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!

So, it’s been a month, and progressives and Democrats have been hearing a constant refrain–that we need to reach out to Trump supporters, to try to understand the forgotten working-class base in the heartland of America which voted for him.

That is a very good point.  We do need to do that if we want to win the next election.  There is only one problem for me:  I don’t really want to know or understand the Trump voters.

This is not the wisest attitude to have, and I guess it marks me as an elitist of some sort. But I don’t care.  I don’t want to know why people continue to support Trump and overlook all the things he’s already said and done when it comes to women, immigrants and Muslims. When I recently visited a website where the deplorables gather to chat, I saw plenty of caricatures of yarmulkas and hooked noses, and references to Reichsfuhrer Trump. Blaming the Jews for your own economic woes is an age-old tradition.  The Trumpsters clearly feel the need to scapegoat someone for their own miserable situation.  What can I possibly say to them about that?  How would I change their mind?  I could suggest changes to the political and economic system which would make their life better, but these are the same people who thought Obama was a Marxist and the ACA was a government assault on their liberty–and frequently voted against their own health insurance coverage.  What does one do when faced with such ignorance?

Not to mention that in order to reach out to the Trump voters, I would have to find them where they live.  Thing is, I love my urban bubble.  I have little interest in going too far beyond its protective shield.  I’ve lived in the rural world before and I’m grateful to have escaped it.  I have no desire to move to a place where my neighbors give me the side-eye just because I don’t attend the same church they do and behave in ways they don’t consider “normal.”

Again, this does not bode well as a political strategy.  Democrats did get the popular vote in 2016, but the Democratic electorate is clustered in a few major metropolitan areas, mainly on the two coasts, and that’s not the way the American electoral system works. Hence the idea that progressives should transplant themselves to swing states.  If only I could convince myself to be enthusiastic about a midwestern or southern swing state….

The progressive movement certainly needs ambassadors right now to take its message across the country.  Unfortunately, I’m not that person.  And I wonder how many of my fellow liberal bubble-dwellers are willing to do the difficult work of outreach.  And if that work doesn’t get done, what will 2020 look like?

October, October, October!  This Year Only!  All Month Long!  Don’t miss our blowout sale of Ideas You Should Buy!  Buy These Ideas Now!

Our selection is crazy!  And by crazy, we mean…there are only two choices.  Two choices nobody likes.  But hey, it wouldn’t be a low low prices blowout sale if we actually had something attractive to sell…heh heh heh.

Which flavor of Patriotism do you prefer?  Is it the classic taste of Standing Up For The Little Guy?  It’s mostly whipped cream and air with no nutritional content, but it sure looks pretty.  Or would you like to try the brand new America For Americans Only flavor?  Well…it’s not really new.  We bring it back every few decades or so.  It always causes food poisoning and pain, but humans just can’t stay away from it.

Speaking of things that never go away, follow me to our fashion section.  Did you know that bigotry is back in style this year?  Fine, fine…it never went out of style, but it’s the definite It thing for this fall!  You look upset.  Are those racist pants too, shall we say, risque for you?  Do they not fit very well?  No worries!  Take a few of our Color-Blind Brotherly Love pills.  They will make you feel as if such a thing actually exists!

What are you looking at over there?  Well, yes, we do have some alternative products available.  We’ve got the Libertarian, the Green…  But keep in mind that these are not the standard American models.  It’s very difficult to get replacement parts for them.  And let me remind you that all our election year purchases are nonrefundable.  If it breaks, you can’t bring it back!

So don’t delay!  After Nov 8th, it will be too late!  We have lots of shiny Ideas on our shelves.  Would you like Better Wages?  Reproductive Rights?  Religious Freedom?  Intimidating Foreign Policy?  Building The Wall?  Get them no….oh.

I see.  You’ve been watching the news a lot lately.  So, now you’ve got a bad case of fear, am I right?  The only thing you’re interested in is that giant bag of Law And Order?  Great choice!  Will it work?  Will it make you safe?  Of course it will!

Thank you for shopping with us, and have a wonderful four years!

So, what is the deal with this cray-cray Trump candidacy?  Is it just the reality show from Hell?  Is it a dumber incarnation of Mussolini?  I’m staring at it in horror, but what is it?

One simple answer is that it’s a reaction to Obama’s presidency.  The racists of this country have had a rough seven years trying to deal with the reality of a black President.  Now, here comes Trump to the rescue, this man who still hasn’t sorted out his feelings about the KKK.  The yokels who cheer for him might not agree with his stances on health care or abortion or almost anything else, but that doesn’t matter–the essence of his campaign is all about bashing brown-skinned people.

Despite the fact that his administration is responsible for a record number of deportations, the screaming heads on talk radio have always accused President Obama of purposely letting high numbers of undocumented Latino immigrants into the country in order to “change our culture” (code language for making the culture less white).  But, never fear!  Trump is here and he’s going to build a giant wall to protect us from all these foreign aliens.

Likewise, the right-wing conspiracy theorists believe that Obama is sympathetic to radical Islamist terror groups, perhaps even that he’s a radical Muslim himself.  This although he has expanded George W’s drone strike program.  Once again, Trump bravely steps up to the plate.  He will keep all the Muslims out.  Radical or non-radical, it doesn’t matter.  That should solve the problem.

In an ironic twist, as the President is disrespected because of his skin color, he is simultaneously blamed for being the one to cause racial division in the nation.  Apparently, he is too soft on the (scary to conservatives) Black Lives Matter movement.  In the world of anti-Obama hysteria, tiny molehills are turned into mountains.  As with everything else in his presidency, Obama has treaded very carefully when it comes to incidents of police brutality, not speaking out as forcefully as many would like him to.  He got in enough trouble just for saying that Trayvon Martin could have been his kid.  And still, according to the crazy rightie blogosphere, he has been coddling rioters and looters.  Trump, on the other hand–he doesn’t mess around with those pesky BLM protesters.  He will have his own audiences kick and shove them out of his rallies.  He’s a big man, that Donald.

So the question is–will we allow the racist backlash against our country’s first African-American President to result in a destructive, reactionary Trump presidency?  I sincerely hope not.

Some immigrants are luckier than others. We were embraced by complete strangers when we came to the States. “Welcome to America!” “God bless you!”

Then there is the Iraqi man in Texas who went outside to look at his first snowfall and was shot dead in front of his home. His welcome wagon was, shall we say, a little less festive.

What makes one person a target and not another? Was it simply that the color of his skin was darker than ours? Or were we lucky to be dealing with people slightly less crazy than the ones in Texas?

When we lived in Idaho, our neighbors pointed their many guns at everything else that moved–the squirrels, the birds–but not at us, at least as far as I can remember. Not that there was any love lost between us. They didn’t like us because we had an accent and spoke to each other in our native language. Actually, they were drug dealers, so they were paranoid and didn’t like anybody very much.

I was told when I came to America that I should fear the big cities with their muggings, but the scariest time I’ve experienced here has been the five years we spent in Boise. Still, we didn’t get shot. Since America is portrayed around the world as the country where people get shot, this was a big deal for us.

I guess this rambling post is to reflect on the randomness of fate. What decides which human beings live and die? Whether or not you look like the type of person who gets killed. And if you do, whether or not you are doing something “suspicious”. Whether or not you live somewhere where weapons get waved around in public, or a more civilized area like the one I currently inhabit, where the residents keep their weapons hidden in their homes. Whether or not the nutjob down the street finally reaches his tipping point. So many things can go wrong.

Some of us just happen to be lucky.

What troubled times we live in. Threats and dangers coming at us from every direction, and we seem to be bumbling about in response. Where is that leader, strong and decisive enough to handle Vladimir Putin, the Israel conflict, the disaster in Iraq, immigrant kids and gang violence?

How about Darth Vader?

According to a poll on the FiveThirtyEight website, Americans prefer Darth Vader to any of the potential 2016 presidential candidates. I can see the appeal. Darth could never be accused of being too diplomatic. He likes to resolve problems by blowing stuff up, and at this point many of us may be frustrated enough with the world to want to blow it up too. So what if we end up serving the Dark Side in the process? Do we care?

Well, I hope we do, and that this is just a momentary twitch of stress and bad news overload. If we take these poll results at face value, then the person who should win in 2016 is Dick Cheney. I gotta think that by then our tempers will cool and a more reasonable candidate will get elected.