Editor’s note: This column originally apperared in the Oct. 26, 2016 edition of the Sequim Gazette. — MD
My family gathered by the wood stove on Halloween and settled comfortably to hear Grandpa tell the story of what has come to be known as “The Terrible Year.” The telling has become a family tradition; one that he says must live even after he passes to another world. He says we must not forget.
Grandpa sits back in his big chair and props his feet on the cushioned stool. His eyes are weak but he still sees clearly through the dark of that fateful Halloween decades ago. His hands tremble a little because they just do.He begins. His voice grows stronger and takes on the passion of his youth. We are all transported to Halloween night of “The Terrible Year.”
That Halloween was the darkest and stormiest night, threatening to repeat the terrible storms of Halloween the year before. Those storms wreaked havoc up and down both coasts of the United States. The electronic grid serving the coasts were severely disabled and took months to restore. Fortunately, though, they were ready in time for the inauguration of the newly elected President of
the United States, Grabit T. Grumpet.
President Grumpet’s election came as a huge surprise given he had slid dramatically in the polls the month before election day. Seems the severity of the storm left such devastation on each coast that people were too preoccupied with their struggle for survival to vote.
Since people in the rural center of the country were unaffected by the severe storms, they voted and Grumpet won, in part enabled by a story that Pillory Pew, his opponent, had slept through the storm.
By now the coasts, aided by FEMA, had regained some stability and people in all states began to experience life under President Grumpet. He did not disappoint. He began to ll his promises much to the delight of his supporters and the mortification of his detractors.
As promised, Grumpet’s first act on his first day was to repeal the health care plan that allowed people with pre-existing health problems to have health insurance. They and those that were not diagnosed until or during the time they were covered under the health care plan lost all coverage.
Next, as promised, Grumpet signed executive orders rescinding the prior President’s assurance to children with their parents who lived in the states illegally, that they could remain and attend college without fear of deportation.
Grumpet immediately diverted funds from the now defunct health plan to hiring more immigration agents to begin rounding up those parents and their adult and young children. He wrote to the President of Mexico proposing an immediate summit on building a wall that would separate Mexico and the United States.
Grumpet reassured the Mexican President that he knew creative ways in which Mexico could pay for the wall and perhaps make a pro t because he just happened to know of a Grumpet company that could do the job.
His final act that first day was to direct the Justice Department to put Pillory Pew under house arrest and investigate her. Pillory Pew complained but, in fact, felt safer under house arrest, because Grumpet, as promised, had taken away her Secret Service detail and called upon his supporters to show her what the Second Amendment meant.
Supporters cheered when he signed an executive order stating “political correctness was dead.” He was indeed taking back America.
‘The Terrible Year’
So the year went on and Grumpet supporters delighted in the boldness of their leader despite his laissez-faire governing approach in picking “winners and losers” among domestic and foreign events.
Non-supporters retreated, knowing that disagreement meant certain taunting, humiliation and threats. Non-whites understood the hazard of being noticed even more, which for some would result in more than threats.
Young women, saddened and frightened by the loss of the dignity of their bodies, moved into the shadows long ago. There they found respect, even love that no longer survived in the streets.
Millions ed the blinking bright hot lights of rallies in which the principal entertainment was finding “illegals” and shouting at the press, who by now were required to sit behind chicken wire if allowed to cover any Grumpet event.
No, the non-supporters, especially anyone who could remotely resemble an immigrant, moved to the shadows or walked outside only at night. Grandpa told us that he was one of them so he knew, but he said with a knowing look that even though they stayed in the shadows, they were anything but silent or content to stay.
Meanwhile, Grumpet was implementing his foreign policy which meant that he would meet first with the leaders of Mexico, North Korea and Russia.
A bit of an international incident occurred when he met with the North Korean leader. Seems that Grumpet and the leader share a common trait which is to enter the stage clapping rhythmically.
So when they met, they were both clapping. The audience dutifully clapped in sync with both leaders. The problem occurred when neither leader wanted to be the first one to stop so the clapping went on for hours. Finally, the interpreters negotiated an agreement in which both would stop and shake hands when the bell rang.
Fortunately, it worked with the side benefit that Grumpet reconsidered his view that North Korea should have nuclear weapons.
Many people stopped paying income taxes because Grumpet said that meant they were smart. By this fateful Halloween, the government was running out of money. The meager income from taxes was going to the new war in the Middle East and tearing down the White House in order to make a livable home for Grumpet.
Grumpet diverted Social Security and Medicare funding paid through payroll taxes to the war. Lower or missing Social Security payments disgruntled supporters and non-supporters alike.
That wasn’t all that was missing. Those promised new jobs turned out to be rounding up people for deportation and standing guard over gated communities. Pillory Pew also was missing and rumored to be in Guantanamo.
Even though Grumpet was fulfilling all his campaign promises, some Grumpet supporters were restless, broke and beginning to tire of hurtling and hearing insults. Something else was missing. They felt more hopeless than ever.
Others felt more empowered, something they had never felt. Tension began developing among the Grumpet supporters.
Those staying in the shadows sensed the dissension and an opportunity to end the laissez-faire authoritarian rule and restore democracy. They had to move quickly, because remaining silent much longer risked solidifying the current government.
They moved cautiously from the shadows into the bright streets carrying signs saying, “Equal under the Law” and were confronted with a line of shouting people.
“Grandpa, Grandpa, wake up! Why is it that Grandpa always falls asleep at this part of the story? We will never know the end of the story!”
Bertha D. Cooper is retired from a 40-plus year career as a health care administrator focusing on the delivery system as a whole. She still does occasional consulting. She is a featured columnist at the Sequim Gazette. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.