It was true what they said–snooping doesn’t pay off.  You get more pain than satisfaction out of it.  But I just couldn’t help myself, could I?

I sit at the breakfast table, picking at my plate of eggs and sausage.   He shuffles towards the coffee-maker, rumpled and yawning.  The man I love.  The man I know.  The man I thought I knew.

But then I remember that I’ve seen his browsing history.  The websites he went to late at night.  Those pictures of strange men.  I have to ask, even though I realize it will wreck everything.

“Honey, did…did you vote for Trump?”

He turns around and stares.  “What?”

“Don’t lie.  You’ve been reading Breitbart.”

“And you’ve been checking up on me.”  With a sudden burst of energy, he strides out of the kitchen.  “That’s an invasion of my privacy.”

“This is for your own good,”  I plead, getting up and following him.  “You’re only hurting yourself.  The first step is to admit you have a problem.”

“I don’t have a problem.  Conservatives have a right to their opinions, too, you know.”

Conservatives?  But he’s a progressive!  Or…I assumed he was a progressive, because, because…this is the twenty-first century!  Everybody’s a progressive…right?

“What about the horrible things Trump said?  About Mexicans, about…”

“Oh, come on.  The things he said weren’t racist.  He’s only getting bashed for saying them because he’s a white man.”

Oh, dear God.  Not this shit.

“You don’t really think you’re oppressed, do you?”

“I’m not sure.  I do know that everyone gets offended if I speak up about something.  Does that qualify as oppression?”

Somehow, I should have seen this coming, and yet I’m so confused.  “Okay, I promise I won’t get offended if you’re honest with me.  Why did you vote for someone like Trump?”

“Well, all you hear about him on the fake media is the bad stuff.  There are a lot of good things he’s doing.”

“Like what?”

“He drove the media insane, didn’t he?  And the mainstream politicians.  I loved the way he gave it to that one annoying guy on Twitter, what’s his name…”

“Those are not achievements!  Attacking people is not an achievement.”  I look down at the napkin I’m tearing into little pieces.  “Would you ever attack someone like that? Call them names?  I can’t imagine it.”

He shrugs and turns to the window.

I take a deep breath.  I have to hear the very worst of it.  “What about his comments about grabbing women by the pussy?  Are you okay with that?”

Exasperated sigh.  “Stupid boys talk…”

“He was talking about sexual assault!”

“Women are so sensitive.  Everything is sexual assault these days.”  He turns to face me for a moment.  “Look, I don’t want to talk about this right now.  And I’m not going to let you tell me what to think.  I’m not a fucking cuck.”  Then the bedroom door slams shut behind him.

We live in the same house.  We sleep in the same bed.  We’re a family.  How did I miss this?  What didn’t I notice?

Maybe we’re no longer really talking to each other, each of us focused on our own personal screen, posting our own version of the world.  Too busy telling our story to listen.

I want to scream at him to go fuck himself.  I want to walk away, but I can’t.  Neither one of us can make it alone.  We’ll have to find our way back to each other somehow.

Sooner or later, I’m gonna have to knock on that door.

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I, too, am an immigrant.

I may not be brown-skinned, but I’m still here to take your job.  My parents took your jobs, too.  I’m not sure if these are jobs Americans just won’t do.  All I know is that we’ve worked our butts off to build the life we’ve got in this country.  And I know undocumented immigrants who work even harder.

I may not wear a hijab, but I know what it’s like to be a refugee.  I know what it’s like to fear the government of my old homeland, and to hope and pray that I will be accepted in my new one.  And yet what my family experienced is nothing compared to those fleeing their bombed out houses and lives in Syria.

I’m lucky to have white skin, so I don’t stand out too much.  Unless I speak and you hear my accent, you may think I’m one of you.  Even if you do hear my accent, you won’t mind, because a European accent is sexy/cute.  I’m just another fortunate person enjoying the fruits of this country’s success.  “God bless you!  Welcome to America!”

But I can never allow myself to feel too comfortable.  Because in a society which needs scapegoats, nobody is ever really safe.  And you need scapegoats.  You’re angry and frustrated.  Things haven’t turned out the way you hoped they would, so you’re looking for someone to blame.  This will not end well.  Today the scapegoats are the people coming across the southern border.  Tomorrow they might be anyone who speaks a foreign language in public, or anyone who doesn’t salute the flag quickly enough.  Someday, the scapegoat might be you–the person who’s pointing the finger right now.

I can also never allow myself to point the finger, because that would make me an ugly hypocrite.  I am grateful to be able to live here, and I can’t close the door on others who want to come in, only because their culture is different or their religion makes me uncomfortable. After all, we immigrated from a country which, at the time we left it, had a Communist political system.  What if my family was automatically suspected of wanting to spread Communism?  Everyone from that part of the world could have been a radical Communist, right?  What if we were considered too high-risk to be allowed into the States?  Doesn’t matter that my family actually opposed Communism.  Many refugees today are running away from ISIS-style fundamentalism because they hate and fear it, but we are suspicious of them anyway.

So when you talk about how we should keep “them” out and how “they” make us unsafe, I can’t help but feel a little anxious.

I was once one of “them”.  I still remember what that’s like.  And no matter how Americanized I become, I will never be exactly like you–I will always be an immigrant.

They wouldn’t send real Americans away to be stored.  Radical Muslims, sure.  Illegal immigrants, yeah.  Maybe welfare queens.  But not just…regular Americans.

That’s what Judy had nervously told herself for that entire six weeks, between the day she was first called in for questioning and the day when she was, in fact, sent to one of the country’s resident storage facilities.

She was young and stupid when she took those pictures.  Since then, she had turned her life around.  She was born again and regretted the things she had done when she was lost.  She was no longer that woman.

But in President Pence’s America, that didn’t matter.  Pictures “of an inappropriate nature” like hers meant she was a defective citizen.  A friend found the pictures somewhere and submitted a complaint…because of course they did.  Everybody did that.  If the situation were reversed, she would have done the same.

Defective Americans went to storage centers, where they could be stored away from society–and, most importantly, where they could be used for free labor.  Because hard labor was the one sacred thing which made America better than any other country in the world.

The customer service representative whose job it was to interrogate her grinned when he saw the printouts of her photos.  “You should’ve known better,” he admonished her, the grin still in his voice.  “Don’t worry, ma’am.  The place I’m sending you is a great deal, and you’ll only have to stay for four years…”

***

She remembered how she wanted to scream at her neighbors:  “I’m not a bad person!  I’m just like you!  I voted for Trump and Pence too!”  But she was suddenly on the other side of the fence, and they didn’t really want to talk to her or look her in the eye.

How she had wished back then that they would see her side of the story.  Now it was four and a half years later, and she didn’t care anymore.  She was tired.  This was her old neighborhood, but it didn’t feel like home.  She limped slowly up the sidewalk to her house.  There was a child she didn’t know playing in the driveway.  His mother stood nearby, watching.

The house had been confiscated and sold while Judy was locked up.  The walls had been newly painted a bright pink, and a magnolia tree had been planted by the front steps.  There was another, smaller house being constructed in what once was the backyard.

The mother finally noticed Judy and started walking towards her.  “Can I help you?”  Her question was made softer by her accent.

“I used to live in this house,” Judy said.

The woman’s face hardened.  “We don’t want any problems.  We bought this house all legal.”

“Right.  I know.  I was in a center.”

The woman shrugged.  “So was my brother.”  She picked up her child and went inside, locking the door behind her.

***

A couple days before, Judy had gone to see Mr. Rodriguez, an attorney who was working with storage center survivors.  Just a few years ago, she would have viewed him with suspicion–was he in the country legally?  Now she only wondered if he could help her.

Mr. Rodriguez shook his head sympathetically.  “It’s going to be very difficult to get any compensation for you.  It’s pretty obvious from your online record that you were an avid supporter of the Pence regime in its early years.”

She fidgeted with her paperwork.  “Well, I believed him when he said he would bring back the jobs and all that.”

The lawyer sighed.  “I don’t want to get your hopes up.  The new government has focused on specific groups of Americans which were harshly targeted by the Pence administration.  It will be hard to make a case for you.  I will file an application…but I doubt you will get any results.”

She did not argue, as something in her sensed he was already being kinder to her than he needed to be.  She picked up her papers and stood up to go.

But she felt a twinge of desperation and bent down to him again.

“You had friends in…the resistance?  Yes?”  she whispered.

“If I did, what makes you think I would tell you who they are?”

***

Her nephew, Nick, lived at his mother’s place, in a suburb on what used to be Judy’s side of town.  Their last conversation before they fell out of touch was on Facebook, and it had ended with Judy mocking him for being a “snowflake.”  He had been whining about his gender identity or some such nonsense.

She thought about all of that again on the long bus ride to see him.  She hadn’t called or texted him about her visit.  What if he didn’t want to talk to her at all?

But Nick gave her his usual quiet, easy going nod when he opened the door.  “Hi.  Mom isn’t here right now.”

“That’s okay.  How are you doing?”

He let her in.  He was still very pale and very skinny.  Maybe a little skinnier.

“I’m fine.”  He perched on the side of the sofa.  “I should be asking you how you are.  Mom said you got locked up.”

“Yes.  They let me out not too long ago.”

“That’s rough.  I was arrested a few times.  I never went to a center, though.  I guess I didn’t have much they wanted to take.”  He chuckled.  “Was it bad?”

“It was…”  She found that even after all this time she didn’t want to talk about or think about what it was like.  The house–that was what she wanted to think about.  Her house.

Nick’s dark eyes squinted a bit.  “Do you still believe the people in the centers brought it on themselves?”

“No, no.  I was wrong, and I understand that.”  She was lying.  It had all been a mistake with her.  She only took a couple of pictures.  She wasn’t like those types who protested every week–she never blocked traffic or burned anything.  And she wasn’t a terrorist.

“We should put it all behind us, anyway.  I’ve forgiven you for what you said about me,”  Nick announced.  So full of himself, she thought.  “You’ve always been my favorite aunt.”

She hesitantly accepted a hug from him.

“If you need any help…Mom sometimes gets extra stuff from the church pantry.”

She tried not to sound too eager.  “Thanks.  So, there’s that group of anarchists…they’re liberating homes, is what they call it…”

“No worries.  I don’t hang out with them anymore.”

“I actually wanted to meet with them.”

“Wow.”  Nick raised an eyebrow.  “Not a good idea.  They would hate you.”

Her face flushed with anger.  “Why?  Is this because of how I voted again?  Most of America voted that way–deal with it.”

“But you realize you hurt yourself with your vote, right?”

“Not true.  President Pence wanted to help the country.  The bureaucrats are the ones who came up with the centers and they made it all spin out of control.  It wasn’t his fault.”  She realized her voice had become shrill.

“I sense some unresolved guilt there in your response…”

God, how she hated it when the millennials went into their psychobabble.  Next, he’d want to talk to her about her self-esteem.

“I’m not guilty of anything,” she snapped.  “I’m one of God’s children, and He has washed my sins away.”  She turned and left before he could say anything else to her.

***

It was on the way back, the ride to her tiny rented room, that it hit her hard.  She would never get her house back.  It was so unfair.  All because of one mistake she made.  One little mistake!

And, for the life of her, she would never figure out what that one mistake was.

Lucky Subjects of America!

I am happy to report our mission has been accomplished.  America has been Made Great Again.  We used to be Number One, now we are Number One Plus Plus!  We can count ourselves fortunate to be here for this glorious moment in our country’s history.

Our medical technology is the best and most innovative in the world.  One might worry that this would mean too many of us would live for too long, but luckily it’s also the most expensive medical technology in the world, and our health care system ensures that survival of the fittest (or, in this case, survival of the wealthiest) still applies.  Those in the working class will not burden the system after their productive and useful years are over.  Successful individuals, on the other hand, can be kept functioning in a vegetable state long past their expiration date.

The women of our nation are grateful to have been returned to their sacred feminine role.  No obstacle stands in the way of their freedom to birth countless babies.  Their labor may be unpaid, but it is the most important and holy work of all:  providing a supply of workers for our fast food restaurants, and soldiers for our neverending wars.

Speaking of which, our battles around the world are bringing us unprecedented victories–we are paying more money for more foreign military bases than before, and are able to grant the gift of democracy to the vanquished in those lands.  Haters might call us the Evil Empire, but we are ready and willing to fight anyone who questions our commitment to peace.  And now that our southern border wall has been extended to cover all four sides of the country, we can guarantee absolute safety to our fellow Americans, and keep them protected from nefarious eastern, western and northern influences.

Another nefarious influence which we have nearly completely succeeded in rooting out is that of the heathen Commie god named “Jesus.”  Our churchgoers pray to the Prosperity God and plead daily for His blessings.

Our enemies claim that we have turned America into a Third World nation.  We will not argue with this ludicrous assertion, except to say that even if it were true, we would be the best Third World nation ever.  Nobody can Third World the way we Third World.  Our tent cities are bigger than your tent cities, loser.

So don’t be afraid to embrace the MAGA, Americans!  Today, our nation stands unified–not least because anyone who dares to disagree has a good chance of getting “vanished”. Let us vow to ourselves that if we sacrifice more money, health and sanity to Our Dear Orange Leader next year, we can make America even greater!

Just working on writing some 2020s jokes:

Two prisoners are digging ditches in a Trumpland labor camp.

The white-skinned one turns to the brown-skinned one and gloats: “Ha!  I don’t have to be politically correct anymore!”

Okay…so that’s not very funny.  But to be fair, neither is our future!

Wacka wacka wacka!

Somewhere in America, a young man sits at the breakfast table, eating his cereal.  He’s getting ready to go.  His backpack and coat are in the chair next to him.

His parents are nervous and excited for him.  He’s told them that he’s going to the city for a job interview.

Before he leaves, he gives his sister a hug.  She tells him to be careful.  The big city is not a safe place.  He gets into his truck and takes off.

He sits in horrible traffic for hours.  Slowly, he crawls his way downtown.  He looks out his window at the dirty streets and the crowds.

He finally finds a parking spot, and then he walks, in the noise and the shadow of the towering skyscrapers.  He hates it here, but he’s willing to do this.  He’s here to save his country.

For a while, he hangs out in front of a store window, staring at a display of the latest phones.  Across the street, a slim figure strides down the sidewalk.  It’s easy to recognize her.  She’s a female journalist, and he has read online that she walks to work every day.  He agrees with his President–she’s one of the enemies of the people.

Pulling out his gun, taking the shot–it all happens in a flash, and she crumples to the ground.

The next bullet is for him.  He doesn’t mind dying.  He has fulfilled his mission, done what he believes his role models and leaders wanted him to do.

Maybe–he thinks in his last moments–maybe, thanks to his sacrifice, America will continue to be free.

 

When America first woke up, she didn’t know where she was.

She wobbled upright on the couch, her head spinning, the stink of Old Crow and cheap beer hanging in the air.  “I’ve got to stop having these crazy blackouts,” she thought.

There was the sound of incoherent mumbling nearby.  She gingerly turned her head to look.  Oh, God.  Richard Spencer was passed out next to her, his head back and his mouth open.  Was it possible?  Did she make out with a Nazi last night?

America rubbed her face and tried to remember what the hell happened.  Nightmarish images floated back to her.  The fascist embracing her waist, whispering in her ear.  “I will make you feel like a real woman… you’re not a woman until you’ve been taken by a strong man…”  And she had let him take her, she suspected.

Her living room was torn to pieces.  Trash everywhere.  The plants on her windowsill were dead.  There were greasy spills and burns on the carpet–and a few unconscious people, most of whom she didn’t know.

She stood up on shaky legs and made her way to the bathroom.  Clutching the sink, she did her best to straighten up her hair.  The water which ran from her tap was filthy, so she gave up on the idea of splashing her face.

A noise from somewhere in the house caught her attention.  There it was again–a tiny, quiet sob.  She wandered into the kitchen and found her daughter crouched under the table, shaking.

“Oh, honey,” America said, reaching out to her.  “I’m sorry things got so nuts.”

“Mom…what did you do to our house?”

“It’ll get cleaned up, sweetheart.  I guess…I just wanted to try something different for a change.  Our lives had gotten so boring…so politically correct…”

More and more of it was coming back to her.  The kitchen table surrounded by a crowd raising a champagne toast, screaming out that everything was going to be great again.  America cheering along with them.  She would be number one again.  She would be a star again.

She snapped out of her reminiscing and looked down at her child.

“I got so damn tired of feeling guilty all the time,”  she heard herself saying.  “So I had too much to drink.  Big deal.”

“Big deal?  Mom, what about the people who got killed?”

“Someone got killed?”  America searched her mind, but she was completely blanking out on this one.

Her little girl broke down in tears again.  “The neighbors across the street…some  of the men here burned their house down…and shot them…said they were the wrong kind…”

“Really?  Huh.”  America scratched her head.  She peered back out at the wreckage of yesterday’s party.  Fuck.  What if she went to jail?

The fascist in her living room stirred and gave a loud snore.  She stared at him, her confusion turning to fear.  How would she get him out of her house?

“Shot…shot them,”  she muttered.

“Mother?”

She turned to see her daughter standing in the kitchen, a heavy backpack weighing down her skinny shoulders.

“I’m sorry, Mom.  I have to take off for a while.”

“Don’t leave, cupcake.  You feel upset right now, but it’ll get better.”

America moved in to attempt a hug, but her child pushed her away.  “I can’t stay here anymore.  It’s awful.  Our family is in debt.  The land we live on is toxic.  I have to…”

“No!  If you leave, I’ll be stuck here with…with them.”

“You shouldn’t have invited them in.”  The girl shrugged and walked out.

“Fine, go then!”  America snarled after her.  “Where you gonna go, anyway?  You don’t think the Europeans have their own problems?”

Behind her, she heard rustling and groans, much like the sound of a horde of zombies jerking into motion.

Her guests were waking up.  The party would go on.