?”
“That’s nice of you. But do you have a neighbor with a phone or a car? The college is expecting us tonight,” answered Austin.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t have any neighbors. My land is surrounded by National Forest for many miles. The nearest other people are about 25 miles further on the road up the mountain. It’s remarkable that you’ve landed on my doorstep, really. But if you want to try other options, be my guest.”
There was a moment of indecision. One part of my brain remained afraid of him, living in the woods alone as he was. But there was also something strangely reassuring about him. It was almost as if he had been expecting us.
We did not know each other well enough to confer or trust in each other, but still we shared an unspoken hesitancy until the Asian guy responded in his syrupy Southern drawl, “I would be very thankful to spend the night here, sir.”
And, that was that. We all filed in through the door in the silent consensus of a herd.
The cottage was surprisingly large on the inside. Wooden logs formed four sturdy walls far apart, with many cabinets and shelfs built into them. A cast iron wood stove radiated heat from the center of the wall opposite the door. Iron pots and pans hung above the stove on metal chains, and a large wooden table surrounded by four benches was nearby.
“The outhouse is outside and to the right about thirty paces,” the old man said, gesturing as he spoke, “I will get beds and dry clothes for you from the cellar.”
He lifted up a heavy board by an iron handle, exposing a very dark chamber underneath the floor. He grabbed a lamp from a shelf on the wall and, taking a long splinter of wood from the wood pile, opened the door of the wood stove to thrust it into the burning coals inside before lighting the wick. Lamp in hand, he descended a surprising number of steep stairs and disappeared into the cellar below.
“Whoa. Look at this,” Daniel said. On the wall were dozens of dusty framed photographs of the old man posing with a variety of important looking people, a few of whom I recognized.
“Holy shit, that’s Reagan,” said Austin as he pointed to a picture of the old man in a pressed business suit decorated with medals shaking hands with the former president.
“There’s Clinton. Who is this guy?” wondered Kara aloud.
“This must have been his family,” the Asian guy said, picking up a three-panel frame with faded black-and-white photographs of a very young version of the old man, his arm around a beaming wife and three young kids.
“They must all be grown up by now,” Daniel noted.
“They are,” we turned around and saw the old man carrying a towering pile of linens, “Even their children are all grown up.”
He set the linens on the wooden table close to the fire and gently took the frame from Wayne’s hand, setting it back on its shelf carefully, “That was a long time ago. A very long time.”
He smiled briefly at us and then picked up a large cloth sheet from the table. Pinning it in three places to hooks on the ceiling, he sectioned off a small corner of the room.
“You can change into these clothes. They are simple pajamas, but they will keep you warm and they’re much drier than what you’re wearing now. I will make a stew for you all,” he said, taking a large copper kettle down from the ceiling and began washing it at a cistern positioned over a drain near the door.
“That’s okay,” Austin said, “My coat kept me dry.”
“As you wish. So tell me, students. What are your names? Where do you come from?”
“I’m Austin. I’m from Portland, Oregon. What else do you want to know?”
The old man finished washing the kettle and replied with a faint smile, “Whatever you’d like to share.”
“Well, I’m going to CONA to study Computer Science. I like to do CrossFit and am a competitive IPSC shooter. I was president of the Young Republican Club at my high school, although they were mostly a bunch of cuckservatives.”
“He’s a racist,” interrupted Kara.
“I’m not a racist,” Austin protested, “I’m a racial realist. Whatever, you wouldn’t understand.”
“Oh, because I’m black I can’t understand?” said Kara, “You’re a white, racist fascist that called me an ‘affirmative action’ choice by the college.”
“Isn’t it funny that affirmative action really just means racism against whites? Who really is the racist, Kara?” Austin replied.
“Racist against whites? Centuries of white colonialism and oppression built off the backs of non-whites, but it scares you if there’s a little bit of give back to the people who built your empires?”
“We built those empires, not a bunch of immigrants and freeloaders. Besides, what empire do I have, Kara? I probably grew up poorer than you. There was no White Guys College Fund, no grade inflation, no anti-white propaganda day in and day out from Hebrew-wood.”
“Hebrew-wood?” Daniel spoke up, “What the fuck does that mean?”
Austin sighed dramatically, “Nothing. Whatever. I’m not going to try to ‘red-pill’ you and some black social justice warrior.”
“I hate you. You’re everything that’s wrong with this country,” Kara spat, “You and all the Trump idiots. It’s like Nazi Germany all over again.”
“Trump is not Hitler, Kara. Lots of people support him. Including lots of Jews,” Daniel replied with a frown.
“Just because he’s substituted immigrants and Muslims for Jews doesn’t make him less of a fascist. If you want to know what Trump really represents, just look at his supporters,” Kara pointed her finger accusingly at Austin.
“Why would I feel guilty for wanting to Make America Great Again?” Austin shrugged, “If you were actually college material, you’d realize that having millions of illegal immigrants on welfare hurts blacks more than just about anyone else. But, you’re just a pawn.”
“I’m sorry, sir. It’s really rude for them to argue in your home like this,” Daniel said to the old man.
“Don’t apologize for me,” Kara interrupted, “I’m tired of people acting like I’m out of line for actually having self-respect. It’s not okay for people like Austin to do what he did. If no one speaks up, it’s tacit approval for racism. Are you a racist, Daniel?”
Daniel shook his head with annoyance, but the old man spoke before he did, “You don’t need to apologize, young lady. It’s fine. I’m always happy to hear what people think. It’s very interesting to me. But, I didn’t catch your name.”
“Kara. Um, thank you. I’m from Seattle and am in pre-law to fight against bigotry like Austin and Trump both. We live in a time when a black teenager cannot walk to the store in their own neighborhood without…”
“Why don’t you let someone else talk for once, Kara,” Austin interrupted.
Kara glared at Austin and fumed. But she didn’t say anything more.
“I’m Isabella,” said the girl with the accent, “I was born in Los Angeles but my family is from Oaxaca, Mexico. I’m studying Marine Biology. When I graduate I want to work with sea mammals around Oaxaca. It’s so beautiful there. And warm!”
“Very nice. I’ve been to Oaxaca and it certainly is beautiful. These pajamas are only getting warmer here by the fire. Again, you are all welcome to change into them,” the old man said as he finished peeling some potatoes and began chopping them for the stew.
Isabella took a pair and thanked him, then went behind the sheet.
“I’m Wayne,” said the Asian guy, “and I’m from Bentonville, Arkansas.”
“Wang?” asked Austin.
“Wayne. Like John Wayne. I’m going to CONA for pre-med. I’m planning on becoming a surgeon, but after tonight I don’t know if I have it in me. That was horrible. I’ve never seen a person die before.”
“He’s still there in the van just a few hundred feet away. It gives me the creeps,” added Daniel, “Did you lock the van?”
“If no one is coming for us then why would there be anyone stealing stuff from the van?” replied Austin derisively.
“So you had the keys and you forgot, huh?” Daniel dug back, “I just don’t want him to not be in the van tomorrow.”
“Okay, now that’s creepy,” said Kara.
“I’m Daniel, by the way. I’m from San Francisco and I’m also going for pre-med, but I’m on the psychiatry track.”
“Just what the world needs, another head shrinker,” Austin couldn’t resist.
“Trust me. You don’t want me to diagnosis you, Austin.”
“No, I’d love to hear it oh Chief Witch Doctor. Clinical bigotry?”
Daniel scoffed and wrinkled his nose, and not because the old man had begun slicing onions.
“No, Austin. There’s no such diagnosis. But what you are clearly suffering from is paranoid delusional disorder, in addition to narcissistic personality disorder. Let me guess, you think you are the victim of vast conspiracy out to get you because you’re white. Right?”
“How convenient to label away recognizing white genocide as a fucking mental disorder,” Austin replied bitterly.
“Could there be anything more paranoid?” asked Daniel, “Or more delusional? I mean, seriously, Austin. Look at the world. In nearly every aspect of business and politics, who is running things? Whites. Yet you imagine that you are the persecuted minority. It’s classic delusional scapegoating.”
“It’s not whites who are running things. It’s Jews,” Austin said, “If whites were running things and weren’t brainwashed by all the Jewish crap, none of these problems would be happening.”
“Okay, first off, Jews are white. Second, do you understand how anti-Semitic you sound right now? Aren’t you ashamed in the least?” Daniel concluded, “And, third, I’m Jewish, a Trump supporter, and a libertarian. Where is your conspiracy in that, moron?”
Just then Wayne came back into the room wearing the second pair of warm flannel pajamas. Kara turned to him and whispered, “Shit just got real, Wayne.”
“Whatever. Jews aren’t white, dude,” Austin said and paused.
“Wait a minute,” Daniel said, wagging his finger, “I’m the first Jewish person you’ve met aren’t I? Holy shit. You are a classic anti-Semite. I could do a fucking paper on you, Austin.”
“Fuck off, man. I’ve seen Jews before.”
“But have you ever talked with them? Ever known their name?”
“Dude, who can not know their name? Adelson, Greenspan, Soros. They’re all over the place and it’s obvious they’re running the show.”
“Am I running the show, Austin? Is Trump a Jew? Is Clinton a Jew? Is Obama?”
“Trump’s not a Jew. The others are just puppets of the Zionists.”
“‘Zionists.’ How quaint. But why not Trump? If the other ones are then why isn’t Trump? Sheldon Adelson supports Trump. That’s your own example!”
“Trump is different. The Jews always bet on both horses. But they don’t control Trump.”
“His daughter is Jewish! He brags about being the candidate Jews love the most. What planet are you living on, Austin?”
“Just fuck off, man. Even if Trump is a tool he’s pushing the Overton window.”
Kara spoke, “Austin’s just another white guy that can’t accept a multicultural world. So instead he has to blame others. He blames the fembots, the niggers, the kikes, the spics, the chinks, the ragheads. Everyone except him is to blame. He can’t come to terms with the fact that capitalism and white imperialistic rule is coming to an end.”
“Wait a second, what’s wrong with capitalism?” Daniel asked.
"Capitalism is just the patriarchal white ruling class, but through corporations instead of aristocracies. They exploit everyone and everything, raping the earth so that the 1% can live like Gods on earth."
Daniel frowned and replied, "Capitalism is the best way for 100% of people to have good lives. Look at the quality of life in capitalist countries versus communist countries. There's no comparison!"
“Those countries succeeded because they were run by whites,” Austin jumped in, “They could have been capitalist or communist and it wouldn’t have matter. Capitalism isn’t helping South Africa one bit, but white rule did.”
“Come off it, Austin. The USSR was a white-run country and look how that turned out,” Daniel replied.
“The USSR failed because of subversion by the United States, including Afghanistan,” Kara countered, “It never had the chance to really be communistic. Stalin gave up the policy of world wide revolution, and the result was exactly what Lenin and Trotsky told us would happen. As long as capitalism remained a force in the world, it would try to destroy the only thing that can cure the world of it: communism.”
“Do you actually believe that, Kara?” asked Daniel, “When was the USSR ever a nicer place than the United States?”
“For most of its existence! For many decades after World War Two the USSR had much more advanced educational, scientific, and social programs. It was a much more fair and safe place than the United States. It did this despite nearly constant attempts by imperialists to subvert communism, including the United States waging proxy wars in colonized countries to prevent communism from succeeding. For a country that pretends it values the freedom of citizens to self-govern, doesn’t it seem weird that America would bomb people who try to actually self-govern?”
“That’s a bunch of propaganda baloney. You’re believing Pravda instead of the facts,” Daniel argued, “The Russians were desperate to get out from the thumb of the communist party and their KGB enforcers. It was the most totalitarian regime in history, rivaled only by Hitler and the Nazis. The only real difference was that the Communists were equal-opportunity murderers, instead of prejudically trying to exterminate the Jews and other people they didn’t like.”
“So says the capitalist government.”
“So say the Russians, Kara. Ever heard of the Mitrokhin Archive? You talk about subversion, the Communists went broke trying to subvert the West. Joe McCarthy was right and no one can honestly deny it now! The Soviets screwed over the United States, Europe, Korea, Israel, even their supposed buddies in China with their twisted left-wing totalitarianism. And you know who suffered most? The Russian citizens. I can’t believe you’d actually defend the Soviets.”
“You’re ignorant. You’re a libertarian. It’s the worst kind of capitalist. It’s like a religion of greed.”
“You don’t know shit about libertarianism. There’s nothing more incompatible with totalitarian governments like communism and the Nazis than libertarianism. It’s the foundation of America.”
“The foundation of America is white privilege!”
“What part of ‘all men created equal’ do you not understand?”
“The part that left out half the population: the women!”
“Do you guys have to cuss so much?”
It was Isabella. She looked as innocent as her words sittingg calmly in the pure white flannel pajamas.
“You know, it doesn’t have to be all about Mammon or all about Marx. There is another way to live your life besides making it all about economics.”
“But economics is the key to the oppression of the masses. Deliberate privation keeps us all enslaved to the capitalists. The American dream is a total lie,” Kara argued.
“What about privation of the soul? What good is material wealth if we are spiritually barren?” Isabella asked.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” quoted Wayne.
“Exactly. Matthew 5:3.”
Daniel let out an annoyed sigh, “Here in America there’s this thing called separation of church and state. We’re not a Christian country, we’re not even a Judeo-Christian country. We’re a country that values liberty and justice for all.”
“You forgot the under God part,” enjoined Wayne.
“Added in 1954!”
Kara appended, “to contrast with godless communism which didn’t need an ‘opiate of the masses’ or the promise of a fair afterlife to distract from real life concerns.”
“It’s about love,” Isabella said, “not distraction. It’s about God’s love for all of us, even people who’ve turned away from him.”
Wayne added, “That’s right. Our nation was built on Christian values, including liberty and equality. The whole idea of a brotherhood of mankind came from the Church. Even the idea of allowing freedom of religion also comes from Christianity. You can’t force someone to accept God’s love.
“I believe in America and I believe in God. I was born in communist China, but adopted by a God-fearing couple in Arkansas who taught me that God loves me. I thank Jesus every day for bringing me to America, for giving me the gift of his salvation, and helping me to understand that we are all in need of his forgiveness.”
“Look, Wayne,” Daniel began, “That’s really nice and all and I also believe in America. But I don’t think you need to have Christian values to be an American. And, really, if American values are Christian values, then aren’t Christian values also capitalist values? These are the same values that saved communist China from falling into total ruin, because it learned to be capitalist.”
“Well, I would agree that Christian values are American values and that does include capitalism,” Wayne replied, “The Bible says ‘each will receive his wages according to his labor.’ As long as you have private charity through the church, why do you need socialism at all?”
But Isabella saw it differently, “Socialism is not incompatible with the Bible. Christianity is the original socialism because it cared for all of society, not just one class or one race. In order to reach everyone, you need socialism, whether through a government or not. Jesus often spoke of his love for the poor and needy. Pope Francis says human rights are just as violated by economic unfairness as terrorism and he’s right, of course.”
“Finally there’s one pope I can agree with on something. Now if he’d fix the sexism, homophobia, birth control…” said Kara.
Wayne interrupted, “Of course Pope Francis would say that. He is a socialist! Pope Francis has said a lot of stupid things and seems pretty anti-American in general. It’s no wonder so many Catholics think he’s not even the real pope.”
“Those aren’t Catholics!” replied Isabella forcefully, “They are heretics.”
“Hitler was a Catholic and a socialist,” Daniel inserted, “Fifty years ago the Catholic church finally apologized for persecuting Jews for more than a thousand years and for helping Hitler commit the Holocaust. But I guess it didn’t occur to them that socialism, which led to the Holocaust and more than one hundred million dead, was also a problem.”
Austin was ready with a response, “Jews brought their persecution on themselves. They were kicked out of countries over one hundred and fifty times, places with different cultures, ethnicities, and religions. People don’t want to be exploited and eventually get fed up.”
“Are you saying that the Jews deserved the Holocaust?” Daniel shuddered.
“What Holocaust?” Austin replied sardonically.
A barrage of insults followed until Austin seemingly recanted, “I’m not saying it didn’t happen. I’m just saying it’s used as an excuse for Jews getting away with murder.”
Turning to Kara, he added with pathos, “Like their treatment of the Palestinians.”
“Don’t even try, Nazi,” was Kara’s retort, “I’m just glad there are so many witnesses to you goose-stepping. You best forget about college, Herr Austin.”
“I’m not afraid,” Austin said, sounding afraid.
There was an uneasy silence and the air was thick with emotion. But then the old man, who I had forgotten was there, said with a genial grin, “Oh look. The stew is almost ready.”
Turning to me he continued, “I think you are the only one I haven’t heard from. Want to tell me a little about you?”
“Um, my name is Casey. I’m from Florence, Oregon. I’m… not sure of my major yet.”
“That’s because you don’t have any opinions,” Kara said cooly, “I knew it right away.”
“But, that’s not true. I do have opinions.”
“Okay, well who are you voting for?” Daniel asked.
“I… I… I don’t know.”
“What kind of person could be undecided in this election?” asked Daniel, “I hear about these ‘undecided voters’ and I think, what a bunch of idiots. If you don’t know enough to vote now, then you shouldn’t vote ever. No offense.”
“Uh, yeah. I probably won’t vote,” I sighed.
“Good. I’m voting Trump. I’m not with him on free trade and immigration, but the corporate and tax stuff? Niiiice,” Daniel smiled, “How about the rest of you?”
“Trump,” Austin said, surprising no one.
“Jill Stein, but if this was a competitive state I would vote Clinton,” Kara said.
“Trump for a lot of reasons,” Wayne said, “But I really would have preferred Cruz. Or, even better, Huckabee.”
Kara couldn’t resist, “Of course you would.”
“Clinton has my vote,” Isabella added, “She is the only one that seems to really have a plan, at least one that I agree with. She seems genuinely compassionate towards the poor and suffering.”
“Compassionate? The robot?” Austin couldn’t believe his ears, “I mean, she literally admitted she was a robot.”
“You’re such a moron, Austin,” Kara said with a laugh, “You even make neo-Nazis look bad.”
“Casey, would you like some pajamas too?” the old man asked. It was then that I noticed everyone else had already changed into the flannels he had brought out.
“Oh, sure. Thank you.”
Changing into the warm, soft fuzzy pajamas was a welcome turn in the evening. Although the smell of the savory stew permeated the air, I could still detect a faint, natural scent of flowers from the pajamas. I drew a long breath and felt like things were going to be okay for the first time since the incident with the driver.
When I returned to the room, wooden bowls had been filled with the thick stew, fragrant steam piping off and humidifying the room. The old man handed me a bowl that seemed unnaturally heavy, though only half full. I thanked him and looked around at the others who all seemed entirely absorbed in enjoying the stew.
I took a spoonful. And then another and another until the bowl was empty. I was greatly relieved when I saw, as the others had second helpings, that there was plenty for me to have another one too.
Our bellies full and our bodies warm, the soft darkness of the night brought a relaxing stillness to the crowd that only a little while before had been arguing.
Finally, Kara asked the old man, “So who are you voting for?”
The old man smiled broadly and leaned back in his rocking chair.
“And who are you anyway?” Daniel added, waving towards the wall, “How did you know all those people in the pictures?”
The old man took a deep breath and knitted his fingers together in front of his mouth, staring briefly at the wood stove as the lamp’s flicker reflected in his eyes.
“I’m with Casey on this one. I’m not going to vote. You know what Mark Twain said: if voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it.”
“How can it not make a difference? There would be a huge difference between a Trump presidency and a Clinton one,” Kara asked, “Are you not following the election?”
The old man lowered his hands and smiled again, “Oh, I’m following it. I still read the newspapers when I walk to town each week.”
I thought of how an old man like him could manage hiking so many miles each week and wondered if I could even keep up.
“Well, who do you agree with more?” Daniel offered, “Trump or Clinton?”
“May I tell you a story instead?”
Daniel looked confused.
“It may answer your question,” the old man suggested.
“Um… okay. Yeah, of course.”
“Thank you. Once upon a time there was a boy who grew up in a small town in Utah during World War Two. His father was in the Office of Strategic Services, traveling all over Europe in service to his country, and the boy listened with great interest to each broadcast for news on the war.
“The boy prayed each night for our side to win the war and promised the Lord that, if his father was brought home safely, the boy would perform his own service for the country. His prayers were answered, the war won, and his father finally arrived home safe and secure in 1946. His father was proud of having done his duty for America and even more proud of his son for wanting to follow in his footsteps.
“In 1953, when the boy was eighteen, he enrolled in a military academy and after graduating joined the CIA. He was soon thrust into the Cold War’s spiderweb in Lebanon.”
“Holy shit, you’re a spook!” Daniel said.
The old man raised his eyebrows and then continued, “The boy, now a young man, found himself in Cuba a couple years later. His involvement in the Bay of Pigs, despite that mission’s apparent failure, led to his quick promotion. Almost immediately after this, he was transferred to Vietnam, well before our official involvement there, of course.
“Many military adventures followed and his career became more and more successful. He was allowed to understand and know many very secret things and led a life much more interesting than his agricultural executive cover would suggest.
“And, here’s the thing. Through it all, he knew that he and his companions were on the right side. That didn’t mean that they never got their hands dirty or that they had no regrets, but they knew that America was the shining city on the hill. They knew that communism, I’m sorry, Kara, but they knew that communism in practice was far more brutal and evil than even our propaganda was letting on.
“They couldn’t let that happen to our country, to our families, to our future. Sometimes there are things that are necessary to preserve the good that, examined out of context, seem morally wrong. It’s a tough call to make and it’s not one that the public will often accept. But, the men knew that sometimes the calculus is clear and hard things must be done for the greater good.
“It made sense. And they knew that a lot of propaganda was also happening to distort what the CIA was doing and why. But giving the whole truth, the truth that really would correct those lies, was not palatable to the politicians and their ilk, so the company men had to shut out the criticisms and have faith in what they were doing. But, it all made sense.
“The young man became an old man. Along the way, his only son followed in his footsteps and became a company man, too. And, while the clarity of the Cold War didn’t quite match what followed, the old man still believed in what the country was doing. And I mean what we were really working towards, not just what the politicians said.
“And then, following 9/11, the old guard of the agency, blamed in part for failing to stop the attack, were not so subtly ousted in favor of a new, post-Cold War leadership alongside the newly deputized Information Awareness Office and Department of Homeland Security. Things changed very quickly and those who were not completely on board were jettisoned. Office politics.
“As it turned out, the old company man was no longer of a mind to jump into speculative conflicts, especially when the intel on the attackers led back to three allied countries, not Iraq or Afghanistan. He made enough of a stink with Afghanistan that when he tried to make the case for avoiding deposing Saddam and opening Pandora’s box, he was volunteered for immediatet retirement.
“As he packed his boxes at Langley he recalled arguing with his dad about Vietnamization. If we were on the same side and had the same intel, why weren’t we seeing things the same way, he had wondered then and yet again as he handed in his HID card. Within a year our soldiers were being welcomed with flowers and music in Baghdad.
“And then, at about 10 PM on December 14th, 2005, his son was killed along with a group of insurgents outside of Ramadi. They had been ambushed by Iraqi security forces aided by an SOF team. There was no reporting in the West on the raid and the old man only found out about it through his contacts. Nor was there an explanation for why his son, by then a high ranking officer in the CIA, was apparently helping insurgents.
“The old man lost his faith in the agency that day. He even lost his faith in the country, for the agency he knew was absolutely loyal to America. The natural cynic within the old man, long suppressed by his faithful service, grew angry and restless. He began to look anew at long held tenets and presumed facts. He recognized the fingerprints of disinformation, faint and uncertain though they almost always were, though he knew he could never be fully certain of what was going on through the veil of politicized information.
“So he began to look back further into the past to understand what had really happened. In the shadowy corners of the libraries of history, some books still were uncensored, some records too old to change, and the only real camouflage was the blanket of dust that covered the past. And in the forgotten relics that no one cares about in a time long since moved on, he started to understand.
“Everything was a lie. Even the Bible was a lie. The god he had grown up praying to was a corruption of earlier religions in the Middle East. The old pantheon of gods and goddesses, reflective of the astronomical secrets holy to the farmer and the sacred fertility of motherhood, were replaced by Yahweh, a genocidal, murderous, jealous, rapacious, cruel, and nature-hating god. All that was evil had been enshrined into that god by the most tremendous distortion of bloody history and teachings into a proud, even strident insistence on its absolute piety.”
I gulped and waited, but no one dared interrupt him.
“And Christianity, that bizarre, patchwork invention of the Romans to harness and contain the Jewish zeal within Roman ambitions of universal empire, was all to yoke their subjects under one sign: the sign of the emperor! Blood stained the hills of the old world for over one thousand years under that continuation of the old roman empire: the catholic church.
“All until, at last, the rebellious spirits of the north resisted the pope emperor and took refuge in their own analysis. But what did they find when they read the Old Testament, which is by far the larger part of the Bible? What but a renewed intolerance and zeal as the Puritans, Calvinists, and other extremists continued the elevation of the demiurge, Yahweh, to their supreme lord. Millions more died in the conflicts between these two deluded offshoots of the same book of lies. And for what?
“Lie upon lie fill the court historians’ archives. The universalism of Christianity and the parochial self-interest of the Jews merged with the rise of the merchant class. Wealth and power became everyone’s god and the enlightenment was a bonfire in the sacred grove of nature. Chosen predestination ensured the righteousness of the rich and covens of these new men conspired to ensure the rule of wealth.
“That’s the real origin of America’s revolution, just as with France. Liberty, equality, and brotherhood of man were all farces dangled in front of the masses along with the greatest bait: democracy, a blind faith in selfishness bound to the tabula rasa that the enlightenment philosophers supplanted nature with. No nature, no community, no family, no ancestry, no person really at all, just the ultimate patriarchal fantasy: a god-like existence lording over the shamefully feminine natural world.
“That mad world continued on a national basis until the turn of the 19th century. That’s when everything becomes crystal clear. If you want to understand modern times, just understand the origin of World War One. The old man devoured Quigley, Barnes, Fay, and others to understand Rothschild, Rhodes, Milner, Balfour, Churchill, Wilson, Rockefeller, Schiff, all of the scoundrels.
“And there it was, plain as day. The end of the Ottoman Empire and its peace in the Middle East. The beginning of world government. And, most significantly to the old man, the deliberate collusion with and control of communism by the arch-capitalists of the world.
“Two groups had conspired together to control the entire world in their Yahweh-sanctioned madness: the Jewish money powers and the Anglo-Saxon ruling class. How ironic that the global elite was actually a conglomerate of Protestant white supremacists and Jewish magnates, both the most loyal devotees of the Old Testament god. Soon the long enfeebled Catholic church was brought into the game as well, made official in the Second Vatican Council.”
Austin and Daniel both opened their mouths in protest but then said nothing. Perhaps they decided the old man was just crazy.
“But their efforts unraveled. They punished the Teutons too much, whose humiliation under the Treaty of Versailles would lead to a more serious threat to world domination. They underestimated the independence of American settlers, who refused to join the League of Nations. Too many regions were left uninvolved in the game of chess. The world was not yet ready to submit to its rightful owners.
“So, after all the deviousness of World War Two and its sixty some million dead, they did what was necessary to get it right: permanent war. Uncle Joe Stalin became the evil pogroming red menace and the Cold War started before the rifles were cool. Back in 1913, H.G. Wells wrote The World Set Free where atomic weapons and their mutually assured destruction force the world into a world government that is the guarantor of peace; a close ally of the elite, his books almost always advertised the promise of a future world government.
“At the end of the war the Bomb was revealed. A secretive cabal of elect scientists and administrators had supposedly developed a weapon that would only be used militarily once in the more than seventy years since its unveiling. Massive propaganda insisted for the next several decades that the weapon was absolutely terrifying. Not only was it massively destructive in the instant of detonation, it salted the earth and became ‘the destroyer of worlds.’ Only the United Nations could ensure the always tense negotiations necessary to avert World War Three, the apocalypse.
“But in February 1946, de Seversky, consultant of the United States government on the damage in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, reported that the damage was no more destructive than that of conventional firebombing as in Tokyo. The nuclear weapons were apparently being grossly exaggerated in their destructive capability.
“The old spy, like countless other defense workers through the Cold War, knew that nuclear weapons had a limited effectiveness and could be readily survived if you were not unlucky enough to be within a couple miles of the blast radius. Or maybe nuclear weapons simply don’t exist at all.
“The more the man dug, the more such unthinkable blasphemes seemed plausible. Much of the propaganda and lies used in World War One was now clear. How could anyone say that their government wouldn’t resort to lies of such magnitude once it already has? The lies that led to the Federal Reserve and New Deal, to both World Wars and nearly all other engagements, to the Cold War, to the War on Terrorism, to the War on Drugs (even as we illegally ensured the supply of those drugs), to the vaccinated, fluoridated, medicated, polluted, intoxicated, bought and sold population that thinks it, the slave itself, rules the world when it hands over its vote.
“And what is needed to keep the lies believed? What was needed to keep the Jews obedient to Yahweh, what corrected them even as they fell back to worshipping the old god and goddesses of their past? What burned away the pagans, Cathars, Sufi mystics, and other heretics? What brought the colonies and possessions under one Christian scepter? What keeps us at war with the Godless Reds and the bloodthirsty Muslim extremists and the ghetto thugs and the noose-wielding rednecks and the dirty immigrants? What keeps us at war with each other and with ourselves? What does the threat of climatological world disaster present?
“The answer is of course fear. The real weapon wielded by these powers was always fear. A fear created, taught, reminded, and enforced. Reasonable fear, irrational rear, it mattered not. What mattered was the pliancy that the afraid presented. The slave returning from the frightful woods to the stern, but loving master. The prodigal son forgiven and absorbed into the servant caste.
“Under their rule, we are never at home, never at peace, no matter the pretense at safety and community they tempt us with. We are never one with the nature that created us, that beats in our hearts, and creates our dreams. And the more desperately we crave and seek solace in the their solutions from the frightening world they weave, the more we are trapped in their illusion. No, there is only one way to real freedom: we must break their spell. We must break the chains that enfetter us and run free into the great wilderness of life.”
I looked around at the others. They looked confused, expectant, uneasy with the old man’s strange “story” and rant. The old man caught their looks and himself appeared almost embarrassed.
“I am sorry for boring you with such a tangent to the story. Any way, in the end the old man realized he was just very tired. He was tired of the disappointment that believing too strongly in any dream presents. So, his wife having passed a few years before and his daughters far away, he decide to live the rest of his life in reclusion from the illusions that he had previously imagined so important.”
“Wait, he didn’t go and try to change the world?” someone asked.
“Why would he do that?” the old man asked, “Who is to say the elite are wrong or that they are doing a worse job than all the individual petty rulers would? And, after all, if you really believe there is something greater than the tempting madness of world power, then why not let that great power, nature, simply take its course? Does she actually need our help or is that more illusion?”
“But what’s the point then? What’s going to happen?”
“The point is to not lose yourself in the illusion, to not mistake fear and desire for truth. The point is to trust what is more primal, more fundamental than all this silliness. The point is to not fix the world. That’s the point.”
“Trump will be elected in what seems to many people to be a stolen election. The economy will boom under him, while half the country will hate him and all those who support him. You see, there’s really nothing Clinton can do that Obama could not already. But a Trump presidency will have license both from his supporters and his detractors to make much mischief, particularly with a strong market.
“The baby boomers, the final significant hold out of private wealth, largely uninterested in securing the future of their own offspring, will become liberal in spending their savings. Risky investments and small businesses will thrive. And finally, in the second term, a great, world-wide economic catastrophe will transfer that private wealth into the hands of the banks. Many baby boomers will die poorer than they’ve ever been before, utterly dependent on public charity.
“The banks, which gained complete control over the world economy in the twentieth century, can create this catastrophe at will and there is no real danger of it until and unless they wish it to occur. Likewise, they can rapidly provide economic relief at will and in conjunction with the policies they wish to encourage, similar to the deliberate manipulations that both created and relieved the Great Depression.
“To solve the catastrophe, purportedly caused by Trump and similar quasi-nationalist policies, a vast and permanent welfare program will take place in reaction. Such a program is already sought as the baby boomers retire and over-burden society relative to the much smaller output of younger generations. In 2015, the UN decided the implement the 15-year Sustainable Developmental Goals, the largest and, by far, most expensive global social welfare program in history. All these forces will converge in a new, global society where all will serve the elites, with Africa, in particular, providing millions upon millions of new wage slaves.
“Then, just as now, they will not really care if you know the truth or if you step outside of the illusion. If you control the schools, the press, the entertainment, the politicians, the religions, the science, and even the visible dissenters, what do you care if anyone breaks free? Democracy is not an individual that can be swayed with truth, threats, or veniality. Democracy is, like wealth, a numbers game and the wealthy will always win.
“The truth is that you could have absolute evidence of total conspiracy, take over the feeds of every television channel, and broadcast it for 24 hours and nothing would change. An explanation, an excuse is all that would be needed. They pronounce it lies, disinformation, propaganda, a conspiracy theory, and it vanishes from plausibility like water in a desert. The world’s rulers are invincible, save from the laws of nature herself.
“So what is left but to be free? Surrender a nonsensical war and be free to live your life. That’s the point.”
The old man stood up and motioned towards a clock on the wall.
“It’s 6 AM. The food truck will be passing the road in half an hour. I’m sorry that you haven’t slept. I would have thought my boring story would have done the trick,” the old man smiled, “You should get ready to flag down the truck.”
Soon afterwards, the six of us stood by the road, wool blankets shrouding the pajamas that we still wore, our clothes and belonging neatly (and, in Austin’s case, not so neatly) piled next to us. I went to check the time on my iPhone and realized I had left it in the cottage.
I explained and hurried back to the cottage. I knocked on the door but there was no answer. I waited and knocked again, and then opened the door.
The old man was nowhere to be seen, but my iPhone had been conveniently placed on the wooden table. I went in to pick it up and found a small wallet-sized photograph had been laid on top. It was a portrait of a neatly dressed, gray-eyed man photographed in front of an American flag. Below the portrait the caption read, “Sr. SA George Washington (1962-2005).” It was then that I noticed all the photographs and other personal effects had been removed from the walls.
I couldn’t stop looking back at the cottage when I got back to the road. The food truck arrived a few minutes later, just as the old man had said it would, and we were soon riding in the back of the cargo area to the top of the mountain. I never returned to the cottage again. But I’m sure he’s still out there somewhere running free in the great wilderness of life.