Sunday, January 30, 2011

Dateline 2032: The Life of JAC03225: Part 5

FICTION SUNDAY 

In Part 4, JAC03225 is at the library doing research to complete his doctoral dissertation in ancient history. He's distracted by his imminent visit to his father at Evergreen Residence. Some repressed memories emerge to the surface of his being.

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For now, at least, that meant focusing on what was most important and essential at the moment—completing his dissertation. It was the next step in his planned journey, one that he meticulously planned and had planned for him. And it was a fine plan, not to be easily dismissed or disputed. He continued to scroll through the Index of Books in the archives, and noticed a section that received very little hits, analogous to a book sitting in the dusty archives of an ancient library.

“Well, well, look at what we have got here,” he muttered to himself. I can’t believe it. I have not seen this in at least seven, eight years, ever since my first introductory survey course as an undergrad”:
This great nation will never be intimidated. People will continue to live as they have always lived, working hard, playing hard, going to worship services and, most important, for prosperity and economic stability, to go shopping. Good People everywhere will continue to show their patriotism and their allegiance to the Dream, by shopping, now more than ever.

President Jackson A. Marshall,
December 15, 2018: In Collected Sayings: Vol 1:23
That’s not unusual. Shopping is written in the Constitution under Article 4. Do No Harm. JAC03225 wondered why President Marshall would have to mention shopping. After all, that’s what most people did after work. Go shopping. They didn’t have to be reminded. They loved to shop, and they shopped hard, like they worked and played. It was odd that the President had to tell people they had to shop. After all, wasn’t shopping not only written into the DNA of each citizen, but a patriotic duty?

He remembered, rather dimly however, that in one of his graduate level classes, sparsely attended in the online universe, that a number of erudite specialists speculated on the issue. Many different reasons were raised and discussed at conferences and in esteemed journal proceedings.

One popular theory held that it might have been the shock of the attacks. Ancient peoples obviously thought differently than the enlightened times of today, thanks to the advances in science and in particular the progress brought about the leading evolutionists. Now, good peoples everywhere do their patriotic duty without question.
Pledge of Allegiance

I give my allegiance to the State and to its Great Leader, may he have good health and good fortune. We will serve him and the State with faithful, willing and cheerful hearts. We praise the State and The Great Leader for faithfully and a willingly giving himself to making our society true, good and free from the ills of hate and intolerance.

We thank with grateful hearts the scientific intellect shown by the Great Ancients of Aristotle, Bacon, Darwin, Jesus, Moses, Newton, and Paul; the patriotic heroism displayed by the Founding Parents of Presidents Jackson A. Marshall, Sarah L. Pears, and Paul S. Macintosh; and the wisdom and humility of the Great Leader, without whom we would not have the peace, freedoms and good fortunes that we all now cherish and enjoy.

We give thanks, as well, to the gods of Scientific Spiritualism with which we place our faith. Long Live the State. Long Live Freedom. Long Live the Great Leader.
The pledge of allegiance is said by every schoolboy and schoolgirl from kindergarten onward. It is said daily, first thing in the morning, saluting the flag of the State, while facing northward. JAC03225 couldn’t really argue about the benefits of Scientific Spiritualism, or SS. It was a marriage of Science and Religion, offering the best of both thought-views

In his research, he had read about the old religious wars between science and religion, how religion had staunchly resisted the theories of evolution and other advances in thinking.
Love seeketh not itself to please
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its case
And builds a Heaven in Hell despair
The marriage was a good one, and although not perfect, it was a reasonable accommodation given the alternatives that history proved so destructive to humanity, and the preservation of the natural order of things. It brought peace, stability and good fortune. Could things be better?  

No one of sane mind would even consider thinking otherwise. It would be as foolish as thinking that the earth is flat, or that the sun spun around the earth, or that the Great Leader was fallible. All were equally ridiculous and dangerous ideas to consider, let alone voice publicly.


JAC03225 was in no position to argue against such thinking. He didn’t have the inclination nor the luxury. And what sense or purpose would it afford him, anyway? Nothing really, other than a foolish intellectual exercise that dilettantes and indigent classless people engaged in as a test of the State’s patience and tolerance. And it was a foolish symbolic gesture that led to civil unrest and mass round-ups anyway. And the outcome is as predictable as it is futile.

Bitter experience is often a great teacher. It did his father no good, a prominent academic, a tenured full professor and dean of the department of ancient history at AIM U. He was both esteemed and loved. Holder of a prestigious academic chair, winner of a number of international honours, including the Winston Churchill Prize in History, the world’s top honour for a historian, his father was well-placed for even greater honours.

Many pundits thought that he was positioned to become the University President in 2020, when the serving president would step down at the mandatory retirement age of seventy-five. He was the right age, over sixty, but less than seventy, a good fit in order to serve the five-year term, renewable of course. He held all the right qualifications and knew all the right people, having spent the last thirty-five years building contacts and relationships with the right people.

And then his fateful irrational decision to lead a dissident group. He never explained the full reasons to JAC03225 or his mother, who died a few years ago. He said it was best they did not know of the plans, and it was for their own protection. His father was caught, tried, stripped of all his honours, titles and degrees, classified as a traitor, and as such sentenced to death.

So were the many other collaborators, distinguished professors and intellectuals, who all underwent speedy trials held in secret, the state citing reasons of national security. The outrage was palpable. “TRAITOR" was the headline in large boldface type above a photo of his father, and the judgment was just as swift in all the media editorials: "The nation is shocked by these acts of treason from the highest places,” all the leading media voices said with indignation and certainty on the day the arrest was announced. 

Retribution was quick and decisive, in keeping with the tenor of the times. All were quickly and disgracefully executed by the state, including both MEL03226’s father and favourite uncle.

But JAC03225’s father survived that fate. The memories of who he once was had some effect. It was only his once sterling reputation and the petitions from the international community of academics and political leaders, including the then-leader’s brother, that caught the ear of the President. Out of pity, perhaps, his sentence was commuted to twenty-five years at a re-education camp far from the capital.

The authorities allowed JAC03225 a few moments with his father. Before he left for the Burlington Mall Camp, his father said:
That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow human. You were born to live free and with individual dignity. And to always do the right thing whenever it is in your power to do so, even if it costs.  Democracy is too important an institution to allow personal gain to overshadow it. I leave you with a clear conscience.” With that, he put his hand on his shoulder, and then lightly caressed his cheek. “Always remember this, my son, I love you.

That was the last real conversation, the twenty-year-old JAC03225 had with his father, who was then led by two guards, bound in chains and handcuffs and wearing an orange jumpsuit, down the long corridor to the waiting white unmarked prison van. If he allowed himself, he could recall that last visit. But he rarely gave himself that luxury. He couldn’t. There was too much at stake. He allowed the memories to fade and dim to that one last meeting. That was all that was left, it defining his father.
L'homme est libre, et partout il est dans les fers / Man is born free, and yet everywhere he is in chains.
Time passed, and JAC03225 and his mother agreed to not talk about his father, the shame and humiliation too great to bear. They lost everything, notably their social position, their home, their money and their way of life. Friends shunned them. His mother had to take a menial job for the first time in her life. JAC03225 had to work for a couple of years to raise the money to attend university, no longer having the privilege of a free education. 

Mother and son slowly built and reclaimed their lives, a task made more difficult by having lost their network of people they had once considered friends. But these were dangerous times, and few wanted to associate with the family of a traitor. Except for other families of traitors. MEL03326’s mother and JAC03225’s mother became good friends, sustaining and encouraging each other during the difficult times. As did their two sons, who had even more in common and developed a bond, a mutual trust and an affection for each other.

That helped ease the stigma.  As did, in a strange way, the legal and social restrictions placed on the family. Since his father was classified as a traitor, he was allowed no visits and no communication whatsoever. JAC03325 easily adapted to the new reality before him. He learned not to enter into any political discussions and not to speak too freely, except with his good friend. So, JAC03225 had to rely mostly on himself, relishing hard work and the need to focus on his goals and objectives. And that he did with a type of joy and abandon.


JAC03225 worked hard, very hard, fifty to sixty hours a week, every week for years. He never let up. He lived and survived by work. He achieved many honours in university, including many scholarship and academic awards. And now he was positioned to follow in his father’s academic footsteps, teaching in the same department his father once had done with excellence, that is, all before his fall from grace.

When he was released early under the general amnesty of the Great Leader in 2030, two years ago, his father was old and frail, not half the man he used to be. It was the first time JAC03225 had seen his father in more than ten years. No doubt, his appearance shocked him: a shrunken frame of a man with glazed over far-away stare.

His father, given his failing health and condition, was immediately transferred to Evergreen Residence, an assisted-living facility nearby. It held only old political prisoners, and his father neatly fit the bill. He was all but forgotten by everyone, except his son, his only son.

MEL03226 had told him about it in confidence, that when he had to arrest and do the round-ups of the malcontents, the unhappies the street class, the underclass, the crazies, the unbalanced, and the general trouble-makers who not only misunderstood what a good citizen was but incited others to break the law, he felt good about his job. “It makes me damn proud to wear the badge of a state security officer,” he would say, while caressing his state-issued weapon, a high-powered laser gun.

“After all, our job is to serve and protect,” which was not only his motto, but that of the State Security Services. On his uniform, it was inscribed in bright blue letters, on a patch over his heart.

When MEL03226 became the captain of Perimeter Security, an elite unit of State Security Services, for the capital of Elysium a few years ago, he confided to JAC03225 that his duty was chiefly to serve and protect the elites, which was an open secret. "It comes down to this. If we get two calls, one from an elite and another from an ordinary citizen, we respond to the elite first... always. Why would it be any other way?"

Indeed, why?

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To be continued next week (Part 6):

Copyright (c) Perry J. Greenbaum, 2010. All rights reserved.

Author's Note: This is a work of fiction. While the author might have been inspired by some true-life events, names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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