“Grandpa, tell me again about the Hard Times.”
“Oh, Jimmy, I love telling you stories, but I just told you that one yesterday!”
“I know, Gramps, but that was just the same stuff they tell us at the new school–the constant experimenting, the violence, the confusion and chaos–but you were there. Tell me what it was really like, please.”
Grandpa sighed and ran a hand through his thinning hair as he sank into his comfortable chair by the window. “The Hard Times? You know, nobody thought of calling it that until it had been around for years. The name first popped up on the underground web sites of traditionalists–‘the haters,’ most people called them at the time; people who ‘hated’ subversion, hedonism, socialism, who wouldn’t ‘tolerate’ the demands of others for radical, unprecedented change in the name of ‘fairness.’ The government took a cue from China and shut down most of those sites just as quickly as they shut down the talk radio shows those rebels started out on, but still, the resistance lingered.
“I was never a part of that resistance. It wasn’t that I was too young to join in, but that I was too young to know that I should join in. Especially when so many of my elders sanctioned that radicalism with their zealous endorsements, also all in the name of ‘progress.’ I was taken in by the idea of generations, centuries, of wrongdoing about to be undone by an earth-shattering revolutionary who would finally get everyone what they had been taught by the media their whole lives they deserved. It was exciting, it felt righteous, it was this mass mob mentality that you just can’t understand unless you were part of it–totally convinced that the more you taunted and censored the ones you labelled the ‘enemy,’ the more just you were. It was like a contest to see who could be coolest by being the most extreme.”
Grandpa paused for breath and rolled his eyes up to the ceiling, seeming to search for words to give his thoughts form. His face looked lost. “Good grief, how did we get so far that the majority of a country could fall for such a childish scheme and think we were saving the world?”
He leaned forward and rested his hands on his knees, and when he didn’t speak for a minute, Jimmy tried to get him to continue with a question: “So President Obama was evil?”
Grandpa’s face instantly looked up. “Evil? Heavens, no. Not ‘evil,’ just very, very wrong. He genuinely thought he was doing the right things, there’s no doubt that he sincerely wanted to do the most good for the most people, with no ulterior motives for his own aggrandizement…but they say that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. No, Obama wasn’t evil…but his policies had that effect. And some of the people around him…yes, some of them were evil.
“They haven’t taught you in school yet about the law of unintended consequences. That’s one of the very best reasons to be cautious when people want to change what has obviously worked for hundreds of years. You never know what all the effects of a new action will be. But in retrospect, I think we should have seen what would happen. Yes, the chess pieces were all moved into place by 2008. When the last of our defenses was removed, endgame was ready.
“As soon as Obama was elected, the marginalized anti-social goons came out of the woodwork. Up until then, there were restraints on public conduct; the leftist fetishists almost reveled in being underdogs. But the minute they sensed that, after forty years of seeping into the American consciousness, the reigns of power were theirs, what with the Unholy Trinity of Obama-Reid-Pelosi in power, they sprung the trap.
“By the end of the first year, bills fast tracked through the legislative and executive branches mandating that we would never fight another war for any reason, because all violence is always a tool of corporations to exploit peace lovers, that nobody would ever be able to be excluded from anything–especially marriage or citizenship–for any reason, because setting any criteria for anything is discrimination, and that’s an ugly word and always bad, and that everybody would always be able to call on the government to have the exact same quality of life that the most well off Americans could conceivably enjoy, because, again, anything less was clearly evidence of some kind of discrimination, and if ‘all men are created equal,’ then nobody should have to suffer anything that everybody doesn’t have to suffer.
“You know, I’ve never said it all out loud like that before, but that’s really the substance of what we thought back then. Decades of wearing away the roots of the civilization that produced the greatest cultural empire in the history of the world had actually reached the point where such juvenile nonsense sounded perfectly reasonable to a majority of people. We knew that aggrieved factions had been working towards this since the 1960’s, but none of us cared to imagine what that implied.
“You know what happened next. Because of the restrictions against war, we were attacked mercilessly, but the administration easily avoided any complicity by blaming George Bush. It’s ironic, you know: when terrorists attacked on 9/11, early in his presidency, liberals dismissed the poor leadership of Bill Clinton and laid the blame at the feet of the new guy. But when Obama was the new guy, suddenly it was OK to blame the barrage of violence on the previous president. The campaign to demonize Bush had been so successful that few people bothered to question the party’s logic, and those who did were quickly silenced.”
Jimmy’s eyebrows shot up. “Silenced? You mean…killed?”
“No,” Grandpa said. “Discredited. Blacklisted. Blackmailed. The president said things like, ‘Don’t let your fear turn you back from our path of honor to the old ways of small minded, close hearted hate.’ Obama’s handlers distanced him from the more fanatic sects of liberals–that’s all I can call them now, sects–who did dirty work in his name. Obama may not have ordered the thugs to cheat behind the scenes…but he sure didn’t try to stop them, either. Especially after those two fake assassination attempts–we now know that his ‘fans’ staged those to give him enough public sympathy and power to roll over opposition voices of dissent. After those, nobody wanted to say that anything he did was wrong.
“Anyway, the next regulations, those against any kind of definition that could be perceived as dividing people, opened a floodgate of problems. If gender couldn’t be considered as a requirement for marriage, then segregated public bathrooms had to go–none of us ever thought of those bathrooms as ‘segregated,’ but I guess technically they were, and when we heard that swear word, we knew it was bad. Then age couldn’t be considered for anything: soon, anybody could legally do almost anything. Sex offenders were the next ‘victims’ of the past to be liberated: artificial pictures and videos were provided at taxpayer expense at first, then the emotional testimonies of young ‘partners’ on daytime TV built up enough sympathy to abolish those laws–and most laws that made anybody different from anybody else. Of course, that also negates the idea of nationality, since it’s inherently exclusive, and there went the nation our Founders sacrificed so much to build. But the borders had been eroding for years, anyway.
“Ever read a story called ‘Harrison Bergeron?’ It came true and then some! In that story, a ballerina had to wear ugly masks and weights to keep her from making anybody else feel bad. By 2015, nobody could be disqualified from any job because of any lack of skills or experience, because those things were elitist, discriminatory relics of the old regime, the one that made our culture’s angelic heroes such glorious underdogs in the first place.
“Or how about Brave New World? It was never as popular as 1984. In the latter, a totalitarian government forced everyone to submit to their rule; in the former, they only had to allow a culture of unbridled indulgence to get people to kill off their own intelligence to the point where they didn’t want to resist the caretakers who fed them constant pleasure. For half a century, Jimmy, we all chattered about how we were living in the wake of the defeat of 1984‘s nightmare vision, and all the while we were living out Brave New World almost word for word.
“And, of course, the soft revolutions in the military and laws led to the one that we were warned was coming–the revolution in the economy. The logical extension of a commitment to unfettered equality, at all times and at all costs, is socialism. I mean, nobody wanted to call it that, but there were always enough choked up single moms on the news, accompanied by slick ad campaigns, that none dared to question the wisdom of ‘leveling the playing field’ once and for all.
“After the ruination, the desertions, and the suicides of the rich, hard nosed bosses of America–what simple bogeymen we made them all out to be!–we really did have to do what our rhetoric had always promoted: divide up the resources. There wasn’t anyone left to produce new wealth. Well, not in America. Personally, I think Bill Gates ended up in India, but your grandmother was sure that he was one of the Founders of the new United States of China after their Revolutionary War. Sometimes I wish I were there, too. Hopefully, while they’re copying our early success, they’ll be smart enough to avoid our mistakes. If a Chinese version of FDR ever comes to power over there, they’d better ignore him.
“You know, the best reference for all this might be from the Bible.”
“The Bible?” Jimmy asked, confused. “What’s that?”
Grandpa smiled. “It’s still banned, but I think that since it was one of the first things to unofficially be expunged from the New Order, it’ll be one of the last to come back in. Your generation is still rediscovering the great things of the past–federalism, stigma, free markets, and the rest. But you’ll have to dig a little deeper to find the Bible. When you do, though…I just hope I’m still around to see it. Then you’ll have all the tools for another Renaissance.
“Anyway, the Bible tells about the children of Israel, who were delivered by God from slavery but, as they were being led to a promised land, rebelled against Him and abused their freedom. As punishment, God made them wander in a wasteland for forty years, so the mature generation would die off and the young people could then inherit the promised land.
“Most of the leaders and agitators of the Great Revolutions of 2009 are gone now, mostly victims of their own immaturity, blind to natural law, and you kids who have grown up in the crucible of our blasted empire are getting strong enough to steer us back to success without shame, to renew the dreams of our Founders. ‘Ambition’ and ‘dignity’ aren’t dirty words any more.”
Jimmy piped up, “But Grandpa, Obama’s still alive.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean him, Jimmy. At best, he was a figurehead for the real traitors to history, a human shield used by the crazed emissaries of the Left who salivated for their chance to change the world. No, after his two terms, when he was promoted (in the culture’s eyes) to being a Hollywood movie star, it was his successors who just kept digging deeper.
“You know what, Jimmy…I’ve been hiding something for many years, and I think I want to give it to you now. I don’t have a copy of the Bible for you, but I’ve got the next best thing. Hold on.” Grandpa shuffled into his room and came back out with something small, something old and mysterious, something he hadn’t even told his wife he’d had all these years since he’d found it at a trash dump, for fear that it might put her in danger from the Fairness and Equality Patrols. He handed it to Jimmy as if it were sacred, and Jimmy carefully received it with reverence.
Jimmy read the cover: The Constitution of the United States of America.
“What is it, Grandpa?”
“Jimmy, for centuries, this whole country was run by those few pages. They outline the few things that government can do, they many things they can’t do, and a vision for the kind of world a free and good people can create when left to work out their own salvation. After Obama’s time, it was rewritten so much that it wasn’t even recognizable. Then, the concept of law itself came to be seen as divisive, so it was buried. Then, it was just ignored and forgotten.
Grandpa looked out the window. “But I think it’s time for it to come back. I think the world is ready for it to come back. This little document created a miracle once.” Grandpa put a solemn hand on Jimmy’s shoulder. “I have faith that it can do so again.”