Mike and Gabe moseyed into a bar, their favorite watering hole, just over the county line. It was mid-afternoon on a hot Alabama August day. They were beat from framing houses since sun-up. No sooner had they sat down at a table than Eileen, the waitress, brought two glasses and a pitcher of beer. As was her custom with the first pitcher, she filled their glasses; as was theirs, they stared lustfully at her cleavage as she poured. And before marching back to the bar, hips in provocative sway, Eileen pleasantly admonished, “Now don’t y’all be drinkin’ like no sissies.” They raised their foamy glasses toward her, Mike pronouncing, “God Bless America!”
As they swilled down that first cold glass of beer, the heat and humidity that had oppressed them all day began to fade. Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down intoned from the jukebox. Gabe sat back in his chair, folded his arms and closed his eyes. His head moved slowly from side to side as he hummed the tune. At the first refrain, he quietly sang along: “There ain’t nothing short of dyin’, half as lonesome as the sound, on the sleepin’ city sidewalks, Sunday mornin’ comin’ down.” Leaning forward, he reached for the pitcher and wistfully spoke, “That song has a powerful message.”
Mike sensed trouble. After a single beer, Gabe appeared to be sinking into one of his melancholy moods. With a few hours to kill, he wondered how obnoxious Gabe would become by the time they had to leave. “You ignorant redneck, you only know those two lines. How could you know what the song means?”
“You know how many Saturday nights I got hammered,” protested Gabe. “Don’t you think some of those Sunday mornings reminded me of how much of my life I pissed away? My life used to be good. Life was good. I had plans. But they’re disappearing, just like the dreams in the song. Nowadays, dreams are for fools. I don’t have the time to have ‘em or the money to pay for ‘em.”
Mike was impressed. “Well, join the club! We’ve all made mistakes – some pretty big. But you fix ‘em and move on. The problem is that we spend most of every day bustin’ our asses trying to build our company and by the time we’re done paying the bills, there’s but enough left for the future to make you think you might have one. It’s involuntary servitude.”
Gabe gulped down the rest of his beer while prying a damp, flattened pack of cigarettes from his back pocket. “It’s worse than that. The whole country’s going down the toilet. There’s too many people and too many rules and I hate ‘em all. Look at NASCAR. You been to Talladega lately? You can hardly get in, what with all the yuppies and metrosexuals and such. They don’t appreciate racin’. They swarm in because Madison Avenue told ‘em and we gotta pay jacked up ticket prices – if we can get ‘em at all. And what’s with the racing equality crap - all the cars runnin’ the same engine?”
Eileen suddenly appeared and, leaning over their almost empty pitcher, interjected, “Y’all heard of social justice and economic justice. Well hon, now we gotta deal with automotive justice. Everybody’s gotta be the same. Uniformity’s the new individualism.”
Gabe let out a loud laugh. “You got that right. People are fallin’ over themselves to be the same. Hell, everyday I see Southerners turnin’ into Northerners. Anyways, it ain’t racin’ and it ain’t the South.”
Mike felt a growing uneasiness. At first, he thought it was concern for Gabe’s depression or the veracity of his speculations. But it became eerie and as Eileen sauntered off to refill their pitcher, Always Look On the Bright Side of Life began to play. “What the hell song is this,” blurted Gabe. But Mike’s attention was elsewhere. He was searching the bar for someone he didn’t know, but for whom he knew he would somehow recognize. Then, half way through his scan, he noticed a figure sitting alone at a booth in the back directly under a tattered “Roll Tide” chandelier. It was Jesus Christ.
Gabe began blaming Mike for playing the song. Returning to their conversation, Mike rebuffed, claiming that he didn’t even know it was a jukebox choice. That’s when Jesus walked over, pulled up a chair, and introduced himself.
Gabe was surprised, but acted nonchalant as Mike said to Jesus, “I thought that was you, appearing out of thin air and all.” Jesus denied a miraculous entrance. “No, I snuck in from the kitchen.” Gabe chortled irreverently that Jesus was probably back there turning water into beer. Jesus said, “You’re a funny guy, Gabe. I’m pleased to lift your spirits. You seemed downright morose about the way your life is going.” When Gabe incredulously asked about his rant being heard from the back, Mike leered and pointed toward Jesus. “He’s Jesus you moron, and I bet he played that corny song too.” Jesus laughed and raised his glass to Mike.
Mike sat back in his chair. “You know, when I saw you over there, I knew right away it was you. But you aren’t anything like what I expected. “I get that a lot,” said Jesus, as he lit a cigarette, adding, “You’d be surprised at some of the wild ideas people have about me.”
Gabe said, “Right now, the only wild idea I have about you is you being here.” Jesus replied, “Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world. I’m just passing through. I’ve got some tyranny problems to deal with, but they’re mostly in other places.”
Mike asked, “Why are you worried about tyranny?”
Jesus said, “It’s clear that you are already feeling the pressures of too many people and too many rules. But do you see what’s really happening?”
Mike replied, “I’m not sure. We were talking about how we’re being transformed into compliant serfs. And I think Gabe was about to launch into a discourse on over-population and how it’s led to the dehumanizing over-organization predicted by Aldous Huxley back in the 1950s.”
Jesus responded, “You are on the right track. As humankind spreads like a menacing virus, tyrants are stepping in to do much evil. To control the masses, they reduce human diversity to subhuman uniformity. They replace freedom with servitude and require a blind willingness to subordinate the desires of the individual to the needs of the state.
Gabe said, “All I can tell you is that there’s too many people around here for me. And I can’t stand most of them – even some of the ones I like. I guess I’m a lot like my granddaddy. He didn’t do well with crowds – wouldn’t even go into a city. He only liked a few people and only then, in small doses. He’d hate today’s traffic and the crime and pollution and such. He’d pop a gasket if he found out you needed a license to hunt or fish and a permit to build your home. But if over-population is fixin’ to be such a big problem, how come I never hear about it in the news?”
“Fixin’ to be?” Jesus exclaimed. “When I was born, world population was 250 million. When your country was born, almost 18 centuries later, it had reached only 700 million. Earlier today, I stopped in to see the Saturn V rocket. It was made right here in Alabama and powered the first moon landing. On that great day, in 1969, not even two centuries after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, it had grown to over 3.6 billion. Today, merely 40 years later, it’s almost 7 billion.”
“But improvements in things like agriculture and medicine can handle it,” said Mike.
Jesus replied, “True. You have discovered wonderful science able to support such masses. But most of the world dwells in congested squalor and brutal oppression. There, life is cheap and immoral leaders use men as fodder to achieve narcissistic ends. Inhabitants toil, starve, and bleed for tyrants. There, science is not a sturdy pillar that fortifies and enhances life. Instead, tyrants build rickety props of subsistence that degrade life. Those who argue that life in these populous regions is sustainable dismiss the incessant insults to dignity and spirit that are endured there.
But beware; such burgeoning numbers have long exceeded the threshold where tyrants enter. In lands where nourishment and shelter are in surplus, life can be equally dismal.”
Gabe said, “Hell Jesus, it sounds like the end of the world to me. And it sounds like you’re bullshittin’ us about being here.”
Jesus said, “I’m here because I love America.”
Eileen, checking their pitcher, quipped. “If you weren’t Jesus hon, I’d be rollin’ on the floor.”
Jesus replied, “Seriously, I always try to visit America when I’m here. America is where the most elegant plan to end tyranny was designed. It didn’t last very long, but it has inspired me immensely since the days of the American Revolution.
The founding of America was a miracle - a two-part miracle. The most brilliant and insightful men Earth had to offer came to live at the same place and time. They formed a government, like no other, that granted freedom to individuals based on inalienable rights endowed by their Creator, not artificial rights meted out by government. That made my father proud. Instead of enumerating laws to enforce mass behavior, they enumerated rights giving individuals the freedom to choose their worldly destinies. That made me proud. I died - in agony, I might add - to give men the freedom to choose their spiritual destinies.”
Gabe looked up quizzically at Eileen, still standing at their table. She whispered, “I’m just waitin’ on Jesus. Ain’t he the talker?” Jesus smiled humbly and finished his beer. Returning his smile, she emptied the pitcher into Jesus’ glass and politely asked who would be paying for the round.
Gabe turned to Mike, and then to Jesus. Jesus shrugged. “Don’t look at me.”
Mike laughed and, as he pulled out his wallet, looked at Jesus. “What about the second part?”
Jesus resumed, “The character of the people. They were true individuals, with a profound desire for liberty. Not satisfied with simply removing British tyranny, they wanted freedom to run their lives the way individuals saw fit. Your founding fathers, as magnificent as they were, would have failed in their efforts absent this brave and defiant lot who risked all in their battle against the most powerful empire the world had ever known. They were superb, superbly unique. No other people in the world could have succeeded as they did.”
While Jesus spoke, Eileen returned with a refill. As she placed it on the table The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down started playing. She leaned to Mike’s ear and whispered a bet: when Gabe hears the line ‘You can't raise a Caine back up when he's in defeat’ his eyes will well up with tears. Mike accepted, wagering that Gabe wouldn’t make it to ‘But they should never have taken the very best.’ Then he sneered at Gabe, shaking his head, as if to indicate that not even Jesus could prevent what he knew the song would provoke Gabe to say.
Gabe sat up straight with his elbows on the table, fist in hand, forming a tabernacle for his glass of beer. He looked around slowly, from left to right, exhaling smoke from his haggard cigarette. He turned back, fixing his eyes on Jesus. “You said the America created by our founders didn’t last long. Well I know exactly when it stopped lasting – when that tyrant son-of-a-bitch Lincoln turned Grant and Sherman and Sheridan and all those other sons-of-bitches loose on the South.
It was only supposed to go a few months. The Yankees had twice the soldiers and ten times the money. They manufactured almost everything the Confederacy needed to fight. So why’d it take four years? I’ll tell you why. It was the rebel soldiers. They were tough and dedicated. And I’ll tell you what else. It wasn’t because they were fightin’ for slavery. Them boys didn’t own slaves. Hell, most of ‘em were in the same boat as slaves. Who’d fight for four years against those kinds of odds just so a handful of rich, damn planters could keep their slaves?
The Emancipation Proclamation was a farce. Lincoln put it out just to disrupt the South. Some say he wasn’t even an Abolitionist. If he was, why didn’t he do it in 1860? The Gettysburg Address was a farce too – and an insult to the rebel soldiers.”
Just then a bald, portly man at the next table cleared his throat melodramatically. He was wearing an earring, a ponytail and a New York Yankees jersey. The redness of his jowls above the Navy blue jersey accentuated the size of his head and the temerity of his interruption. “Aren’t you getting a little carried away? I agree that if Lincoln was the devout abolitionist history makes him out to be, it’s a little odd that he didn’t free the slaves as soon as he was elected – at least in the North. But the Gettysburg Address? How could a two minute dedication of a cemetery be an insult to the very soldiers it commemorated?”
Gabe shot back, “Lincoln honored Union soldiers for their sacrifice in fighting for self determination. Well don’t you think he had it ass-backwards?”
The man in the Yankees jersey picked up his glass declaring, “H.L. Mencken once said, ‘A professor must have a theory as a dog must have fleas.’” He sipped his beer and added, “The Gettysburg Address is one of the greatest speeches in American history. Lincoln couldn’t have had too much backwards.”
Gabe turned to Jesus. “You’re the one started talkin’ about tyranny. How about a little help?”
Jesus held his glass in both hands, drawing it to his lap, and, with his legs, tilted back in his chair to a precarious angle. “Well, in describing Lincoln’s address, your Mencken also said:
‘It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in the battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of people to govern themselves. The Confederates went into the battle free; they came out with their freedom subject to the supervision of the rest of the country.’"
Gabe blurted, “Thank you Jesus.” Mike and Eileen laughed at his dissonant benediction. Then they looked at Gabe’s eyes as “But they should never have taken the very best” rang out. A glistening track down his cheek was already visible. Mike had won the bet.
Purposely ignoring the tears, Gabe added, “People whine about collateral damage in the war on terrorism. Hell, it was intentional with Lincoln. Everybody’s heard of Sherman’s march to the sea. Well, Lincoln’s brutality wasn’t limited to Georgia and South Carolina. He pillaged and plundered through Virginia, Mississippi and Tennessee too. The son-of-bitch burned whole towns, undefended, to the ground. Collateral my ass; it was ‘Shock ‘n Awe’ on civilians.” Mike and Eileen stopped laughing; the man in the Yankees jersey quietly set his glass down.
Jesus broke the silence. “Yet when the war was over, you moved on. It was difficult, but the nation survived. What other people could have done that? There are Muslims still killing each other over a dispute that originated 1400 years ago.”
Mike said, “That always amazed me, especially after what the North did to the South. But preserving the union destroyed the Republic.”
Jesus swilled down his beer and lit a cigarette. “Technically, yes. The act of denying secession destroyed the original Republic. The Constitution was designed to check the abuse of power, with secession as the ultimate check on abuse by the federal government. Lincoln’s disregard for the Constitution destroyed that and set the stage for future tyranny.”
Mike sipped his beer and looked back to Jesus. “With Lincoln, states began losing their sovereignty and power began moving to the federal government. But by future tyranny, do you mean the decline of free market capitalism, the rise of big business and the emergence of leaders more tyrannical than Lincoln?”
Gabe interjected, “You bet! Lincoln started us down the path, through the likes of Woodrow Wilson and FDR, to the fix we’re in today: a system where the political elite, big business and an oligarchy of self-appointed experts run our lives. It’s a cartel of the elite – the Cartelite.”
Jesus chortled approvingly, “The Cartelite. I like that. Nice ring. The Cartelite.”
Suddenly Ants Marching began to play. Gabe abruptly sat up from a slouch as if cued by the music. “I’m still troubled at you bein’ here. Is there somethin’ you ain’t tellin’ us?”
Jesus started to explain. “Tyranny typically resides where political and economic power is highly centralized. In many societies, there is a 1984-style tyranny where despots enforce compliance and control behavior through punishment.”
Mike abruptly said, “You’re talking about tyrants like Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Ho-Chi Minh, Pol Pot, and so forth. They killed over a 100 million of there own people and subjected the rest to miserable lives in failed state-run economies. With that kind of track record, there can’t be many despots out there planning to try Socialism - again.
Jesus stared coldly at Mike. “Don’t interrupt me. I’m Jesus, for Christ sakes.” He continued his stare, letting Mike squirm in his impulsiveness. Then he slapped the table and laughed heartily.
As Gabe watched Jesus laughing, he thought he had discovered the answer to his own question. “In places like China, there’s no free will. They’re like ants or bees. It’s the termite-like society of Brave New World where freedom is service to the termitary. In places like Europe, people are sheep and freedom is an illusion. But these places are over-populated. We’re not, yet. So you came to warn us about over-population – about being transformed into sheep, then ants. Right?”
Jesus said, “Look, America remains the last bastion of hope. But the tyranny festering here is insidious. It is a subtle despotism in which freedom is stolen gradually. The self-reliance your Emerson celebrated is being eroded by the Cartelite. Where Americans once relied on themselves, they now rely on the Cartelite, with alacrity, through its intricate social engineering policies.
Mike was amused by the synchronicity of the music with the conversation as he listened to the lines ‘And all the little ants are marching, red and black antennas waving, They all do it the same...’ “Don’t worry. If it involves government doing any kind of engineering, it’s doomed to failure. Even ants are smarter than our government.”
Jesus said, “Regardless of their intelligence, those attracted to government crave power. They are not deterred by failure. They use the wealth of others and suffer no consequence when they fail. The possession of power is all that matters. They are driven by an irrepressible urge to rule.”
Gabe proclaimed, “You got that right. Government is supposed to keep the peace and protect our rights. But the people runnin’ our country are rulers. They’re using government to impose social justice. They’re using my money to save me from myself. We got a politically correct army of tree-huggers, global warmers, and health ‘n safety nuts runnin’ our lives.” He sipped his beer and scoffed. “They think they’re our damn bosses, but they screw up most everything they try.”
Jesus said, “The evil in the laws of incompetent rulers is undeniable. The greater evil, however, lies in their making decisions for you. Free will demands that an individual think for himself and make his own decisions. Who is more ignorant, those who enact a bad law or those who follow it? Obedience to any law that one could not discover on his own weakens the individual.”
Gabe slobbered, “I ain’t weak and I ain’t ignorant. Besides, the Feds leave us alone down here.”
Jesus said, “Well I don’t know about that, but the guy wearing the Yankee jersey is a city councilman. He is working behind the scenes to ban snacks in schools, diving boards on swimming pools, and smoking in public. The police in the parking lot across the street have an Intoxilyzer 8000 in the back seat of their patrol car. There are surveillance cameras on the traffic signals at the intersection outside and the city plans to install them everywhere from schools to shopping malls. The Housing Authority is buying buildings all over town, evicting tenants who make too much money. These deeds are coerced by grants from Washington. And, by the way, your local taxes are going up next year to pay for numerous unfunded mandates.”
Eileen, who had arrived with another pitcher, interrupted. “Jesus, Jesus! You’re making me feel about as weak and ignorant as I could be. I thought you said we weren’t like ants and sheep.”
“Man is not the social animal he is said to be,” explained Jesus. “He’s social in the gregarious sense, not in the sense of cultural uniformity, where monitoring and control of behavior is desirable. He evolved as a tribal animal, in packs, not herds. He is genetically predisposed to be responsible for himself and his family first, then his tribe. Allegiance to the state comes last. In all this, he is innately prone to altruism, but he is also aggressive, territorial and self-reliant. It is how man was intended to be. And, in most of America, it is how man is.”
Eileen listened intently to the surreal customer. Her inquisitive expression changed, finally, to delight as he completed his statement, and she quibbled, “I like the last part – that most Americans ain’t like ants and sheep. But it sounds like you’re talkin’ Darwinism. The scriptures say your father up an’ plopped us down here 6000 years ago. So ain’t it blasphemous to believe in evolution?”
Jesus said, “Evolution is a natural process. It is a monumental struggle in which nature is neither kind nor fair. But through millions of years of inheriting small genetic improvements, the most marvelous species have been created. That such a simple, autonomous process could accomplish so much is exquisite. On the contrary, evolution is one of my father’s most brilliant ideas.”
Eileen queried, “Ain’t all his ideas brilliant?”
Jesus said, “Not all of them. As you might guess, I had my doubts about his Crucifixion idea. And the “Go forth and multiply” idea has been received with too much enthusiasm by the very people who can least afford to, well, multiply. I don’t think he thought that all the way through.”
Gabe chuckled, then muttered, “I’m not too fond of your ‘Burn in Hell for eternity’ idea.”
Jesus replied sternly. “Don’t put words into my mouth. What you know about Hell originated from the likes of Dante, Milton and Medieval pew fillers – licentious authors writing, long after my death, of a concept absent from my teachings when I was alive.”
Mike looked at Jesus, timidly, as if requesting permission to speak. “You’re saying that God designed evolution – that he plays no intelligent role guiding mutation and selection? He’s not the one editing our DNA along the way to becoming his special creatures?”
Jesus said, “Don’t you think that it is singularly more elegant to design an automatic process rather than one the designer would have to monkey with – pardon the pun – whenever a new, beneficial trait was needed? “
Jesus, pausing while Mike swallowed his beer, continued, “Look, my father went to great lengths to ensure that every man is unique. Genetically, no two men are the same. And every man has free will. Evolution is the process in which the purposes, goals and behaviors chosen by man are hereditable adaptations. Even your morality evolved as instinct. You instinctively know what is good and what is evil. It is how I communicate with you – through your conscience, on an individual, persuasive basis. Cartelite communication is neither individual nor persuasive. It communicates coercively, to all, through commands for which there is no choice but to obey.”
Gabe said, “So free will is a big ol’ obstacle to the Cartelite. It don’t trust individuals to make their own choices. Since we’re all different, we’re unequal. We make different choices – some better than others. The ones that work get adopted out of self-interest – just like evolution; just like capitalism. With one-size-fits-all rules, our only option is obedience, that and hoping they got it right. It’s why the Cartelite doesn’t want people thinkin’ and decidin’ for themselves.”
Mike snickered. “Is you not wearing a motorcycle helmet or seatbelts thinking and deciding for yourself? Is that why you don’t use the blade guard on the radial saw.”
Gabe replied, “Yep, and it’s why I got rid of those low-flow aerators in my showerheads and the dead man switch on my lawnmower. And while you’re gettin’ frisked at the airport before they herd you on your flying cattle car, I’m drivin’ or I ain’t going at all. It’s me exersizin’ my free will. At least I’m not blindly acceptin’ every lame law that comes down the pike – like everyone else seems to be.”
Mike said, “You just hit on the heart of the matter. Nowadays, people want the laws. If there’s a problem, next thing you know, it’s a public issue. If it’s a public issue, next thing you know, we have a new program. Most people want all the help they can get from government.”
Gabe replied, “Well, I may be a dumb-ass redneck, but you’ll never catch me huddled in the Superdome or sittin’ on my roof waitin’ for government help.”
Jesus spoke up, “That free will in America is on the decline should be regrettable to all. If it were only the erosion of free will, freedom could be easily restored. That the desire for freedom is on the decline should be abhorrent to all.” He lit a cigarette and lamented, “It is to me.”
Mike detected the sorrow in Jesus’ voice. “Now you’re scaring me. But I can’t disagree. Social engineers are working overtime to make government the sole provider of everything. And I see more and more people happy to have government do it – happy to trade a little freedom for the freebies. But why do you care? “
Jesus said, “The Cartelite is stealing my business.”
Gabe said, “Now we’re gettin’ down to it – the blind servitude market. You want it, but the Cartelite’s gettin’ the pig’s share. How’s that different from socialism, communism or fascism?”
A detached coolness crept through the bar, chafing the backs of their necks. Jesus became peaceful in the dimness. Sympathy For the Devil began to play. Then, appearing to be captured by a more urgent thought, Jesus suddenly pronounced, “Great tune. I’m in this song, you know.”
As Gabe gazed at Jesus, he noticed a slight, furtive smile as ‘Stole many a man's soul and faith’ ended the first verse. He turned to Mike. “I think he’s gettin’ hammered. He’s teeterin’ a bit and lookin’ a little strange. And I think he’s forgotten what we’ve been talkin’ about.”
“Don’t look at me,” said Mike. “I’m not saying anything to him. Besides, it’s fun listening to him babble. Next thing you know, he’ll be speaking in tongues.”
Jesus lifted his head. “You know I’m sitting right here, … you blasphemous sons-of-bitches.” He put out his cigarette and sipped his beer. Momentarily he continued, “Both the Cartelite and religions want your complete servitude and your unquestioning faith in their authority. But the Cartelite wants to take your free will too. Religions want you to have free will. Without it, you could blame God for your evil. Your free will gets them off the hook.”
“We’re getting a little buzzed ourselves,” Gabe said meekly, offering an excuse he hoped would pass as atonement for their transgression. Then Gabe said, “Let me see if I got this straight. You’re sayin’ over-population leads to over-organization, over-organization leads to suppression of freedom and it’s the Cartelite doin’ all the suppressin’ – the Cartelite is worse than religion.”
Jesus said, “Yes, the goals of the Cartelite are achievable only if free will is relinquished. Its rulers distrust the common man and fear the human spirit. Beware of the suppression that nudges you one way, your freedoms the other. Beware of the subordination expressed in the rules of the tyrants.”
Mike chortled, “Hell yes. Jews and Christians only have ten commandments. Muslims have fifty or sixty or so. According to the Federal Register, the Cartelite has over 75,000 pages of them and that’s just what they came up with this year. I’d say individual freedom has seen better days.”
Gabe joined in Mike’s chortle. But their levity changed to chagrin as the line ‘And I was 'round when Jesus Christ had his moment of doubt and pain’ eerily played. But Jesus pronounced, “The song is about Lucifer, not me.”
Relieved, Mike said, “Yeh. It’s about his beguiling nature, how he confuses us. He’s like politicians. You never know what they’re really saying. It’s all doublespeak and lies.”
Gabe said, “What do ya expect? Most of ‘em are damn lawyers. I think Jesus is saying that the Cartelite is the devil – the men of ‘wealth and taste’ stealin’ our ‘soul and faith.’ They’re beguiling tyrants trickin’ us out of our free will – and everything else.”
Eileen suddenly appeared with a full pitcher of beer and an empty glass. “My shift’s over, but I’m going to have a couple of beers with y’all and listen to the yammerin’ for a bit before I go home.”
Jesus raised his glass to Eileen, and then looked back to Gabe. “In the land of the rugged individual, individual freedom is being deceitfully removed. Inalienable rights that ensure freedom are being replaced by a heinous assortment of enfeebling privileges - conditional dependencies granted by the Cartelite that ensure subordination. The freedom to choose your pursuits, to choose your dreams, to choose between good and evil, is limited to the choices offered by the Cartelite. As I speak, you are becoming needy juveniles, shepherded to mediocrity, scolded for aggressiveness and ambition, hailed for timidity and dependence. Soon you will be slaves.”
Mike replied, “That’s quite a stretch. Serfdom maybe, but I don’t see slavery coming.”
Eileen scolded, “For Christ sakes Michael, he’s a damn prophet.”
Jesus smiled at Eileen and continued. “Don’t miscalculate the guile of the Cartelite. Under the disguise of fairness, your morality is being replaced by haughty laws, merit by entitlement. Under the disguise of equality, great men are stifled, strong men ridiculed. Deceived by silly policies promising salvation, humans are becoming standardized. Thinkers are drowning in the swirling eddies of mindless rules as the compliant masses look down, with contempt, from the dull safety of orderly vessels provided by the Cartelite. Under Cartelite rulers, you are being conditioned to behave as predictably as machines. Is this not the path to slavery?”
“It sure as Hell looks like it to me,” said Eileen. “Our founding fathers took power away from government – gave more power to us dummies. All other countries, before and since, gave more power to government. We prospered; they declined. We gained freedom; they lost it. Less power in government made our country freer and more powerful. See the beauty in that? So why are we throwin’ that idea away? It’s the dumbest damned thing I’ve ever seen.”
Led by Jesus, Mike and Gabe stood and cheered. Even the guy in the Yankee jersey seemed to approve. As they sat down, Jesus turned to Mike. “The Cartelite was a seed that germinated during the Civil War - spreading by WWI; sprawling by WWII. It is now a ubiquitous, entangling vine whose voracious roots deplete your rights and whose opaque foliage darkens your lives. What force can reverse the advance of this smothering juggernaut of tyranny?”
Mike said, “I used think it was money – as in the juggernaut would stop rolling when they run out of it. But there seems to be no limit on what the Cartelite can spend. So now I’m betting on nature! There is a limit to the insults human nature can tolerate. The Cartelite wants us to be uniform, but nature wants us to be different. It’s how Americans are designed. At some point, we’ll rebel against subservience and uniformity. We’ll have another revolution.”
Gabe said, “It just might work. The Cartelite’s grandiose plans for an over-organized, Utopian world underestimate our intelligence and the stubbornness of our hereditary idiosyncrasies.”
Mike picked up his beer, adding, “The Cartelite needs big government and big business. The average man instinctively fears them. But they are pushing us too far. They think they’re subtle – that we don’t notice – but our instincts know. The Cartelite tells us that what they do is for the common good, but we’re not common.”
Gabe picked up his. “I’ll tell you what’s common. It’s common ground and there ain’t enough of it to prevent a revolution.“
Eileen laughed and chugged down her beer. “It’s runnin’ late. I think this is a good time to wrap it up. So y’all put Revolution on your to-do lists and let’s do this again real soon.”
Jesus said, “Yes, I’ve got to get going. I have a lot to do. We all have.”
Mike boasted, “Like my namesake, I’ll lead the fight,” with Gabe adding, “And like mine, I’ll get out the message.”
For a moment they sat quietly, as old friends struggling to depart. Belatedly, they stood at once. Jesus, Mike and Gabe finished their beers. They shook hands exuberantly. When Jesus extended his hand to Eileen, she pulled him into an affectionate hug. As they walked to the door, Jesus said, “Your company brought me great joy. Y’all weren’t as dumb as I had been led to believe.” The others patiently waited for his laugh. After the outburst finally came, Jesus offered praise. “It was a magnificent discussion and I was delighted by your thinking.”
“The pleasure’s ours,” replied Mike. “And I think we all agree you aren’t what we’ve been led to believe either. You’re quite a character. I liked your sense of humor – quirky as all get out – but you sure as Hell know freedom and tyranny. I guess we need to do a lot more thinking for ourselves.”
Gabe added, “You turned out to be a good ol’ boy, but I’m still troubled ‘bout you being here.”
Eileen chimed in, “Yeh, and good luck with the damned tyrants. I hate those sons-of-bitches.”
Jesus laughed and gave Eileen another hug. “And I appreciate that y’all didn’t tell me any Jesus jokes or ask me to perform miracles. You didn’t even ask me to prove my identity.” He pushed open the front door. The setting sun illuminated the room with a reddish glow. As he crossed the threshold, he looked back over his shoulder. “I may have been Lucifer.”