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Chapter 1 of Mr. Tucker’s novel 2065, which we will serialize in the coming months.
It is 2065, fifty years after the Obama Administration has set America on a new course. Things are different now. Food is distributed at huge government-run Food Stamp Emporiums that have taken the place of grocery stores since 80 percent of the nation went on food stamps. The Department of Gender has declared pregnancy to be a “disability” so that new mothers go on welfare instead of getting married. Relieved of their family responsibilities, adult men spend most of their time in Virtual Reality Parlors where they live computer-generated lives as war heroes or lovers of famous movie stars. The TSA, now the largest military force in the country, has been thwarted in an attempted coup by the negotiating skills of Jean Armageddon, the Mayor of San Francisco. This nation-saving feat has catapulted Armageddon into the White House as the nation’s first transgendered President.
But life in this Brave New World is about to be brutally interrupted. The Chinese are looking to collect on the $64 trillion we owe them. They also have a few other demands to make. And they’ve sent a portion of their fleet into Pearl Harbor just to prove the point.
What happens to a declining America as it faces up to a rising world power across the Pacific? Follow the story as it unfolds over the next three months on The American Spectator website.
ON THE MORNING the Chinese fleet sailed into Pearl Harbor, President Jean Armageddon, the nation’s first “hermie” chief executive, was admiring the big black squawk box on herm desk in the Oval Office. It was oversized gizmo with an art-deco façade, said to be modeled on the Chrysler Building, with horizontal bars across and a big lightning bolt across the front — the only electronic tool in the office not designed by Apple. It was Franklin Roosevelt’s original Intercom, installed on his desk in 1934 and rescued by Jean only three months ago from the Smithsonian.
Jean had insisted on securing it as a gesture against what s/he perceived as was one of the most critical problems in America — Virtual Reality. As far as s/he was concerned, VR had become a national disease. No one could tell what was real from what virtual anymore. Herm predecessor — whose name s/he still did not deign to pronounce — had fallen victim to this. He had covered the walls of the Oval Office with 3-D monitors and holographs, thinking he could be aware of what was going on in every corner of the country. Yet he had missed the TSA Rebellion, which happened right under his nose and shook the country to its core. It had been the immediate cause of his downfall – and, not incidentally, the key to Jean’s improbable rise to power. As Mayor of San Francisco, s/he had proved far more adept at handling the situation than the President.
So now Jean was reversing course. S/he had had all the 3-D monitors, holographs, and other VR paraphernalia removed from herm office on the first day. The holographs of the electronic debris being carted out of the White House were herm first big press moment. The country had loved it. Instead, s/he promised a return to old-fashioned communications — face-to-face talks, intimate, personal conversations and if absolutely necessary, phone calls and texting. “Back to Reality” had been one of herm most effective campaign slogans and the Intercom the symbol of the new regime.
The first shaft of sunlight made its oblique passage through the Rose Garden window, resting on the top corner of the western wall. Slowly it crept down until it met the portrait of President Denise Fagin, making her auburn hair radiate around her earnest face. Jean had always loved Fagin, ever since the moment s/he first saw her on television. It must have been around 2024, when Jean was only ten. S/he still remembered walking into the living room while herm parents were watching their wall-sized screen and seeing Fagin standing on a stage waving to a sea of people, red white and blue placards bobbing, balloons falling from the ceiling and people crying and embracing each other in the crowd. Jean knew right away s/he was witnessing something terribly important. Somehow s/he knew this beautiful woman in her pink pantsuit was accomplishing something no one had ever done before. In that brief instant Fagin’s smiling face had penetrated to herm core. “That is who I want to be when I grow up,” s/he had said to hermself. And now it had happened. Overcoming extraordinary obstacles all herm life, s/he had finally found herself sitting at the same desk once occupied by Denise Fagin, basking in her reflected glory like soaking up sunshine on the beach.
Next to Fagin’s portrait stood a bust of Lincoln. S/he had intended to remove that as well but was waiting for the debate of the Great Slave Rebellion to be resolved. For two centuries Americans had been taught that Lincoln and his Union generals were responsible for the Northern victory in that historic conflict. Now, as the country neared the end of the 2061-2065 Civil War Bicentennial, that view was being challenged. Recent scholarship had determined it was actually Free Blacks and rebellious slaves who had won the Civil War. Slaves had undermined the Southern economy by refusing to work the plantations while their masters were off fighting for the Confederacy. The enlistment of thousands of Free Blacks in the Union Army had turned the tide just as the farm boys from Illinois and upstate New York were growing weary. Several scholars, particularly in Africa-American Studies departments, were agitating that the old “War Between the States” be renamed “The Great African-American Slave Rebellion.” It was part of President Armageddon’s agenda to make sure these voices were heard.
Yet for now all Jean really wanted to do was admire this May morning — the sunlight invading the room, the blossoms glistening outside in the Rose Garden. Traffic was starting to rumble up and down Constitution Avenue. Congressmen and Congresswomen slogged toward their offices while healthy young bureaucrats took their morning jog. Soon the protesters would be assembling across the street in Lafayette Park, chanting slogans, bobbing life-sized puppets, and searching for the television cameras. Jean’s blood had always thrilled at the sound of protest but now s/he was beginning see things differently. You couldn’t be against everything. It was important to get things done. People had to accept responsibilities. The world of political power wasn’t as simple as it seemed to those on the outside.
It was gratifying to be able to have time for such thoughts. As Mayor of San Francisco, s/he had always been able to set herm own agenda. Since being catapulted into the White House, however, it had been a non-stop round of conferences with Congresspeople, sessions with the secretary of this and that, Cabinet meetings, handshaking with the visiting Single Mothers of Dubuque, tense confrontations with the press. So Jean had reserved this time for hermself. In another ten minutes the secretary would buzz the Intercom and the daily mayhem would begin. For now s/he could gaze out the window at the Rose Garden and watch hummingbirds dance amidst the spring flowers.
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree…
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
Jean sneaked a look at the pocket mirror she kept in herm desk drawer. Herm cut looked good. True the circles under herm eyes were getting worse but s/he was not going to resort to makeup. That was too feminine. The important thing was to maintain that harmony between the sexes that had brought herm to the Presidency, carefully balancing masculine and feminine without giving in too much to either. It was what the country needed. History had been too much the story of hyperaggressive males and hypersensitive females. It was time for something new.
“Massa’ President.” The gravelly voice of the Secret Service came over the Intercom. “Massa’ President, are you there?” The Service had not yet been able to master “Mizza” and frankly did not seem inclined, either. Behind Jean’s back they had invented code names such as “Swinger” and “Bothways,” which s/he did not appreciate at all, although fortunately it had not yet made it into the press. Instead of the formal “Mizza,” which was easy enough to pronounce, they had deliberately slurred it to “Massa,” which recalled the stereotype of sleepy-eyed plantation slaves. In fact, the Secret Service was still a hotbed of racism and genderism. Especially since the TSA Rebellion, they had managed to weed out women and people of color so that it now had the aura of a sheriff’s posse. S/he was going to have to deal with it some point.
“Yes, what is it?” Jean said into the Intercom.
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