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The Higher Loyalty

The New Adventures of Justin T. Fairchild, Social Justice Warrior: Episode 5

I had lost the only remaining copy of the pee tape, the one thing that could bring down the Trump regime, but other than that my trip to Los Angeles wasn’t entirely wasted. My wife got to take Richie and his grandmother to see Mickey Mouse, and said grandmother bought Richie a whole wardrobe of Disney-themed outfits. I was less-than-thrilled about this, and said so, not wanting my only son to become a walking (well, crawling) billboard for a capitalist entity with a hundred and fifty billion-dollar market cap. But every objection that I made—on the grounds of anti-capitalism, anti-environmentalism, and occasionally, just good plain common taste, were drowned out by either my wife or my mother-in-law telling me how cute little Richie would look in said outfit. In other words, I was outvoted, and that’s a difficult thing for a Trotskyite to bear with grace.

And to make matters worse, my mother-in-law dragged us all to a place called Burbank to appear in the studio audience for a television show called The Price is Right. I had spent my childhood watching primarily Nova and Frontline episodes on PBS, you understand, with an occasional bit of maternal censorship whenever Firing Line or The McLaughlin Group was on. Although I’d picked up a fair amount of familiarity with the current lineup of children’s programming, I hadn’t ever seen The Price is Right, and I was astounded to see the naked display of corporatism coming from a usually-reliable news organization like CBS. I was even more astounded when I was handed a cap with a red dollar sign on it to wear at the taping—with the flimsy rationale of “because it would be fun.” I was then chided by my family and a random CBS production assistant for not enjoying myself.

If you enjoy the ongoing adventures of Justin T. Fairchild, Social Justice Warrior, be sure to check out the new Liberty Island e-book featuring America’s favorite Constitutional Trotskyite. SNOWFLAKE’S CHANCE: THE 2016 CAMPAIGN DIARY OF JUSTIN T. FAIRCHILD, SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIOR is available for download at Amazon.

My astonishment turned to pure shock when Stacy, my mother-in-law, who had been conspicuously enjoying herself, was called to the front of the audience to participate in the actual game show. I have never heard a human being whoop so loudly, outside of that time I was at my dad’s hedge fund office and Berkshire Hathaway announced a stock split. She won a pair of planet-killing jet skis and a free trip to Costa Rica, but she only got seventy-five cents on the big spinning wheel thing and didn’t make it to the final part of the program. It didn’t matter. She was ecstatic.

“I can’t believe I got to be on television!” she shrieked. Having been on television several times during the course of my unsuccessful U.S. House campaign, I couldn’t understand the excitement, but then I didn’t actually have to do anything but stand there and watch her emote about it.

“What are you going to do with the jet skis?” Emma asked her.

“Well, I’ll have to sell them to pay the taxes on the trip,” Stacy said. “So that will work itself out.”

“There are many ecological sites in Costa Rica,” I hazarded to say.

“There are many places to sit on the beach with a glass of rum punch,” Stacy replied.

❄  ❄  ❄

There weren’t any places to sit on the beach with a rum punch at the Los Angeles airport. Years of Republican budget-cutting had, apparently, turned what should have been a symbol of what government and taxpayers could accomplish together into a grimy cesspit that looked like a bus terminal, but without the charm. That, and I couldn’t find anywhere that sold the kind of kombucha I liked. At least Richie was asleep, and Stacy was occupied in trying to figure out if she’d need a voltage adapter in Costa Rica.

“Attention, American Airlines passengers,” the gate agent said over the loudspeaker. “We are sorry to inform you that Flight 1879 from Los Angeles to Newark has been cancelled due to unexpected maintenance issues. We apologize for the inconvenience. Please let us know if we can help with any alterations to your travel plans.”

Emma somehow managed to get out of her seat, drop Richie in Stacy’s lap—and this is key, without waking him up—and grabbed me by the wrist and half-dragged me to where we got a prime spot in line for the gate agent before she’d even dropped the microphone. My wife is an amazing person.

“We need to be on a plane out of here today,” she told the gate agent.

“You’re traveling with a baby?” the gate agent said. “We can make you a priority. I can get you on a non-stop to Washington Reagan, leaving in forty-five minutes. With a first-class upgrade.”

Emma still had hold of my wrist, and now she squeezed it extra hard, as though she was willing me to be quiet. I got the hint.

“That’s perfect,” she said. “We can take Amtrak from there.” She scooped up the boarding passes, handed them to me, and took Richie back from her mother. “We need to start walking,” she said. “And, thank you, Justin, for not fouling that up for once.”

“I object to first-class treatment being meted out only to the 1%,” I explained. “There needs to be a more democratic and equitable way to allocate airline seating. And it’s insulting that they named the airport after Reagan after he fired the air traffic controllers.”

“I know you had to get that out of your system, darling,” she said. “Okay, can we go now?”

❄  ❄  ❄

The plane to Washington was delayed again, but we were told just for a minute while they loaded one more passenger. They ended up shuffling first class a little bit, because it turned out the new passenger was on the tall side, and I ended up sitting by him in the front row, with Stacy and Emma sitting behind us. He got the window seat and a big glass of red wine; I got the aisle seat and a lecture from the flight attendant on why there wasn’t room to have locally-sourced bottled water on the plane.

After takeoff, the tall man lifted his window and peered out at the Los Angeles basin, scrunching down a little in his chair to do so. “Such a beautiful country,” he said. “She deserves better. She really does.”

“That’s true,” I said. “I’ve often thought that…”

“And just look what happens to the best of us. The ones who love her the most dearly. The ones who have sacrificed their careers to make her strong.”

“I know how you feel. See, I ran for Congress last year…”

“Not just strong, mind you. Lovely. Our country needs to project soft power as well as hard power. Oh, why couldn’t we have had a strong woman at the tiller? After I risked my integrity…”

“Well, you shouldn’t feel bad about that,” I said. “We all wanted Hillary to win. It’s just that…”

“Integrity,” the tall man said, “is not enough. I should have realized that. I made it about my integrity. I should have put the country first. Everyone would have forgotten the e-mails by now, with her strong leadership.” He took a big slurp of wine. “And everyone would have forgotten that rancid orange clown.”

“Are you okay?” I asked, as he drained the wine glass and asked the flight attendant for a refill.

“I was fired today,” he said. “He claimed that I wasn’t loyal. Can you imagine that? Like a mafia boss, demanding loyalty. Demanding silence.”

“Oh, that’s terrible. Was it…”

“There is a place for loyalty,” the tall man intoned. “No one doubts that. But there is loyalty to a person, even loyalty to an office, and loyalty to something else. To our beloved country, who we serve with all our hearts. To the men and women who live down there,” he said, waving his wine glass in the general direction of San Bernardino. To our servicemen and women. A loyalty to something outside ourselves.”

“A higher loyalty,” I said.

“That’s it, young man. That’s it exactly. A higher loyalty. I couldn’t have said it better myself.” He tipped back the last of his second glass of wine. “That’s good stuff.”

“I don’t think it’s locally sourced,” I said.

The tall man stretched out his arms, yawned, and promptly fell asleep on my shoulder. I tried waking him up somewhere over Missouri, when he started to drool on me, but he was dead to the world. He didn’t wake up, in fact, until we hit a pocket of air on approach into Reagan, and he bumped his skull on the overhead compartment.

“We’re almost there,” I said. But he was grumpy and hung over, and didn’t respond, and was the first one off the airplane.

❄  ❄  ❄

An interminable amount of time letter, Stacy and Emma had wrangled little Richie and his assortment of diaper bags onto the platform at Gallery Place, where we would catch the Red Line to Union Station and the Acela train back to New Jersey. I had my bag, Emma’s bag, Stacy’s bag, and Richie’s car seat, and if you ask me how I managed all that, I am afraid I cannot enlighten you.

“Do you think he was right?” I asked.

“What?” Emma asked.

“The tall guy sitting next to me. He said that we owe a higher loyalty to our country.”

“I guess so,” she said. “That’s why you ran for Congress, right?”

I thought about this. I ran for Congress because Aunt Joan told me to, and because we both thought that President Hillary Clinton would need another vote in the House. Did I love my country? How could you love a country that elected Donald Trump? How could anyone? I didn’t know.

We got on the Metro to Union Station, but the escalator had broken, and I had to carry up all those bags up by hand to get them to the Amtrak platform. Republican budget cuts are just the worst.

******

Snowflake's Chance cover

If you enjoy the ongoing adventures of Justin T. Fairchild, Social Justice Warrior, be sure to check out the new Liberty Island e-book featuring America’s favorite Constitutional Trotskyite. SNOWFLAKE’S CHANCE: THE 2016 CAMPAIGN DIARY OF JUSTIN T. FAIRCHILD, SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIOR is available

Photo by Abode of Chaos

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Curtis Edmonds

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