Whatever curious and interesting subject strikes my fancy, be it silly or serious, gets posted for your reading pleasure.

Monday, 20 February 2017

A Mad Mad Mad Mad Race to the White House

Considering how heated it still is out there after the "Great Presidential Race" of 2016, I thought we could try to have a laugh about reforming the election process (and therefore fulfil the 'babbly and blarney' part of my blog) by sharing another bleeding chunk from the novel Brushstrokes of a Gadfly.  

The scene: the conclusion of New Year's Day dinner. Action: the young ones start to clear the table....

....

Everyone had finished their dinner by the time she had satisfied the impulse to ruminate on her notions. Noticing the empty plates, Katherine announced it was time the whippersnappers pitched in to clear the table and prepare the coffee and dessert, a suggestion the elders graciously welcomed.

“Come on everyone, you too Gerry, and Steves, don’t think you can skip away this time.”

“I hear and obey.”

“You know Kathy, you’ve gone rather quiet all of a sudden.  Something on your mind?” Charlie wondered as they brought out the dishes.

“You could say that, I just got busy thinking about our conversation before we changed the subject, that’s all.”

“Well, now that it’s safe to come back to that, at least I hope so,” Gerry added, laying his stack of plates by the sink, “I’d love to hear your thoughts on ‘to vote or not to vote’.”

“Are you sure you’re ready for this? She can get a bit ‘irregular’ you know,” Steves wryly returned, lining his handful of glasses on the counter.

“You may regret it,” Charlie added, “her ideas can be quite revolutionary. We’re all used to it, well, almost.”

“Stop teasing you two,” Suzy jumped in, “not all of Kathy’s ideas are wacky.”

“Gee thanks. Was that supposed to be a compliment?”

“You know what I mean, I agree with many of your observations ...perhaps not with all your solutions,” she admitted.

“I know, they’re impractical at times, mostly idealistic or experimental,” Katherine conceded.
“Still, let’s hear your cogitations,” Gerry prompted.

“Oh, all right.” Katherine explained her reason for abstaining from the elections, they seemed to understand her point of view, until she suggested the nation could try an all-out boycott. Steves burst out laughing.

“What? Might as well do away with democracy altogether!”

Charlie and Gerry tried not to laugh, they didn’t want to hurt her feelings, but barely managed to conceal their humour at the improbability of her proposal, covering their mouths with their hands.

“I did warn you,” Charlie said, clearing his throat.

“Oh look,” she interjected, stopping in the midst of scraping off a plate, “I’m not saying we actually go out and start a ‘Non-Vote Movement’ or anything like that, but since we have the right to vote, we also have the right to abstain. I was just wondering what might happen if every citizen chose to exercise that right all at the same time. That would be the greatest non-violent protest ever, it would certainly catch the attention of our lawmakers, even Ghandi would have been impressed.”

“I know a better solution: boycott the Internal Revenue Service,” Steves interjected, “money talks, so they say.”

“Ew, Uncle Sam wouldn’t like that one bit,” Gerry said, shaking his head.

“No, but they can’t throw the whole nation into jail, or fine everyone if we all refuse to pay anyway,” Steves argued. “Then, we the people can declare the first ever fair and equal tax, something like ten percent across the board that everyone, no matter who they are, has to pay.”

“Oh, I think I’d like that,” Katherine replied.

“Everyone’s tax bracket would be automatically adjusted,” Gerry mused, “and ten percent is not a lot, but you would have to do away with deductions altogether to keep the country going.”

“You know, a flat rate does seem more fair,” Suzy nodded.

“It’s an interesting idea Steves, but it wouldn’t work because first of all, everyone would be too scared to try it,” Charlie noted, “the very letters IRS frighten most people have to death, no one would boycott their taxes to force the politicians to adopt your flat rate, and second, it would take too long to pass a bill for a flat rate, we’d have years of procrastination, so it’s a non viable solution.”

“Well, if everyone did participate in a tax boycott, with no money, you’d definitely have all the politicians on their knees,” Steves continued.

“And the country too,” Suzy noted.

“Yeah Steves, it’s one thing to boycott a vote, and while I love tax breaks, what if the whole country collapsed economically?” Katherine observed. “If people think they can just stop paying that one time, they’ll always try it even after they reach an agreement with the government. The country wouldn’t have a guaranteed source of revenue, and everything would just fall apart.”

“Hey, I know that. I’m not championing a Fire Sale. This was all supposed to be hypothetical,” Steves reminded them.

“It is interesting to think about, I mean, to imagine what would happen if you could get the whole nation to do something like that en masse, making a sweeping change without a shot being fired,” Gerry mused.
 
“Just, get rid of the whole government?” Steves asked rhetorically, placing the plates into the dishwasher.

“Right-o, just clear out the house,” Gerry replied. “The Portuguese did it, they just ousted their former communist government armed with carnations.”

“That’s a bit simplistic,” Steves replied, “but the people had the army on their side you know.”

“Why, even if we do ‘clean out’ the house, we might not have a successful outcome like that.  Suppose we did it peacefully using Kathy’s ‘boycott’ with no army involved, we could still end up with total anarchy couldn’t we?” Charlie pointed out.

“Exactly! Not ‘anarchy’ in the sense of having no government at all for the sake of chaos, but a ‘clearing of the decks’, ” Katherine pondered, “a clean slate to start anew and get rid of anything that isn’t working.”

“Still, we might end up with a civil war as the new government jostled for power,” Gerry noted.
“Just listen to us,” Steves said, “real kitchen sink philosophers.”

“Okay, what if we think out Kathy’s idea. Just for fun, say no one votes and the Capitol in Washington comes to a complete standstill. How do we choose new representatives, or a president for that matter?” Suzy piped up, she was curious to know what they would come up with.

“I don’t know, have a lottery?” Katherine laughed. “I have these great ideas, but then I don’t know what would happen, or how to carry them through.”

“A belling the cat situation,” Gerry agreed.

“Hmm, how would such a lottery be set up? Would every citizen get to buy a ticket?” Suzy wondered.

“Maybe. No, we’d still have problems, lotteries can always be fixed,” Katherine noted.

“And what would the price of each ticket be?” Gerry added. “You can’t charge a couple of bucks for something as important as the White House, or a seat in Congress or the Senate for that matter.”

“Hmm, it would be very expensive, and that would exclude your average citizen, so it would only be a government for and by the well-to-do who could afford to buy a ticket in the first place.” Charlie noted.

“Well, there’s nothing new there, isn’t the government geared to helping the rich anyway?” Katherine shrugged.

“Oh man, listen to us, you can’t just raffle off the government,” Steves interjected.

“Why not? Government leaders get bought and sold every day,”Katherine observed.

“Ouch!” Gerry laughed.

“Told you,” Steves replied.

“We’d have to come up with some way to make it equal, put everyone’s social security number into the lottery system perhaps,” Katherine suggested.

“Oh great, you could get anyone in the House, from druggies to mob leaders, that wouldn’t work,” Steves snickered.

“Well, you could screen numbers that have a criminal record,” Katherine rebuffed, “just take them out of the lottery system.”

“You would still have a number of problems,” Charlie noted, “you could end up selecting numbers of homeless people with no way to contact them, or people who have died and were never registered. Then you’d have to give those who can be reached the option to take the seat offered to them,  they could refuse, and you have to keep picking numbers. It would take months before this was all sorted out.”

“Yeah, real messy,” Steves agreed, “not to mention all the people who haven’t a clue how to manage  their own lives let alone a whole country. Do you want them running everything?”

“I think they are already,” Katherine wryly commented.

“Hey everyone, what other suggestions could we come up with to put in a whole new government after our Boycott Revolution?” Suzy enquired.

“Okay, we currently have a lottery suggestion, why not a marathon?” Steves quipped, “first one up the capitol steps and into the House or Senate gets a seat.”

“And the last one in is a rotten egg?” Charlie noted humorously.

“It would certainly give the term presidential race a whole new meaning,” Katherine noted, turning on the coffee machine.

“Crikey! Could you imagine watching something like that on the news? Everyone would be running all over Washington like lunatics, beating each other over the head trying to get up the stairs first,” Steves replied. “Forget all diplomatic immunity on that day.”

“It would definitely be a lot more entertaining than all those boring debates filled with hot air,” Katherine replied.

“And since voting would literally be done away with if you had a marathon every four years, no more annoying campaigners knocking on your doors,” Gerry laughed.

“Plus, it would be one way of getting people into shape, think of all the gyms that would open up getting the hopefuls ready for the big chase,” Charlie added.

“Hey, Walsingham Industries could end up having a boost in vitamin sales,” Steves joked, “not to mention our geriatric line.”

“Gosh, a marathon like that wouldn’t be funny in real life,” Suzy said, shaking her head, “good grief, that would be like the Oklahoma land rush in the 1800s, settlers literally killed each other and dropped dead as they raced their way to the best plots.”

“Oh I’ve got it! Everyone who wanted a seat would have to write an essay on why they think they are entitled to have it,” Katherine laughed.

“ ‘Why I Should Rule America’, five thousand words only please,” Gerry added.

“No plagiarism either, original works must be turned in, no borrowing from the speeches of past politicians,” Charlie continued.

“And who would get to judge or grade these essays? Tell me that one,” Steves piped. “If there’s no voting, how do you select the judges to evaluate the essays?”

“We’re belling the cat again,” Gerry nodded.

“Quick, we’re dallying, they’ll wonder what’s happened to us,” Katherine interjected, “and we can’t have Gramps checking in on us while we get dessert ready.”

“Right, is they key in the same place?” Charlie asked, “I’ll go get the cake for you.”

“Yeah, in the ivy plant,” Suzy affirmed.

“Oh, I might as well go too, we need the ice cream,” Katherine added.

“No, I’ll go,” Steves offered, “you serve the coffee, you’re pretty good at that.”

“Key?” Gerry wondered aloud.

“That’s right, you don’t know,” Katherine realized, “everything fattening is locked in the pantry, it’s for Gramp’s own good, doctor’s orders. He’s been hunting around for the thing for months, but still hasn’t figured out where it is.”

“My lips are sealed,” Gerry replied, running his finger across his mouth zipper fashion.

“Wow, this looks too good to eat,” Charlie said as he placed the cake on the island counter. “It’s huge, even with nine people, the slices are going to be enormous.”

“Thank Aunt Martha, she baked it,” Katherine replied. “Chocolate Strawberry ‘Paradise Cake’, it’s one of her specialties. Okay, who wants to cut it? How about you Suzy?”

“Oh, how do we cut a round cake? Eight pieces is easy, one line down the middle and divide each half by four, but I can’t figure out how to do it fast and equal at the same time for nine,” she noted.

“Think 'Mercedes', piece of cake,” Steves hinted. Suzy puzzled about it for a few seconds, then the light dawned.

“Oh for Heaven’s sake, how simple,” she said, placing the knife in the middle of the cake and drawing a three-pointed star before dividing each third into three smaller slices. “Well, it’s a good thing all the problems of our country aren’t up to me to solve if I couldn’t figure that out.”

“Our ideas weren’t any better, it’s a good thing none of us are running for office,” Katherine joked.
“And they say the future of the country is up to us younger generation,” Steves observed wryly, “the older generation better run and hide if that was the best we could come up with.”

(...)

“What was going on out there?” Gramps enquired.

“You don’t know the half of it,” Katherine replied.

“Just solving the problems of the nation, Monty Python style,” Charlie explained.

“Well, did you get anywhere?” Gramps chuckled.

“For the nation’s welfare, thankfully, no.”

****