A few days after the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion, we were watching a news report about it on Polish TV.  The news anchor pointed to a black and white picture of Chernobyl.  It was a picture of the plant before it had exploded.

“You see, ladies and gentlemen, nothing happened.  Everything’s fine.”

There were political reasons for Eastern bloc television to cover up the accident.  It had happened in the Soviet Union, and our Russian big brothers were supposed to be perfect.  Nothing was ever supposed to go wrong in their Communist paradise.  Also, May Day was coming up, and the government wanted everyone out on the streets for the May Day parade.  The last thing they needed was people hiding in their homes, scared of radiation.

But we knew they were lying to us.  There was word of mouth information being spread by friends who had visited Russia and knew the real story.  Also, we had a farm and we saw the way the animals behaved.  The birds in the trees, which had been waking us up each morning with their early spring noise, fell silent.  The dog cowered in his doghouse and the chickens wouldn’t leave their coop, unwilling to come outside even to be fed.  We knew something bad was going on, but there wasn’t much we could do to protect ourselves.  We’ve been lucky, though–we haven’t experienced serious health effects due to our little brush with radioactivity.

Fast forward to now.  Another nuclear plant has had an accident–this time in Japan.  And again, I feel like I’m not getting the real story.  The media here in America isn’t doing anything as blatantly silly as showing us pre-tsunami pictures of Fukushima.  But the news about the continuing leakage of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean is painfully underreported.  I’m reading about the contaminated ocean currents reaching the California and Oregon coasts, and yet we’ve been spending more time on the Duck Dynasty bullshit.  What are we choosing to focus on?

I live on the West Coast, so the radiation is once again moving in my direction.  Maybe I’ve built up some kind of green glowing immunity by now, but still.  When I moved to this country, I expected more open communication in my news media.  Am I being given the Chernobyl act all over again?

And no, it’s not about Snowden’s asylum in Russia.  Just wanted to note that President Obama has proposed lowering federal corporate taxes.  Because he’s SUCH A COMMIE.  Seriously, I can hear the North Korean military orchestra from here.

The President’s plan has been praised by groups representing large corporations, and criticized by small business owner organizations for being too skewed in favor of big business–a sure sign of socialism if I ever saw one.  There has been some bi-partisan support of the plan in Congress, but then…there is the response from the usual suspects.  The House Republicans are rejecting the proposal, because according to them the President is offering “nothing in the way of compromise”.

Well, this must be how Congress has managed to earn popularity ratings lower than the cyclospora stomach bug.  Yet again, the President offers a compromise, and the House insists it is not a compromise.  Because the only deal they would ever accept would be the President completely caving to the Tea Party agenda, which wouldn’t be a compromise at all.  So…oh, the irony…a very capitalist business tax proposal will likely go down in flames due to Republican opposition.  Now who’s the commie here again?

 

Where are the people who are coming to get you?

Seriously, where are they?  Those scary Feds?  The ones who are coming to take your guns away?  Or force you at gunpoint to buy health insurance and get on the Pill?

One of the first post-election reactions I saw encouraged everyone to “lock and load”.  It was followed by countless other conservatives screaming “I’m gonna get my guns before they get me!”  Well, so far I have not heard of any people getting taken away in the middle of the night.  Except maybe Bradley Manning and the guys at Gitmo, and they sure as hell didn’t get put away for voting Republican.  And Michelle Obama still isn’t sending anyone to vegan re-education camps.  So what went wrong?  The administration has had plenty of time to go after its enemies.  Obama has had over four years by now to call off the election, declare a state of emergency and crown himself All-Knowing Islamic-Communist Dictator.

But the only suggestions of violence I’ve seen have been on the conservative online forums.  The President is the one who gets death threats–a very high number of them, according to the Secret Service.  And as we all know, gun sales went up after the election, and I’m assuming that wasn’t all cocky blue-staters about to go hunting for Romney voters.  Which leaves me with one question:

Are they really coming for you, or are you getting ready to come for me?

Oh, look.  Somebody isn’t happy with President Obama’s policies.  Specifically, with his and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s education policy.

“This isn’t an education program…. It’s a sorting and killing program, and one we have to stop.”

Sounds pretty extreme.  Is this Glenn Beck ranting again?  Nope.  It’s President Obama’s best friend ever, the left-wing ex-terrorist Bill Ayers.  What else did he have to say about the President’s approach to education?  From the Chicago Maroon article:

He characterized Duncan’s program by three fundamental beliefs:  the idea that education is a market that should be privatized, the view that there is a single metric to measure student intelligence, and anti-union sentiment.

But, but…isn’t President Obama a radical Marxist/Muslim who spent his youth palling around with this guy and blowing up buildings with him?  Privatizing education and anti-union sentiment doesn’t sound very Marxist, does it?  And the President’s Communist friend doesn’t seem very happy with him.  WND and The Blaze have made a big thing out of the fact that Ayers congratulated Obama on his re-election win…but that open letter, again, mostly criticizes the President’s education policy and tries to prompt him to re-examine it.  Not exactly a love letter from a BFF.

Hey, I realize it’s easier–especially after the election didn’t go your way–to go back to portraying the President as a one-dimensional “radical” caricature.  Too bad he keeps failing at being that imaginary person, over and over again.

This one goes out to my conservative peeps, and there are a lot of you out there.  You’re my friends and neighbors and co-workers, and while our worldviews are very different, the conservatives I know are decent and responsible, and yeah, even compassionate.

Here’s what I want to say to you:  there’s no reason to freak out this much about the election results.  Democracy isn’t ending.  The world isn’t ending.  Liberal locusts aren’t raining from the sky.  I’m seeing a lot of talk of secession online, which I assume is just bluster meant to cover up hurt egos.  Where exactly are you seceding to?  You and I are stuck with each other in this country, whether we like it or not.

Also?  I know exactly how you’re feeling right now.  I remember hearing the election results back in 2004.  I remember being just as shocked and distraught.  “How could this guy have gotten re-elected?”  But we liberals survived eight years of Bush.  And you’ll survive eight years of Obama.  America has survived far more serious times, including a real civil war.  It has survived far more sweeping and bigger governmental programs being instituted than any Obama has proposed.  And after all the turmoil and change, it’s still America.  And it’s still a democracy.  A democracy which, by the way, worked exactly as intended on Tuesday.

I realize that you won’t believe me no matter how much I say it, but Obama isn’t about to usher in a new Communist era in the United States.  He’s not even progressive enough for most of us progressives.  And if by Communism you mean that weak sauce Republican health care plan which got passed into law instead of single payer, then that is one bizarre idea of Communism.  No, I feel pretty comfortable predicting that America will remain a firmly capitalist society.

And as always, the political process will remain a cycle.  At some point, another Republican President will get elected, and I will feel as if everything is coming to an end.  But that won’t be true, either.  Hang in there and trust me, your day will come again.  Unless you decide to secede before then–and that would just be silly.

My family recently received an e-mail from relatives in Poland telling us how the “true Polish national identity” is the Catholic one, and going so far as to say that anyone outside that Catholic identity is not only indifferent to the well-being of the country, but might in fact be an evil Commie.  (Sound familiar?)  Being that my parents have for most of their lives been practitioners of Buddhism and yoga, this rubbed them the wrong way.  When my mother tried to suggest that perhaps non-Catholics, atheists, gay and Jewish people should also have a place in Polish society, the relative came back with the pleasant response that he hoped those atheists, gays and Jews would be well served by the euthanasia and abortion they so strongly believed in.

This is a growing movement in Poland right now, and many of our old friends—people who used to be rebels and freethinkers—are more and more often making these kinds of shocking statements to us.  Of course, all I have to do is turn on the right radio station or website here in America and I can hear all about how this is a Christian country and only those who are Christian in the correct way are truly a part of it.  Except that over here this kind of talk will be prefaced by the disclaimer that the talker believes in everyone’s right to have a different opinion or belief…it’s just that those with the different opinion are a “darkness” or a “cancer”.  And a cancer needs to be removed from the body, right?

Is it just me, or does anybody else feel the gathering stormy weather?  That pounding drumbeat of “those who are not like us”?  I suppose that drumbeat is always there, but there are times when it seems to flare up, and right now the tension is building up so tight it feels like the planet needs to clear its sinuses.  Then again, since the sinus-clearing usually entails a world war of some sort, maybe it’s better if we remain clogged.

One thing we cannot do is allow ourselves to be fooled by the relative calm.  After all, Western Europe in the 20th century was a very polite, civilized society as well, wasn’t it?  For now we still smile at each other on the train and give each other the fake “I’m doing great!”  In a moment of real crisis, how quickly could that turn into “You are the problem and you need to go”?  It has happened over and over again.

Maybe those times of horror are part of a strange birthing process by which our species grows.  Hey, I have the right to delude myself as much as anyone else.  All I know is that no matter where you go, you will always meet that group of people which needs to hold on to some type of dogma to be secure.  And I have met those people both on the right and the left, by the way.  I’m from Poland, so I’ve dealt with real Commies, not the bugaboo ones that conservatives invent over here.  No matter which side the true believers are on, they are bound by one common quality:  they can’t handle it when someone else thinks differently from them.  It rocks their world too much.  They lash out against it.  Under certain circumstances, they even kill.

And no matter which time we live in, it is the duty of those of us who don’t have a closed mind to stop them from doing so.  It may be a struggle which never ends.  And probably one I’m not strong enough for.

I went out into the garden, where a gentle rain was falling, and stood on the lawn.  I breathed in deeply.  Something was different about the air.  It smelled like the air should smell in January.  Jesus had been sworn in as President, and the four seasons of the Earth had gone back to normal.

I didn’t have anyone to share my joy with, though.  I couldn’t exactly talk to my sister or Mom about this.  Finally, with some trepidation, I called Leah.

She seemed happy to hear from me.  “I’m still amazed.  In just a few years, our lives could be completely different,”  she said.

“Are you quitting your job like you said you would?”

“No, I’m going to keep working.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, but Squircal will be under new management.  All the old executives are going to be arrested.”

“Are you going to get paid more?”

“Not right now.  But I think we will have so much more dignity.  Would you like to come work for us?”

“Uh…in customer service?”

“Don’t miss out on your chance, Blue.  We’re building a new society….you don’t wanna be left out.”

“I’ll think about it….”

“You can think, but make it quick.”

***

This time, when I came back to the Squircal headquarters, it was filled with stacks of bread, boxes of cheese and canned fish and oranges, and bottles of cheap wine.  A banner which read “Food Distribution Center” was hanging in the lobby.

The Squircal receptionist and a few others were busy carrying in more food crates.  The receptionist didn’t say anything in greeting.  As I watched them, Leah walked up to me, embraced me and kissed me on both cheeks.  It was as if nothing bad had ever happened between us.

“I see you made your decision right on time,”  she said to me.

“What’s all this?”  I asked.

“One of the Squircal execs had taken ownership of a Grocery Outlet.  We’ve liberated it from him, and we’re going to be in charge of distributing the food fairly.  The cool thing is, as one of my friends, you are entitled to a ration of it.”  She handed me a note.  “Go to the sixth floor and talk to Nina.  She’s Director of Edible Materials now.”

***

For the most part, life continued as it had before the inauguration, quiet and unimpressive.  I was employed at Squircal.  There were anti-Jesus riots in town, and a couple of the troublemakers got arrested.  Their names were listed in the newspaper, and they included Paul, who was apparently found in illegal possession of a large knife.

“Did you hear about Paul?”  I asked my sister.  We were at the kitchen table, and I was slicing up Swiss cheese for everybody.

Every Friday, I brought home a box of rations from Squircal.  The amount of food I received was extremely fair and just, but I had to share it with my family, as RedGirl and Mother were not employed, and Father’s job was not one of the desired occupations, so his ration was small.

“I really don’t care.  Shhhh, my dancing show is on!”  At first, RedGirl was devastated when “Dancing With The Stars” was taken off the air.  But now, she was a big fan of the synchronized dancing displays which had replaced it on prime time.

“It’s the little girls’ fan dance!  Ohhhh, so cute!”  She dissolved into gushing.

“I have to admit I think the old reality shows were more interesting,”  I said.

“Eewww.  They were kinda trashy, compared to this.”

I shook my head.  “Whatever happened to the ‘America will be destroyed’ stuff?  You were weeping about that not too long ago.”

She shrugged.  “I guess I was wrong.  Some things are different, but I still have food and my house, and my TV.  So America didn’t get destroyed.”

“That’s good to know,”  I said.  “Here, have some cheese.”

***

To my relief, I didn’t have to take a lot of phone calls at Squircal.  We were always doing other, more important things, and we mostly ignored customer complaints unless they came to us in written form, and even then they would go to the Office of Complaints, where they would disappear for months.

The arrests continued, but in very small numbers.  Still, they made me uncomfortable somehow.

“I don’t understand why the receptionist was arrested,”  I said to Leah.

“She would tell people to have a nice day, when the workers were having a miserable day.  This behaviour was deemed to be close to deceit,”  Leah explained to me.

I should have been satisfied with this answer, but wasn’t.  It was ludicrous.  And so, once again, I found myself taking the elevator up to the top floor of the Squircal building, where the new union committee which now ran the company was located.  This time, I did not wrap myself in a protective aura.  After all, I was one of them.

A grim secretary welcomed visitors to the top floor.  Probably overwhelmed by all her new responsibilities, I thought.  Must be difficult.

“How are you?”  I asked.

“Horrible.  It’s been an awful day,”  she snapped.  “Why do you want to know?”

“Just making conversation,”  I admitted.  “Hey, I’ve got a few concerns I would like to bring before the committee.”

“Like what?”

Undaunted by the harshness in her voice, I continued.  “I have questions about the arrest of the downstairs receptionist.  Also, I would like to hear more about the reasoning behind the way the rations are distributed.”

“What do you mean, the reasoning?  The rations are what they are.  They are based on the amount of food we have.  What is there to reason about?”  She turned her back to me.  “Thank you.”

I was taken aback at getting shut down like this.  “Well…I might still have problems with this…right?  Can I talk to someone, please?”

“You can submit a written complaint.”

“Oh….well, then.”

I sighed and started filling out the form.

***

Leah was very agitated the next day.  “I had to talk them out of arresting you.”

“What?  All I wanted was to ask some questions,”  I said.  “Are you kidding me?”

“What the hell is wrong with you?  We are finally achieving our goals.  Are you going to fuck things up just because you get hung up on the details?”

I felt a sudden, crushing tiredness.  “Leah, what’s the point of us having achieved anything?”

She came closer to my desk.  “The only thing I ask is that you at least wait for a while.  It’s too soon after the riots.  They’re a bit jumpy right now.”

I slumped in my chair and nodded.  “I’ll wait.”

***

RedGirl found me lying curled up on my bed.  “And what are you crying about?”

“You were right.”  I rolled over onto my back.  “America has been destroyed.”

“Even if it has, you’re on the winning side.  Quit whining.  I need you to give me a reference for a position at Squircal.”

“Squircal?”  I sat up.  I wanted to shake her.  “Sis, I thought I could depend on you in a moment like this.  You were supposed to be the loyal opposition.  Don’t you have anything for me?  Not even a tea party?  Or a militia?”

“A militia?  Oh, Lord.  Really, that kind of drama isn’t necessary.”  She adjusted her cape.  Our heat was low, so she had it wrapped around her neck like a scarf.

I lay back down and covered my face with my hands.  Everything around me was spinning.  For the first time, my sister and I were on the same political side, and it was a nightmare.

“So, who’s going to stop these people if they go too far?”  I asked, when the vertigo went away and I was able to speak again.

“I dunno,”  she said.  “But you can always find some idiot out there who wants to be a rebel.”

***

So my sister wasn’t going to be any help.  It turned out that for her, being conservative wasn’t about any specific set of beliefs, it was about conserving.  Whoever was in authority, whoever could offer stability to her world, that was who she was going to follow.

Two weeks later, I received an e-mail letting me know I was invited to a meeting at which my productivity was going to be honored.

“I don’t want to be honored,”  I thought.  “Just let me work in my cubicle and leave me in peace.  Don’t single me out for anything.”

But you didn’t say no to e-mails at Squircal.

I entered the conference room where the meeting was to be held and froze.  There, around the table, were the old Squircal executives.  They weren’t wearing suits and ties.  They couldn’t wear suits and ties, of course—they were now union leaders.  They smiled at me.  In front of them was the contract I remembered, and a little box with a medal in it.

“It’s nice to see you here on more friendly terms,”  one of them said to me.  “I trust that, under the changed circumstances, you will accept this token of appreciation from us.”

“I thought you guys had been arrested,”  I said.

“You will be pleased to hear that the guilty parties have, in fact, been arrested,”  he said.  “And now, we are at last able to lead this workplace into a brighter and more progressive future.”

I hesitated, but sat down.  The feeling of exhaustion was back.  No matter what happened, no matter which government was in power, I would have to keep fighting these men over and over and over again.  I didn’t think I was up to it.

“Do you have a pen?”  I asked.

I pulled the contract over to where I was sitting, and then stared at it, unable to make the final choice.

“Well, what else are you going to do?”  the exec joked.  “Are you going to commit suicide again?”

“Maybe,”  I mumbled.

“You are free to do that, if you wish.”  He gestured towards the window.  “Keep in mind that your family will die with you.”

And so this time I wasn’t going to crash through the glass, but I was still going to kill myself, or at least kill the person I once was.

When I emerged from the conference room, the contract was signed and a medal was pinned to my chest.

“We look forward to working with you,”  the exec said to me.  “You’re lucky to be one of us.  A lot of perks come with doing this.”

I held on to a doorframe, nauseated.  Something was bubbling up inside of me.  Possibly my disgust with the world.  I could already tell this would be one of those embarrassing moments when I couldn’t stop it—I had to throw up.

I heaved and a small explosion took place.  Two of the executives were knocked down to the floor, and almost all of them were covered with shiny blue slime.

“Not this again,”  I groaned.  My idealism was like an illness I couldn’t get rid of.  “Erm, sorry about that,”  I said to the executives.  “This kind of hiccup might still happen to me once in a while.”

“Do us all a favor and try not to use your….special gifts from now on,”  one of them advised me.  “It will make life a lot easier for everyone, including you.”

***

When I went back downstairs, Leah was waiting for me.

“Congratulations,”  she told me.  But her eyes narrowed when she saw the medal.  “I see you got through it okay.  I’ll be keeping an eye on you, though,”  she warned me.

“I don’t have a problem with that,”  I assured her.  And I didn’t.  When I stepped out of the building, I was determined not to be BlueGirl any longer—just an ordinary liberal blue girl.

I called my sister to let her know we would be getting extra rations.

 

 

[To Be Continued In “BlueGirl In Paradise”]