A wedding. A declaration of peace between Israel and Jordan. Foreign leaders. Olympic medalists. World class athletes. And...
A flamethrower-wielding president.
The White House Rose Garden has officially seen it all.
President Wendell Ogden stood proudly at the podium. With a forty-five pound backpackcontaining five pounds of fuel strapped to his shoulders, he peered out into the crowd of reporters in front of him. Some were baffled. Others were scared for their lives, resenting their bosses for sending them to cover Wendell Ogden’s publicity stunt.
There stood the leader of the free world, holding a modernized Vietnam-era M9 flamethrower. He turned to the cameraman behind him, raised an eyebrow, and turned back to the crowd. “Don’t worry, don’t worry.”
He raised his free hand and made quotation marks with two fingers. “I’m a trained professional.”
Wendell was met with nervous laughter. “Now, where was I?”
He shimmied his shoulders, in an effort to adjust the restrictive backpack, and began his speech. “The founders of this country started a revolution over taxes on stamps, tea, and sugar. Today, our government has grown into a beast that chews up and spits out trillions of dollars of wealth. Your wealth, your hard work, your intellectual property—stolen. Stolen by an unelected, unaccountable agency to be redistributed to other unelected, unaccountable agencies,” declared President Wendell Ogden.
Elizabeth was normally good at maintaining her composure, but hearing her father refer to the American government as a band of thieves turned her into an instant meme. Her Billy Idol–like lip curl. Her sour-milk-smelling nose, aghast at the stench of freedom for the masses. Her wrinkled eyebrows, livid by her father’s ludicrous language. Queen Lizzy, Daddy Ogden’s little authoritarian. Queen Lizzy, the red-coat-lovin’ redhead, ready to go full Benedict on her daddy.
For more than one hundred years, the American government played word games with the American people. Word games ruled. Elizabeth understood that.
Her father’s speech continued: “Our government is done playing word games with you. Done with taking your money. It is time freedom rules!”
Click. Click. Rat-tat-tat-tat.
The camera clicks. The flashes. One of several dozen caught Elizabeth looking up in disbelief as her father set fire to a stack of seventy thousand sheets of paper, symbolizing the basis of the rules and laws that structured the US government. A blaze engulfed a confined area. Plumes of smoke swirled into the sky. Not since the War of 1812 had flames burned so brightly at the White House.
The media portrayed Elizabeth as the hottest first daughter ever. A real looker. Easy on the eyes. The only thing attractive about her anarchic father’s presidency. But she wasn’t nearly as hot as her daddy’s new plan to boost the economy by eliminating the IRS.
“When a group of individuals takes money from a bank by means of violence, we call them thugs. Robbers. Thieves. Crooks. Lowlifes. Criminals. And we lock them up. When a group of individuals takes money from millions of people at the threat of violence by means of democracy, we call them government officials and give them six-figure desk jobs.”
From the moment Wendell removed the goggles after setting that stack of papers on fire, Elizabeth knew the clock was ticking on his career. And his life.
Queen Lizzy, the prophet and her self-fulfilling statist prophecy. Propagating remnants of twentieth-century statist dogma, her mind tumbled with: But who will feed the poor? But who will fund the science? But what about this? And what about that? And...and...and...who will build the roads?
Elizabeth had always entertained radical leftist leanings but broke off with the Bernie bros in her circle when it came to the police.
One summer, when she was eight years old, she played cops-n-robbers for three hours straight. She continued to play it every day for five weeks.
One summer, as a present on her fourteenth birthday, she got to ride in a SWAT truck. She remembered fondly the loud, clunky sounds her feet made in steel-toed boots, the squishing of air as she sat in the seat, bouncing over roads to armed confrontations. The uniforms reminded her of the Peacekeepers from The Hunger Games. But these men and women were doing goodwork. Protecting. Serving.
“Protecting” and “serving” were values that came at a price, something her father overlooked.
This came into question one night when Elizabeth was in college. It was Day 27 of the 2019 government shutdown.
“Partial government shutdown. And those pigs on the hill will still get paid. Why shouldn’t an agency with a militarized SWAT team that raids grocery stores and Amish farms go without funding, too?”
Twitter user @patriotpartydude1776 got under Elizabeth’s skin. “The pigs you tweet about are humans. Humans protecting and serving the American people.”
Her tweet was retweeted twenty-five thousand times.
One of those retweets came from an account belonging to a man who eventually became one of Wendell Ogden’s most trusted generals: Marcus Steele. He saw the logic—no, the necessity—of funding our government workers, the ones protecting and serving.
Everyone has an authoritarian streak.
Everyone has a utopian ideal.
Rarely will any single individual’s or group of individuals’ actions change the course ofhuman history. Rarely.
The ones who act are the ones who know they sit on a powder keg of absolute power.They know absolute power sits in the hands of the passive majority. The 80 percent. The easily influenced masses. The ones who fawn over the sight of a former first lady at an award show. The ones who get personalized license plates with the name of their precious ruler. The ones who fall for slogan after slogan without realizing the greatness of America.
The ones who act are the ones who are masters at the very word games that Elizabeth’s father bemoaned. They declare War on Poverty, War on Drugs, and War on Terror.
The ones who act know that their word games become gospel. A gospel that shall not be questioned. A gospel of the most dangerous religion known to mankind: Statism. Thou shall not question The State. Thou shall not take The State’s name in vain and condemn its enforcers. Thou shall not steal from The State by refusing to tithe to Uncle Sam. Thou shall worship only one State. The one that knows your every move because it has seeped into every component of your life. The one that slithered into your psyche the moment you first uttered the words, “I pledge allegiance.”
Elizabeth and Steele had made a pact. Appease her politically agnostic father, that idealistic buffoon. Appease his pacifist tendencies. Steele cozies up to his military pals, whose armed forces are dissatisfied and underutilized by Wendell’s noninterventionist policies. Elizabeth cozies up to her daddy, that aging, antiwar flower child. That commander-in-chief turned hippie-in-chief.
Elizabeth and Steele made that pact because they knew a bigger problem persisted at home: Freedom. Liberty. The endless pursuit of happiness. The same principles that triggered the Enlightenment now plagued twenty-first-century America.
It was John Adams who said, “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself.” And they knew he was right. Elizabeth and Steele made that pact because in order to protect American democracy, they had to preserve the apparatus. The apparatus that made America more powerful than the Greek, Roman, Incan, Mayan, Aztec, and Egyptian empires combined.
Elizabeth and Steele made that pact because they knew freedom and democracy never truly coexist. They made that pact because they understood that nothing enslaves a society like the false promise of freedom and democracy. For democracy is nothing more than the rule of the mob. Majoritarianism. Two lions and a zebra making plans for dinner. They made that pact because they knew democracy was the path to power. Absolute power by will of the masses. Elizabeth and Steele were the lions. The American people, a herd of zebras.
And Elizabeth was ready for the feast of a lifetime.