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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

In 2033, the United States is suffering a strong division of opinion.
A long-time friend of the Chairman of the Special Committee is addressing an angry gathering.


A Short Story

Nicholas Cochran


“I suppose we should have—certainly could have—seen this coming; his being elected to the post, the Chairmanship. He talked in private with us –oh, almost thirty years ago. He has always had a sense of the future.

“I remember when he was a teenager while he was pushing and shoving his highly educated relatives, to support him in a project to build a tower at Niagara Falls; one of those revolving things, like the Seattle Space Needle.  However, when he finally got them all herded down to the Niagara Park, folks, their first question was: “Oh, are you with the people who came to us with this proposal last week?” (Laughter) “Well, you can imagine what that would do to most of us; to me, certainly; I’d have probably taken a ride over the Falls without a barrel.” (heavy laughter)

“But him; Jonathan—not a whisper. He never even got in the faces of his relatives who delayed the whole damned project—and its presentation, for almost two years. No, Jonathan was always a realist. Maybe that might be the main reason they considered him for the Chairmanship in the first place. Yes; a realist. I always laugh when we discuss Jonathan and tell friends—and new acquaintances—that Jonathan is the perfect product of Kipling’s poem “If” , that you all remember from prep school days, right? (murmuring; isolated laughter) “I am sure Kipling would quickly and very easily agree that Jonathan embodied every single virtue reviewed in the verses of that singular work.

“I think all of you here who have been so kind as to pack this auditorium, should know that all the rumors you have been hearing about Jonathan, are mostly true: he is a pragmatist; and he sees his new position as an opportunity to reverse some “unsettling trends”, shall we say. (murmuring)

“I, personally, am not in favor of either his committee, or their purpose.” (cheering: heavy clapping; a few shouts) “But; I am, and have always been, in favor of Jonathan, as a remarkable human being.” (murmuring).

“Now I know there are many here tonight who can barely wait for question time. I appreciate your forbearance and I applaud your courtesy in permitting me to ‘have my say’ as it were, before we all get carried away on a wave of  . . . shall I say, utter opposition to everything that the committee stands for and waves of revulsion with respect to Jonathan himself.” (heavy cheering; many standing; whistles and heavy clapping.)

All right . . . all right; now; but let me be the first to say that I have never, ever, known a man who was more generous to blacks, women, Jews, gays, fluid genders, transgenders, and almost all other splinter groups of one stripe or another. He employed and promoted blacks; he partnered with women and Jews; he hosted Indians form India and Native Americans from Montana. His first secretary was black, his last, Hispanic. His first legal assistant was a black man who became, with heavy promotion from Jonathan, the first black District Attorney in the county. His legal assistants were both men and women. He is not a sexist; an ageist; a bigot nor a misanthrope. On the contrary, Jonathan is and always has been a champion for the little guy; the unfortunate; the profoundly unlucky; the men, women, and children all across the spectrum of life here in America. Why, even as early as Grade Three elementary school, he stood up for and protected the only Jew in the school. He has always ‘been generous toward the failings of others’.”

“He could have made millions, as he said, “moving and managing legal information”, rather than practicing law. He was a Public Defender; a voice for the unlucky and those betrayed by life; and in private practice, he was counsel for the victims of the negligence of others, elders who had been abused; those who had been deprived of a loved one by a “Wrongful Death”.

“He and his wife took up the Social Services department in their county as a personal charity. Later they, together, adopted more causes and charitable situations. Jonathan’s former law partners figure that by cutting his fees, he donated almost a million dollars to his clients.

“Neither I, nor any of his friends—or even his enemies; and Jonathan had his enemies—ever doubted his sincerity of purpose. His enemies may have hated part of him, but they also all respected a part of him. He has always been magnanimous in victory and defiant in defeat, habits he picked up from his countryman, Sir Winston. (murmuring)

“I see that some of you did not know that Jonathan was born in London and therefore will always be British in the records of Great Britain. In fact, he is a direct descendant of one of England’s champions of justice and the supremacy of the Common Law.” (loud murmuring)

“Yes; Jonathan has been born into, raised in, and practiced the essence of the people’s law. He has, as you have heard him say so many times in the last almost two years, based his person, his position, his purpose, and his duty on the bedrock of every document from the Magna Carta to the Declaration of Independence: the inalienable right of all human beings to be free from all tyranny, whether secular . . . or religious. (Short faint clapping)

 “And so we come to the nub; the crossroads, perhaps, in our journey as a nation; a nation populated in the beginning by immigrants and supplemented by newcomers even up until today.” (heavy cheering and clapping) However, my dear friend Jonathan has chosen to occupy himself with a contrary position in this particular crisis, as you know. The President chose Jonathan because of their long association. Jonathan vigorously and generously campaigned for the President ever since the latter ran for City Council, some forty years ago. They are close friends and now, clearly, close allies in this—I won’t call it a war—this campaign that they have chosen to pursue. The campaign that—from your reaction to many parts of my address—most of you bitterly oppose.” (thunderous applause: whistling: stamping: clapping)

“On a new point; I think you will all agree that the seminal moment in this debate; campaign; or undertaking, as Jonathan says repeatedly, began immediately after the horrific events on the European Continent. It seems the speed and the intensity, as well as the support for this Committee, has accelerated almost daily, fueled by the disturbing reports from all over the world.

“What Jonathan says is, and I quote him directly here, “is for not only the good of the United States of America but also for the preservation of the most fundamental ideals that underpin the democracy we have fought and died for over more than two hundred and fifty years”.

“Jonathan has stressed over many decades, the Algerian occurrence of nineteen-ninety-two, when the dominant political party swore to their followers that if they were elected they would abolish any and all democratic institutions. That party was clearly going to win the election. Others, mostly the military, in Algeria canceled the election that would have resulted in depriving the population of any further elections or other democratic notions. FIS, the most popular party, was outlawed and years of bloodshed followed.

“Jonathan now considers the present situation to threaten a similar result,” pausing, (silence) “that it is now a similar reality to the Algerian reality of nineteen ninety-two.” (loud murmuring; shouts)

“I have learned, just before I took the stage here, that the Committee has been cleared to begin proceedings tomorrow.” (angry shouts: booing: epithets: verbal mayhem)

“All right . . . okay; let’s be calm here. We are now—all of us—on our best behavior; anything less will simply fuel the already flaming passions bursting into reality across the country and make it all the more difficult for us to eventually prevail. (eerie silence) We must be true to our ideals and position at least as much as Jonathan is to his, or we shall surely fail. (eerie silence) I will now take questions.”


The following day: October 12, 2033, Washington, D.C.


“Ladies and gentlemen; representatives from the media; Committee members; everyone watching or listening to these proceedings, you all know me and have heard my position about this subject for at least the last two years—and some of you may remember talking about this situation as long ago as the nineteen eighties. Well today, with your support, our Committee is prepared to launch our inquiries and investigations to better clear both the air and the country of the problem before us, as we see it. And so, now that the Committee members have been sworn in, I ask that the first witness be produced.”

Television cameras pull back and reveal a person of average height and weight, male, early fifties, balding, wearing a black suit and an open neck dress shirt, walking slowly toward the witness chair that faces Jonathan and the twelve Committee members in two rows of six, seated behind him. The man sits down. The cameras focus on a close-up of Witness Number One.

Then the cameras switch to a close-up of Jonathan. He speaks.

“Are you now, or have you ever been a Muslim?”

Witness: “No.”

Committee Chairman: “Have you ever known or consorted with members of the religion of Islam?”


Submitted: October 13, 2016

© Copyright 2021 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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