Happy July 4th, I guess!

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Idiots and Geniuses

Prompt: Timely

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It had been a rough day for the leader of the free world. God damn it, people just didn’t appreciate him. Though many did, lots of people did not. It got confusing sometimes.

Some people said he was incompetent, weak, unqualified. They knew nothing about him and anyway those people were contradicted by others who lauded his policies, decrees, and attempts to shake up the status quo. But the critics annoyed him. He was not incompetent, but a success. He was not weak, he was a powerful man. He was not unqualified, he was a billionaire.

Obviously he relied on staff to guide him, though they were not really as astute as he was. Sometimes they irritated him with their unreasonable expectations. How was he expected to remember everything?

He had made promises which caused people to cheer and exalt him. He had an image to uphold. He knew that ultimately he did know best. He could surround himself with idiots or geniuses, it didn’t matter. He had confidence in himself. He might not have all the facts, he might not have the experience, but he had confidence and smarts.

There happened to be a person who followed him everywhere, always. This person had a device that connected him to two people who had control of the “keys”.

There were always two highly trained people who were each armed with a key and a side arm, always awaiting instruction. If they were given the order, they would simultaneously turn their keys so that ICBMs, or nuclear missiles, would immediately be launched. The key-holders were trained to understand the implications of nuclear treaties and the politics of nuclear weapons. It was important that foreign, and possibly hostile, nations understand that when the order was given, nuclear weapons would in fact be launched. This was and is the deterrent to nuclear war.

Ok, this particular head of state might not know everything about political fine points and international treaties but he knew when a business or a country had to be tough. He was steady in his confidence, even when confused. He fought this fogginess of mind in every meeting and every speech, trying to be as aggressive and single-minded as he always liked to be perceived.

It was late one night and he was up with his television and Twitter feed, and he hadn’t slept for awhile, and had had furious and passionate and confusing meetings with other politicians, and had lost face with one or more foreign dignitaries, his popularity ratings were down, some influential people called him ineffectual— and there before him on the news and trending on Twitter, was an uncompromising act of disrespect by a foreign nation towards the country. More than that, there were personal attacks on him, the leader, and boasts of power and punishment. People on TV called them dangerous, a threat that could not be ignored.

He couldn’t remember exactly but there were other reasons he was angry, really angry, completely justified reasons, even if he couldn’t articulate them.

All he had to do was call on the person with the keys. This person, who would be nearby, would provide the information; the key-holders would be called and told to activate.

They would then immediately launch one or more nuclear missiles.

There were— are— no intermediaries here. The president of the United States has completely unchecked power to launch a nuclear attack, whether defensive or preemptive. No one at all has the power to intervene.

This is fact.

There are apparently bills being introduced that would dilute the dependence of America’s nuclear defence on ICBM silos and which would require congressional approval for a preemptive nuclear launch, which currently is not a prerequisite. These bills have not been supported to date.

As tensions build in Syria and their ally, nuclear power Russia; and potential nuclear power North Korea continues to strut and provoke, recent US displays of unstrategic power by a president who many think is at best inexperienced and at worst mentally unstable, continue to be variously praised and unexamined.

Hug your kids and your friends, right now.

Surrender

Prompt: Yellow

I got a chest x-ray, and the next day took it to a room empty of reading material, including posters on the wall, where I sat alone for almost two hours. The room was painted a whitish yellow. If you have ever wondered what it would be like to be thrown in jail in an empty room and suffer from lack of stimulation of any kind, this would not actually show you. It was bad, but only lasted two hours. Still, it’s like sipping sour milk. You don’t need to drink the whole glass to know it is vile.

Then a doctor, recommended for such examinations, asked me to undress and to put on a green paper robe which opened at the back. He told me to touch my toes. He had me lie down, and he lifted the hem of the paper robe so he could look at my genitals. He was conducting, he said, an inspection to see if there were any visible signs of disease.

Personally, I think the doctor was a pervert. His voice was too level, too pandering, too apologetic. He knew he was being a pervert. He liked to gaze upon people’s genitals under the guise of a necessary medical procedure which purported to eliminate those with sexually transmitted diseases from being granted permission.

Previously, I’d submitted my fingerprints for distribution to civil, state, national, and international authorities, filled out detailed forms tracing my every move and activity for the whole of my life, and been interviewed extensively by indifferent men and women.

Many people were friendly and helpful. Others, like the doctor, took advantage of people in vulnerable situations.

Now, this was what I experienced when I wanted to live in the United States. I passed inspection. My genitals were worthy of trust. I am white and had an income. And I would be comfortable if I was returned to my Canadian homeland.

Imagine a woman and a child who are not white, have no income, no home anymore, who are very likely to die by violence unless they can flee to a safe haven. They have no rights, no understanding of the kind of routines they might be subjected to, and in many cases have no advocate.

This woman and child endure a much more rigorous screening process than I did to reach the port of entry.

They are afraid, sometimes terrified by the process. I was inconvenienced. They live in constant, black dread that they might have to return to a place where they might be starved, raped, mutilated, or killed. I was bored. The pervert doctor only went so far with me, because I am white and anglo, yet I was still humiliated. But I was smiled at with sympathy sometimes, because I am a white person. Smiles are scarcer for them, yes, even for a small, frightened child.

There are millions of these women and children. They go through the process or they return to chaos. Now, in some places, they are being denied even the hope of escape. My experience was nothing. Their experience counts now.

 

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