The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
A Blow for Liberty
Tuesday, January 31st, 2006
The Nossiter Net is cast  to snare some of  the riper rascalities of the day.  Comments?  editor@nossiter.net
The dust motes were doing a lazy fandango in the few sunbeams strong enough to penetrate the grime of my office window.  I was sitting back in my desk chair, feet on the blotter, hat tilted over my face, watching the dust out of the corner of an eye.  The morning had been quiet; the afternoon was moribund.  I was paying rent for an office with no clients, and phone bills for a telephone that never rang.  Not for the first time, it occurred to me that Christopher Smart, San Francisco private eye, was in the wrong business.  So when I heard the outer door open, I thought I might be hallucinating. When the delegation from the Constitutional Convention walked in, I knew I was.

There they were, Franklin, Hamilton, Madison, with Washington towering over them, bewigged, frock-coated, splendid in their white tights and polished pumps.  They might have stepped right out of Howard Chandler Christy’s painting of the signing of the Constitution.  Or they may have strayed from a Castro Street Halloween party.  Either way, I wasn’t about to forget my manners just because four refugees from the founding of the republic happened to step into my dingy place of business.  I took off my hat, swung my feet off the desk, and said “Gentlemen, please be seated.  What can I do for you?”

The four founders lowered themselves gingerly onto my shabby straight-backs and exchanged looks.  Benjamin Franklin took a pinch of snuff, sneezed into a silken hanky, and cleared his throat.

“Good Sir, though a Gulf of centuries divides us, your Prowess in the art of Solving Mysteries has reached our ears.  Having deliberated amongst ourselves, We Four come to you for Elucidation.  Though the road be treacherous, the way filled with obstacles, we persevered.  For as I may have once remarked, an Investment in Knowledge pays the best Interest.”

Washington tapped his stick impatiently on the floor, and Madison exchanged a weary smile with Hamilton.  Franklin, oblivious, continued his stately discourse, forging his subordinate clauses like so many links in a chain, speaking in distinct capital letters.

”As I may also have said, Democracy is two Wolves and a Lamb Voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a Well-Armed lamb Contesting the vote!”

Washington’s growl of annoyance was unmistakable this time, and Franklin, beginning to draw himself up, thought better of it and cut to the chase.

“Liberty, sir, is what brings us to your door.  Liberty, for which my brothers here and I struggled so mightily.  We brought the world’s most powerful despot to his knees to achieve our liberty.  We paid for liberty in blood and treasure.  And having done so, long we pondered, long we debated, a system of government strong enough, elastic enough, to withstand the assaults of tyranny.  Now  we find that the republic is succumbing, two hundred and nineteen years after we put our names to that historic document, the United States Constitution.   Liberty is under threat, sir, and the citizens of the republic are asleep!”

The growls from Washington, Hamilton, and Madison were growls of assent this time.  Hamilton leaned forward in his chair, his eyes glowing.

“Sir, we have observed from afar the workings of your present administration, bent on subverting the document to which we gave so much care and thought, the foundation of our democracy.  This executive, deluded by sycophants into a belief in its own supremacy and infallibility, stifles dissent, censors speech, arrests without warrants and imprisons without trial, wages senseless wars, confuses church and state, lines its pockets and those of its friends, spies on the private communications of its own citizens.  And we are here to ask you, sir, how can this be?  Why do you and your fellows not rise up, and cast the rascals from office?  For as I may have remarked, Those who stand for nothing will fall for anything.”

Madison, silent hitherto, stood up and declaimed:  ” It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad.  And is this not, sir, the very truth that confronts the republic today?  Furthermore, as I have also remarked, The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.  And this administration rejects knowledge, fosters secrecy, disseminates untruths.”

Washington also chimed in.  “Your very men of science are silenced.  If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

Franklin opened his mouth to continue what was turning into a regular barbershop quartet, when I raised my hand.  “Gentlemen, all that you say is true. But I can’t understand myself why my fellow citizens elected this nitwit to our highest office.  Before you go on, take a look at our president as he gives his annual state of the union address and tell me what you think.”

I switched on the TV, just as President George W. Bush was hitting his stride.  The ever-present smirk, the narrow hunched shoulders, the squinting little eyes, the whining Texas drawl – his performance was clearly having an impression on my fascinated clients.  They were mute and still at first.  Then Franklin began to turn red, shaking his fist at the screen as the President’s words sank in.  Hamilton and Madison stood up, answering every broadcast utterance with eloquent ripostes which, alas, only we could hear.

Finally Washington, flushed with rage, raised his heavy walking stick and smashed the television to bits with a single powerful blow.  The sudden quiet seemed to deflate my clients and they shuffled heavily from the room, murmuring their good-byes.  Washington turned back in the doorway and said “I had hoped ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.”   The tear in his eye might have been caused by the office dust.

I tilted back in my chair, put my hat back over my face, and swung my feet back on the blotter.  The pile of debris that had been the office TV set I left untouched.  Washington might well have struck the first counter-blow for liberty, and I’d leave the mess where it was as a kind of memorial.

©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2006
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The Devil's Dictionary Redux
Machine-gun Sammy Rides Again
A Pentagon Christmas
When Inmates Run the Asylum
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