"A Republic, if you can keep it" – Benjamin Franklin
October 19, 2130 promised to be another beautiful Indian summer day in Montana as the Anderson family sat down to breakfast.
"It might hit seventy," said Mr. Anderson. "I hope this weather lasts one more day until the centennial celebration."
"Me too," his wife agreed. "Independence Day was miserable last year with all the snow … Where is that girl? She’s late for school again."
Fifteen-year-old Diana rushed downstairs, dragging her backpack. "Hey Dad, I’ve got to take my rifle to school, okay?" she said breathlessly, grabbing some cornbread and a slice of venison sausage.
"I got an email from Coach. She wants the drill team to practice again this afternoon; she still doesn’t think we’re ready for the parade tomorrow."
"Fine with me," her father replied. "Just don’t leave it lying around."
"I’ll put it in my locker. Bye. I’m late."
"I don’t see why we have to go to this dumb celebration," grumbled twelve-year-old Jimmy. "We have a three-day weekend, we ought to take a trip to Yellowstone State Park before they close the roads for the winter. I want to see Old Faithful again."
"Life isn’t just fun, games and vacations," said Mr. Anderson. "Once a year, we need to stop and reflect on how lucky we are to live in a free country."
"And thank God also," added Mrs. Anderson. "First thing tomorrow we go to Mass."
"Awwww, Mom!"
"I have to get to work," she continued. "You guys do your homeschooling. When Dad leaves for work, you clean your room," she added to Jimmy, "and don’t even think of watching holographs or playing virtual reality games until the room is spotless."
"I don’t understand this ‘Independence Day’ thing," said Jimmy after his mother left. "Independence from what?"
"Let’s spend this morning on American history," said his father. "Euclid and Pythagoras can wait."
"History is boring. I want to become a precision machinist, not a historian. When they start building those thorium breeder reactors – "
"You have to know your roots, Son. ‘He who controls the past, controls the future.’ If you don’t know your own history, you’re at the mercy of the manipulators."
"I want to go to a real school, like Diana."
"Once you get to eighth grade, we’ll enroll you in the neighborhood co-op school."
"Not a dumb co-op. I want a real, for-profit high-school. And not a Walmart school either! A classy place."
"They’re expensive."
"I’ll be thirteen next year. I can get a real job in the mill, running a CO2 laser welder. I’ll make good money, and save for a good high-school."
"Maybe," replied his father. "But for now: Tomorrow is the hundredth anniversary of the ratification of the group of constitutional amendments that restored the republic, returned political power to the states, and freed us from the central government, after the heartland states finally forced a Constitutional Convention."
"By 2030, America wasn’t a republic anymore. Abroad it was an inept, bumbling empire; domestically it was a semi-totalitarian oligarchy, hiding behind a facade of mob-rule democracy, bolstered by bread and circuses. Central government dominated everything: Education, retirement planning, medical care, even how much water to flush a toilet with.
"The most important amendments were the 30th, the 31st, and the 32nd. The 30th capped federal non-defense spending at three percent of GNP, and required balanced budgets. The 31st was popularly referred to as the Heinlein Amendment; in order to vote, you have to do something that demonstrates a sincere, long-term commitment to your country. Military service is one avenue, but there are lots of others – even just raising responsible children is enough. Government employees can’t vote – nor anybody else who’s receiving government money. The 32nd reaffirmed that the ninth and tenth amendments take precedence over the commerce clause and the general welfare clause."
"You said the 30th limited federal spending, had it been higher than three percent?"
"Oh, God yes! By 2020, the budget was approaching 50% of GNP. For a hundred years, the federal government had been growing like a cancer, and – "
"What’s ‘cancer’?"
"Cancer was a fatal disease that was common during the 19th through the 21st centuries. It’s been pretty much cured now. Basically, one small group of cells would start reproducing uncontrollably until they took over the entire body."
"Oh, okay."
"The out-of-control government problem had started a century earlier, in the 1910 to 1920 time-frame, when America made some really bad decisions."
"Like what?"
"Like electing a president who loved meddling in the affairs of other countries. Like trying to prohibit alcoholic beverages, which was not only an abysmal failure, but also spawned organized crime, gun control, militaristic law enforcement, and assembly-line justice. Like the income tax amendment which gave the federal government unlimited funds to devour. In the 1930’s it got even worse; the Supreme Court overturned a hundred years of precedent and gave Congress power over the entire economy – even telling farmers what crops they could grow on their own land.
"I was rummaging through the attic the other day, and I found some video that my grandfather recorded at the ratification ceremony. It’s two-dimensional because they didn’t have 3-D camcorders back then, but still it’s interesting."
He handed the disk to his son who slid it into the holograph projector. The back of the room became a stage in front of a majestic white tower. Two groups of onlookers were separated by police officers. The ones on the left looked sullen; some were carrying picket signs with slogans like, "Equality is discriminatory," "Colorblindness is racist," and "Ignerence is wisdom." The group on the right was in a festive mood, happily tossing handfuls of dark colored powder at each other and into the air. Dignitaries gave speeches. At one point a dowdy lady in gray burst out of the crowd, grabbed the microphone, and began jabbering incoherently until she was escorted away by two men in white coats.
"What was the black powder all about?" asked Jimmy when the video was over. "And the big tower?"
"The powder was tea," his father replied, "but I don’t know the significance of it – some kind of good-luck charm. The tower was called the Washington Monument, but it was destroyed in the war."
"What war?"
"World War Three."
"The one where we were attacked by Japan … and those dudes with the funky crosses?"
"No. You’re thinking of World War Two. In the Third World War, we were attacked by Islamic fanatics and ChiComs."
"What happened?"
"Well, obviously America won in the end – as you can see from the fact that we aren’t speaking Arabic or Mandarin. But it was a long slog, the worst war we ever had. When the invasion came, the armed forces folded almost immediately. They had lost sight of their real mission, which is to kill people and break things. They had been turned into big squishy laboratories for political correctness and social engineering, and – thanks to unrestrained immigration – they were infested with moles and fifth columnists. Furthermore, the Chinese had sabotaged their electronics with backdoor code.
"People sleep soundly at night only because of rough men standing ready to protect them. By the time the invasion started, the rough men had all been replaced by girly-men – at least in the upper echelons. One general had stated publicly that preserving ‘diversity’ was more important than punishing treason. In some units, they actually had girls – literal, female girls – in front-line combat positions."
"Girls in combat?" said Jimmy. "That’s sick!"
"Tell me about it."
"But didn’t we have advanced weapons?"
"Sure. All kinds of high-tech toys: Nuclear weapons, directed-energy weapons, long-range stealth bombers, cruise missiles, low-observable aircraft carriers, drones, you name it. All useless when you’re fighting a defensive ground war in your own territory.
"After the Army collapsed, civilians in the coastal cities were massacred. In most cases, they had no weapons because they’d already been disarmed by their own governments. And even those with access to weapons had lost their self-preservation instincts after having been infantilized for a hundred years by the government. The invaders didn’t meet any serious resistance until they got inland and encountered rural militias. Decentralization saved us – but only after twenty years of bitter fighting."
"Twenty years of war?" said Jimmy. "That’s incredible."
"Twenty years is nothing! After the Moors invaded Spain, the Reconquista took 781 years. Say what you will about Muslims, but they sure are tenacious."
The nice weather held, and they went to Mass the next morning in light jackets. Mrs. Anderson took two mantillas from her purse and handed one to Diana.
"Mom! Those are sooo tacky! Grandma said – "
"I don’t care what your grandmother got away with as a girl. We are traditional, and you will be respectful in the house of God, and cover your hair."
She turned to her father: "Daaad!"
"Sorry, kiddo," he shrugged. "’A light shineth in the darkness and the darkness comprehends it not.’ The angel of the house has spoken."
The afternoon parade was splendid; Diana’s rifle team executed their drills flawlessly to thunderous applause. Later, the fireworks display was the most spectacular that the children had ever seen.
"Freedom really is the greatest thing in the world, isn’t it?" mused Diana.
"Indeed," her father replied. "But remember: It’s not free, and you must never yield to temptation and trade away freedom for safety. Better to die on your feet than to live on your knees."
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