Thursday, July 09, 2009

July 4, 2049: The Days

This is an entry into this week's Friday Challenge, which can be found
here. The challenge: Look back from the year 2049, and figure out what's being celebrated on July 4.

"Grampa! Grampa! Did you see the fireworks?"

The old man bent down, and handily scooped up his youngest grandson. "You bet I did. Were they good?"

"They were cool!" The boy hopped down, and ran off to get munchies. "Gramma! Gramma!"

"Pop," James said, "Jim's got a report coming up. July 4 essay. He's got all the ancient history in there, but the tutor wants him to cover the Days, too. Think you can help him out?"

"I'd be glad to. Where's he at?"

"Stuffing his face, where else...?"

An hour later, a well-fed child and his equally well-fed grandfather sat across from each other in the big overstuffed chairs by the fireplace. A video fire burned on the overlay screen, for the cheery appearance without the heat. The screen would roll down into the floor in winter when the heat would be welcome.

"So, your dad wants me to tell you about the Days, is that it?"

"Yeah. I know from my reading that the people got tired of the government, but they don't go into much detail..." The boy's voice faded off.

"I'm not surprised," the man said. "History books have a bad habit of expecting you to already know some things and glossing over some others. Tell me what you know so far."

"Well...after 2000, the government was getting big and scary--not like now, when the whole government is a hundred people. Some people were actually afraid of the government."

"And with good reason," Grampa added. "Here's what happened. After 2000, the government decided it was going to get a lot bigger a lot faster. They kept people afraid as much as they could. That way, people would be too busy being afraid to notice how big the government got--and the people who complained, well, then they could just say 'we need this to protect you.' But everyone was afraid, and everyone was upset with the government, and all it took to set off the Days was a spark."

Jim grabbed his notepad and stylus, and started taking notes furiously. The notepad would grab an audio capture, of course, but he was highlighting the important parts.

"The men in charge of the government started passing lots and lots of new laws. 'You're not allowed to own this,' they would say. 'You're not allowed to eat that.' They kept taking more and more power from the people and kept it for themselves, and the people were so afraid that they just sorta went along with it. Even when the government said 'no one is allowed to own guns,' most of the people grumbled and complained and went along with it. It just wasn't big enough to set off the spark."

"Well, something must have set it off," the boy asked, glancing up from his pad.

"You'd be surprised what sparks things sometimes," he said. "And that's probably why it got left out of your history book. The spark that set off the Days...was a television show. National Idol, where people would compete to see who was the best singer. That year, right from the beginning, everyone knew it was either going to be Nikto, or Barada, right from the beginning.

"When it came down to the finale, one of the judges was out sick--and the vote was a tie. I mean, two judges each in the studio, AND the call-in voting from around the country was dead even, too. They did a recount, and came up with a tie. It became this national feud--you were either for Nikto, or you were for Barada. There was a no-ties-allowed clause in the Idol contract, and the show couldn't figure out how to break the tie."

Grampa let out a huge sigh. "Lots of people wanted to give it to Barada. He was this black kid from the East Coast, single father with a cute little kid at home. But just as many thought that Nikto should win, because she was an Asian from California. The feud went on long enough that the government decided to step in."

"It was a TV show, Grampa. What does the government have to do with TV?"

"Good point, and you already understand. See, there was this one Senator who was running for election that year. In one of his speeches, he said something about 'passing a law that gives the Idol win to Barada, where it should be.' As he was getting ready to leave, his microphone was turned back on accidentally, and the audience heard him mumble something about "bumpkins and rubes" under his breath. People started talking, and before you knew it, someone had posted to Youtube where he had given the same speech the day before--rooting for Nikto!"

"He didn't care what the people really wanted?"

"That's right. Government doesn't care what people want. The people in government just want more power." Grampa sat back in his chair with a smile. "Anyway, that was the spark. People who normally sat around watching TV suddenly sat up and realized that their government didn't care a whit about what they wanted, or thought, or needed. Enough people finally woke up. The government tried to quiet things down, but they didn't understand what they were dealing with. They still thought they were dealing with a National Idol feud, and tried to get the two into the Supreme Court to settle things. But that only made things worse, because a hundred thousand protestors gathered outside complaining about how the government was trying to meddle with things they shouldn't. And once enough people realized that that's all government does, well, everyone sorta...quit listening to the government. There were...riots. The government tried to call out the military, but a bunch of the soldiers agreed with the people and not the government.

"Finally, things started quieting down when a new president was in charge. He at least understood what the people were upset about, and he set out to repeal a bunch of the laws that had everyone mad. And when enough people called for a new Constitutional Convention, we got a new government. One Senator per state, one representative per 10 million people, only specific things the government can pass laws about, and any law can be vetoed by a national referendum vote among the people."

"My instructor says this will only hold back the government for a few years, they'll find ways around it."

Grampa chuckled. "You've got a good teacher. Yes, governments always find ways around their limits."

"So...what happened to Barada and Nikto?"

"They agreed to split the difference. Barada took the official win and the prize money, Nikto got the recording contract, they both retired with more money than they could ever spend."

"Thanks, Grampa! I think I've got everything I need now."
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