Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A State of the Union Carole - Chapter 2

Please go here for chapter 1.

Chapter 2

The president sat nervously behind his desk in the oval office and watched the clock tick the seconds away. He had debated on whether or not to retire to his room, but did not wish to disturb his wife should his delusions persist. And he especially did not want her disturbed if what had occurred was not a delusion. She did not like being disturbed.

His eyes became heavy as the time slowly passed and the urgent work on his desk remained undone. Eventually, the lack of sleep and stress of the day pressed upon him and his head came to rest on the resolute desk. In the space of a moment, soft snores began emanating from his mouth. It was in this repose that his visitors found him.

The president was jolted awake by a slap on the back of his head and nearly squealed like a teenage girl at a Jonas Brothers concert as he took in the sight before him. Unlike the ghost of Roosevelt, these men were fully formed, not translucent and gray, and obviously solid enough to make a smack felt.

The president pushed himself into a full seated position, shook his head to remove any remaining cobwebs from his nap and stared at the men before him. This is not what he had expected; not at all.

Before him stood two aged gentlemen; both were heavy in the midsection with slightly sagging jowells and male pattern baldness to varying degrees, but there the similarity ended. One had bright eyes over a prominent nose and was dressed in an imbecably cut dark blue suit that could easily have been an Armani. The other had deep set hooded eyes and thin lips -- which were currently pressed tight in disapproval -- and was sporting a pair of faded Levi’s, boots and a t-shirt that read “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

As the president stared in stupefied silence, neither man so much as cracked a smile, and as the silence stretched beyond the limits of what was comfortable, the president found himself asking a fairly stupid question. “Who are you?”

The man in the suit looked at the other man and rolled his eyes. “Well, we were warned I suppose.” Then turning back to the president he continued, “You know who we are and why we are here. Our appearance to you was foretold.”

“No,” the president shook his head in denial, “you’re not the founding fathers. You can’t be.”

“And why pray tell,” asked the jeans clad spirit, “is that?”

“You’re not ghosts. At least not like the other. You can’t be spirits.”

The first spirit smoothed his suit, pulling the sleeves straight and brushing imaginary lint from his lapel. “Full solidification of the astral body is a benefit of sitting at the good table. We have many benefits that those who turned free men into slaves have been denied.”

The president opened his mouth to ask more questions, questions that he desperately needed the answers to, but he was prevented from speaking. Not only by the interruption of the man in jeans, but because his vocal cords no longer appeared to work.

“Silencing you is another benefit. And one that we will probably make liberal use of.” He sank into a deep and courtly bow saying, “Benjamin Franklin, printer, inventor, philosopher and statesman at your service.”

The man in the suit smiled ruefully at Ben, and said, “Normally we are vehemently opposed to bowing to any leader, but since you seem so fond of it yourself we thought we’d humor you.” Sinking into a bow even lower than his partner’s he continued, “John Adams, Second President of the United States.”

This couldn’t be real, the president thought to himself. There was no way that John Adams and Ben Franklin were standing in his office dressed as they were. This couldn’t be happening. He was losing his mind. He was increasingly convinced that this was the case and he was momentarily preoccupied with thoughts of how to hide it. He couldn’t be relieved of his tenure due to insanity; what would happen to his agenda and the country if the moron he had as a vice president was to take over the leadership of the nation. He shuddered to think of the impact of such a situation.

“Stay with us boy!” Adams barked. “Day dream on your own time. We have things to show you and hopefully you’ll learn a thing or two.”

Indignant at this speech, the president stood to his full height and looked down his nose at the men before him. “Do not speak to me that way and do not call me boy.”

“I’ll speak to you any way I see fit and I’ll call you whatever I like, boy.”

“I find that form of address offensive so you will stop it now.”

“Look boy, I’m two hundred and seventy-four years old; six times your age, so you’re a boy to me until you can prove you’re a man. Demanding you not be offended does not make you a man in my eyes, it makes you a pansy ass whiner.”

“It’s that damn political correctness thing they’ve been instituting,” Franklin chimed in. Hands on his hips he strode forward to stand toe to toe with the current president. “Where did you nit wits ever get the idea that you have a right not to be offended? We are going to tell you a lot of things on this trip that you won’t like to hear, but often it is those things we don’t want to hear that we need the most to be told. You’ll get an education in what this country is at its heart and soul regardless of what you want to make it into.”

“I already know what I need to. I was educated at Harvard you know.”

Adams rolled his eyes at Franklin again, but it was Ben who replied. “I only made it two years in grammar school but I still know way more than you do about nearly everything. A fancy degree doesn’t mean a thing if you didn’t learn how to really think. And the one thing you’re definitely missing is the ability to think for yourself. What you’ve done to the education system is a travesty. The children of this country should be taught how to think, not what to think, and you’re living proof of that failure. But if it makes you feel better, I have honorary degrees from St Andrews and Oxford, both of which have been around a Hell of a lot longer than Harvard.”

“How dare you!”

“How dare we?” bellowed Adams. “You’re working to systematically dismantle everything we devoted our lives to building and you ask how we dare?” John took several deep breaths, more for the calm than the oxygen that his astral body did not require. “Enough talking, it’s time to show the man the creation of this union he’s so anxious to tear down and defile.”

A look was exchanged between the two visiting ghosts and then each grabbed one of the president’s hands. The room went black and then flashes of images and sounds began to whiz by as they spun and spun and spun through time. Just as the president feared he would lose his dignity along with his dinner, they came to rest on a cobbled lane outside of what looked at first glance to be a church. It was made of brick with a tall spire and arched windows. The sun was low in the sky but had not yet set and the building appeared to be filled with people. So filled that the masses spilled out into the street and the traveling trio had landed on the outskirts of the crowd.

“Where are we?” the president asked.

John Adams looked around, a nostalgic smile spreading across his face. “Boston, December 16, 1773 at the Old South Meeting House. The oppressions of the Stamp Act, the declaration of parliament that they can enact laws binding us in all cases whatsoever, the Townshend duties, the proposal to give our governors royal salaries thereby buying their loyalties and the final straw of the monopoly granted to the East India Tea Company are about to come to a head.”

“It wasn’t enough that they put that heavy tax on the tea, but they had to grant the monopoly to a company to keep it from bankruptcy,” said Ben Franklin. He leveled a heavy stare at the current president and said, “I believe that it’s what you now refer to as a corporate bailout.”

The president’s jaw clenched at this statement but he gave no other indication of his displeasure with this comparison. “Are you telling me we’re at the Boston Tea Party?”

“The final meeting for it,” said Adams. “The idea was to prevent the tea from being unloaded and thereby eliminating any duty to be paid on it. The other cargo had already been unloaded but they were waiting for the tea. In the other harbors the ships set back out to sea without unloading the tea, but whether or not that will happen here is still unsure.” Here he gestured with his arm and asked, “shall we go inside?”

“Can these people see us?” the president asked. The way his eyes shifted through the crowd and the death grip he held on the sleeve of Adam’s jacket indicated his nervousness and fear.

Adams smiled, “No. We’re aren’t really here. We are merely shadows watching an echo. Nobody you run across while with one of we ghosts will be able to see or hear you. Now please, let us go inside.”

The room was packed full of people, a full seven thousand reported to have attended. Anxieties were high as the people awaited word of whether the ships would leave the harbor with their tea still aboard or, despite the will of the people, unload the tea forcing a duty upon them.

“That man leading the ceremony,” Adams pointed, “That is Samuel Savage. They’ve ordered Mr. Rotch, the ship’s owner, to apply for clearance for his ship to sail without unloading the tea. They’re waiting now to see what happens but it doesn’t look good. The Governor is not on the side of the people and it is he who must grant approval to sail as the customs officers have already refused their assent.”

At that moment Samuel Savage spoke. “In case the governor shall refuse his permission, will you abide by your former resolutions with respect to not suffering the tea to be landed?”

A series of speakers answered this question, many in the affirmative, as the sun began to set. They had been pushed too far and were taking a stand against the British Parliament, but the men did not take this decision lightly. One man, a young lawyer by the name of Josiah Quincy reminded them all of the importance of their decision. “It is not the spirit within these walls that must stand us in stead. The exertions of this day will call forth events which will make a very different spirit necessary for our salvation. Let us consider the issue. Let us look to the end. Let us weigh and consider, before we advance to those measures which must bring on the most trying and terrible struggle this country ever saw.”

Franklin clapped his hand on Adams’ shoulder, his heavy face now lit by the glow of the candles which were the only source of illumination within the crowded building. “This really is exciting. I’m sorry I missed it the first time around. It is great to finally stand here at the true beginning of the American Revolution.”

“This may be the first real declarative statement by the people, but the revolution began long ago in the hearts and minds of the people. Revolutions always begin long before they make themselves known to those prompting the revolt,” replied Adams.

The president was only half listening to the byplay between his guides. His attention was primarily fixed upon the meeting before him and the assertions by the attendees that they would, indeed, prevent the tea from being landed. He couldn’t believe what he was witnessing. That a mob of people would actually openly plan to destroy somebody’s private property in blatant defiance of the government was astounding and a stance he strongly disapproved of.

Tensions continued to escalate as they awaited the return of Mr. Rotch. When the merchant arrived, he made his way through the crowds and announced that his request to set sail without the tea being landed had been refused by the governor.

A low rumbling went through the crowd at this statement, but before it could rise to a full roar it was silenced by the voice of Samuel Adams saying, “This meeting can do no more to save the country.” The debate was over. They had already made their decision on what would be done if this circumstance arose, now all that remained was to execute the resolution they had decided upon.

So engrossed in this exchange was the president that he near jumped out of his skin when a war cry echoed through the chamber. Seeking the source of the cry, the president found a man in the gallery with his face painted and dressed as a Mohawk. His cry was echoed by those outside and around the doorway and then another voice could be heard above the din. This voice cried, “Boston harbor a tea-pot tonight! Hurrah for Griffin’s Wharf!”

At this statement the building began to clear and the trio was carried with the movement of the masses. It could not really be called a mob since they were not out of control, but they did have a mission that would be fulfilled. There were a group of men in a similar disguise to the man in the galley who were leading the way to the wharf, and the organizers, anticipating such an occurrence and the need to keep order, had gone so far as to appoint guards. As the trio passed by them, Adams tapped the president on the shoulder and pointed at a guard saying simply, “John Hancock.”

They arrived at the wharf where the three ships were boarded by the disguised men and even some men who were not disguised. The masses of people assembled on the dock to watch and what amazed the president was that there was no violence; no shouting. The crowd was not riled up, but somber and calm. Fully aware that they were watching an historic event and one that would change their situation forever. They were making a statement which they believed needed to be made. The statement that they would not meekly submit to tyrannical rule. What he couldn’t understand was why a people would resort to such acts instead of relying on diplomacy. It was shameful really, he thought to himself. As he had studied the tea party in school he had always believed their acts to be disrespectful and criminal, a thought that viewing it first hand was not changing.

The trio stood on the wharf for the whole event and remained as the people began to dispurse with nothing harmed but the tea. As the president moved to follow, his hands were again taken by his companions. This time they did not travel but remained at the wharf while images flashed around them. When it stabilized again it was a different scene. The wharf was nearly empty as Parliament had forbidden any cargo but food and firewood from being unloaded, and there were British troops now patrolling the streets. The lives of the people of Boston had been changed. The whole now lived in fear and poverty brought on by government retaliation for the acts of a few. Since Parliament had not known who to punish, they had punished everyone.

Benjamin Franklin shook his head in dismay. “I tried to tell them that they were handling things badly.”

The president’s eyes opened wide in shock at this statement. “You tried to stop the Boston Tea Party?”

“Of course not you imbecile. I tried to tell the British Parliament and the people that what they were doing to the colonies was not right, but they wouldn’t listen. Instead of listening to the concerns of the colonists they just pushed harder. I heard the London perspective on this event and it had little to do with the facts. The colonists were seen as thugs and criminals, the destruction the result of an angry mob. They refused to see that with every law they passed to bring the colonists under their control, they just pushed the colonists closer to revolution.” Here he looked the president in the eye with brows raised and said, “I’m sure you’ve read my publication ‘Rules Whereby a Great Empire May Be Reduced to a Small One’ as you appear to be running the list of rules with gratifying speed.”

Before the president could respond, John Adams interrupted with a snort. “I believe he’s following the Rules for Radicals publication more than yours, although the outcome is the same.”

The president glared at Adams who simply smiled in response. “I am sure that I have read your publication, but I can’t recall it at the moment.”

“Old Ben loved to use sarcasm and humor in his publications. Made them an entertaining read, I’ll grant you, but as a colonial his opinions mattered little to the British subjects who viewed us as second class citizens if they considered us citizens at all. Most didn’t really consider us British so it was perfectly acceptable to take from us to give to the real British subjects. A redistribution of our wealth I believe you would say now. A redistribution to which we were strongly, even vehemently opposed.”

“Wait a minute,” the president said as he turned back to Ben Franklin. “You were in England during all of this? You weren’t even here and yet you feel qualified to educate me on what happened?”

“Of course I wasn’t here. I was pleading the case of the colonies in England. Where did you learn your American history boy? Indonesia?” The president clamped his lips closed at this one but it wouldn’t have mattered if he’d tried to speak. Ben was on a roll and he wasn’t ready to yield the floor. “We were trying to work things out, attempting diplomacy, and sought to show Parliament the error in their thinking. That’s what my publication was all about. It was to illustrate to them how their actions were serving to alienate the colonies instead of drawing them closer. It included imposing severer laws on the colonies than those in Britain. It included the constant assumption by Parliament that, no matter how submissive the colonies have been, they always be treated as if they are on the verge of revolting. It included designating wastrels as our leaders.”

Familiar with Ben’s tirades, John Adams felt no compunction over interrupting at this point. “Imagine if you will in your current time, if tax cheats were appointed to the treasury, criminals to cabinet positions and Marxists were given power over the economy. That is just the thing to rile up the masses and reduce the greatness of the nation.”

Ben grinned and nodded emphatically at this. “A perfect example, John. And let’s not forget telling the people that all of their money belongs first to the government and that if they object over one dollar being taken out of ten that you remind them that you can take the other nine if you so choose. Then of course you must waste that money that you take from them so greedily and use it to pay your government officials a salary that will keep them in a luxury far above that of those whose sweat and blood paid for it.”

“If I may,” Adams interrupted again and, at a nod from Franklin continued. “My favorite of all of these, and the one most pertinent to what we have witnessed I have committed to memory. It reads … If you are told of Discontents in your colonies, never believe that they are general, or that you have given occasion for them; therefore do not think of applying any remedy, or of changing any offensive measure.” Adams gave a moment for this to sink in and then continued, “I believe you’ve condensed this thought into one word. Astroturf. Isn’t that how you refer to any discontents or protestations of the people?”

“Neither of you know what you’re talking about,” the president stated while staring down his nose at them in his typical manner.

“Of course we don’t,” Adams replied. “I’m sure it is simply coincidence that peaceful protestors are referred to as an angry mob, that their numbers are criminally underestimated and that their protests legitimacy is continually called into question.” When the president remained mute in the face of this statement, Adams simply stated, “I thought as much.”

“So are we done? Are you taking me back now?”

Adams and Franklin both laughed but it was Adams who spoke. “Don’t be stupid boy, we’ve only just begun.” The men grabbed the president’s hands and once again they went swirling through time.

Chapter 3 will be posted Monday, January 11th.

Boston Tea Party -
Book - Founding America Documents From the Revolution to the Bill of Rights


  1. More history teachers need to employ the "swirling through time" element.

  2. I agree. I hated history in school because it was so dry and nothing but names and dates. I've learned more history from fiction that prompted me to research than I ever learned from a text book.