Chapter Forty One VI
Man can do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills.
Inside any agency, whether the CIA, Secret Service or FBI (and whatever else is covered by the tattered, leaky umbrella called Homeland Security, like those friendly TSA agents who body search old ladies and children, or leave notes in your checked bags after they’ve fondled your stuff, or just pilfer your stuff and don’t leave a note…how would you know?There are, allegedly, super secret operations, the usual ‘work of fiction’ covert, overt and pervert agents for whom no one took responsibility, black ops in the military, the under, under, under cover intelligence.
You know, book and movie crap.
That fact is, the adage still applies; two people can keep a secret if one of them is dead and didn’t log on to anything, ever. Hold your breath and count to one million if you think your life is private. Hell, someone spilled the beans on Osama. It took too long, the Pakistanis apparently couldn’t read his name on the mailbox, but the military eventually popped his ass, and now Osama sleeps with the fishes.
Janah makes inquiries about Jackson, Friedrich and Smithson, Joséph. Via the Society hotline, she soon knows who, what, when, where and why.
She doesn’t waste time, calls Joséph Smithson, the lead agent running Vladimir.
The phone scrambles her voice, she sounds like one of those female robots you get when you try and find a living person at your cable company, “Smithson, you and Jackson have been handlers for a Russian named Vladimir.”
Joséph, “Who is this? How did you get this number? And, for the record, half of Russian males are Vladimir.”
“The Vladimir who sold children through a former gang called 57th St. Delivery. You will be familiar with their decimation from recent news reports. I’ll cut to the chase. You and your butt boy Jackson let this prick run wild in exchange for what you thought were secrets. He gives you a few names of former Soviet contacts, bullshits you about their activities, who supports the former Communist regime, terrorist babbling, the usual suspects. You fed him crappy intelligence in order, you think, to mislead his contacts about the US interference in governments overseas.”
Joséph , “You don’t know what you’re talking about and I sure as hell don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s cool. We get calls from whackos all the time, have a nice day,” he starts to hang up.
“Hang up and I go public with names, names like,” she reads off a series of Vladimir’s alleged contacts and the specifics of misdirected information Smithson had given Vladimir.
“Presuming any of this is true, and it isn’t, what do you think I’m going to do?”
“You know it’s true, want to know your history, from birth until today? How about the kiddie porn your boy Jackson keeps on his home computer? He thinks it’s encrypted, want a few of the photos, or a video? There’s one with a six year old girl and her mom doing the unspeakable.”
“You have my attention, for one minute.”
Janah, “I have your attention as long as I need it, dope. You are two years from retirement, you have a wife and two kids, both male. One is a lawyer, the other in college studying drugs and men’s assholes. His own collection of male porn is as extensive as I’ve come across, I can e-mail samples to you at work. Then they will be on your computer too.”
“Look, clearly there is some misunderstanding.”
“Not for long, unless of course, you would like to meet and chat. As opposed to me giving all this to the New York Times. You have ten seconds to decide, one…two…three,” she makes it to seven.
“When and where?”
“Fifteen minutes,” she gives him an address on Mott St. in Chinatown. His job cover is assistant to the US representative to the UN. He’s in the building now, fifteen minutes to Chinatown is a short time frame. Not allowing for much in the way of him gathering resources to take action under the guise of ‘terrorist threat.’
Naturally he would try, but given our resources in Chinatown, he will fail.
“If anyone but you shows, if I get a mild headache, or a rash, I’m going straight to the Times. You will be a favorite of talking heads across every sort of media, except Fox, which can be anticipated to try and varnish or ignore the story. Meter’s running,” she hangs up. He has her cell number, a no name phone. She crushes it, pitches the pieces in a drain near NYU.
Janah and I return to the apartment. Joe is going to meet Chan and an unseen constituency of Shaolin monks. One of whom is now following him as he climbs into a waiting car. He makes his first mistake, and it only takes him one minute. What a putz.
Joe exits the vehicle (that’s cop talk, so it sounds properly procedural) on Mott, the driver peels away from the curb, can only go left. At the next intersection, there’s a sit-in of pacifist Buddhists, one of which punches a hole in the driver’s side window, clocks the driver and pulls him from the car. He’s unconscious before he hears the sound of the window shattering. A needle sinks in his arm, he’ll remain unconscious for a couple of hours and find himself in Battery Park, lying on a bench, with no ID, phone or shoes.
Joe assumes his wire will pick up any conversation, and that his driver would make the emergency threat calls if he gives the code phrase, ‘bring everyone.’
A door opens, Joe walks in, a black cloth covers over his head. After a frisk, no weapon, he gets a ride up the service elevator, is seated in a dark room. Joe has a dilemma. If he uses the phrase, he would unleash a squad of personnel in an attempt to free him. He also risks the threat of exposure, and various photographic exposures, being sent to the media. Joe doesn’t care about his junior agent, he could suffer the consequences of his kiddie porn collection if it existed. He does care about his affiliation with the now notorious Vladimir and his son’s interest in naked men. He knows his son is gay, being gay is no longer a security threat. It’s just embarrassing, to him, his son doesn’t give a damn. Joe’s experience is his son doesn’t give a damn about much except partying and penises.
The bag comes off, a door closes and he is alone. Lights, camera, action. A slide show begins on a computer screen in front of him that runs for five minutes. First, shots of 57th St. Delivery, delivering drugs and children. Then a series of allegedly secret documents referring to various agency contacts with their double agent, photo of Vladdie included. Agency contacts are restricted to Joe and Friedrich, whose names inconveniently appear on the file. Joe is smart enough to recognize his own reports, and smart enough to realize his boss and his boss would recognize them as well.
A voice, machine quality, like a Terminator, “Seen enough? You can answer, I can hear you.”
“I’ve seen some hoked up reports.”
“They are accurate and you know they are accurate.”
Joe, “For the sake of argument, what do you expect me to do?”
“Nothing. You will be taken to an airport, flown to Afghanistan and left in the mountains. Taliban controlled dirt. If you manage to escape alive, congratulations. You will not return to the US, you will never work for any government in any capacity. You will never see your family, nor communicate with them in any way. The likelihood of your continued existence is under one percent, as the Taliban will be informed a lone US agent has been dropped into their territory to gather intelligence. They will be told where and when. You will be in possession of video recording their activities, and lots of high res photos. They will find you with this material because you will have unfortunately fallen and have a badly broken leg. Since the military killed Osama Bin Laden, you’re likely to be less than warmly welcomed. You will have a handgun, with a single shot. Do what you need to do.”
“You can’t do that! I’d rather take my chances with the press. Fuck this! I’m going to bring everyone, got that? Bring everyone!”
“That’s not an option. The press jive was to get you here rather than swipe you off the street. Your driver has been disabled. The wire you wear is signaling nobody. The room you are in scrambles signals marvelously. Right now, if anyone picked it up, you’d be in New Jersey at a strip club.”
The lights go out, door opens, needle in the neck, Joe leaves the planet. When he wakes up, he’ll have a broken leg, he can either meet new friends or pull the trigger on himself. We want him to have options.
Friedrich is simply disappeared for a bit. No free plane trip to the heart of the Afghani mountains, no broken leg, no choices.
He’s found in a seedy hotel room, his laptop full of child porn, records of his conversations with Vladimir and his boss, Joe Smithson. The NYPD would investigate, get bumped by the Feds who will try to make the problem disappear. That’s not in the cards. Within a week, the entire story of the agents, Vladdie, 57th St. and many of their regular customers hits the front page of the New York Times. ‘No comment’ is the phrase of the week, mouthed by every politician, federal agent, and lawyers for the child buyers. The noise dies down, ‘rogue’ agents are blamed for letting Vladimir get away with drug selling and child sexual abuse. Those lies are countered by a stream of fresh evidence. Eventually, there are the usual round of Congressional hearings. Heads roll, lying replacement heads roll in to take their place.
Chapter Forty Two VI
You’re never in a crappy mood,
You always buy organic food,
Your family is smart and nice,
You always give me good advice,
Yet every time that we converse,
I always feel a little worse.
(Why is that, I wonder?)
Special Cards for Special Friends
From: Theories of Everything, Roz Chast
Years earlier, Janah and I discovered we have unique genes. Our telomeres don't shorten , telomeres are caps on the end of strands of DNA inside chromosomes. Shortened chromosomes have been linked to age related diseases like heart disease and some cancers. We produce more telomerase, which is the enzyme that repairs telomeres. We have more active Sir2 genes, which stabilize rDNA, which without the Sir2 genes is typically unstable. It's only a partial explanation, particularly as it appears to have spread to biologically unrelated people. We don't know much more, just that the relationships between cells and their telomeres and the Sir2 factor on rDNA appear to have life extension effects.
Subsequently, we transferred the relevant proteins to Nikko, she quit aging as well.
We have distributed our anti-aging protein markers, to the family, Lacy, Black, Sonia, Chan and Ning. The children can decide later, there haven’t been adverse side effects so far. It should be noted anti-aging is not the same as disease free. The wrong virus or aggressive cancer would likely have the same effect on us as on anyone. For that matter, bullets would kill us just as dead as any normal person on the wrong end of a deadly weapon.
Time insists on persisting, nearly two years since we sent the CIA drones to clandestine hell. Our lives have centered around Amaya, with pauses for more refocusings, wife beaters, bully abusers. No terrorists, a relatively small child prostitution ring out west. I’ve been taking lessons in the tea ceremony, and only recently been pronounced Maiko, student Geisha, by Ari Murakami.
Today, we're at the parents’ condo.
“I love Roz Chast’s work, it’s like she knows all the people I know.”
Sis, “Well, you know almost everyone in Manhattan, Chast lives in Connecticut.”
Nikko, “Why does she do cartoons about New York so much?”
Sis, “She got published in The New Yorker, after getting earlier work published by the Village Voice, and she grew up in Brooklyn.”
“I like her awkward perspective on stuff, little details in the cartoons, the caricatures that are deathly close to home. She is quite an observer of life’s every day ordinariness.”
Chris, “Unlike your life.”
“We have ordinariness, just not ordinary ordinariness, ordinariness unique to us.”
Chris, “Janah, you want to explain whatever it is your other is saying?”
Janah, “If I could explain Daphne, I would write Theories of Everything II.”
James, “Wait, you are one and two. Why can’t you deconstruct Daphne?”
Janah, “I’m biased. Anything I say about her will be complimentary, she has no faults from my point of view. Ever her tendency to be verbally weird just makes her more attractive to me.”
James, “Ah, now it makes sense.”
Chris, “Maybe to you, make it make sense to the rest of us.”
James, “Kara understands I think.”
Lacy, “Then Kara can explain.”
Kara, “Janah lets the part of her other, be other. If she delved into every inch of Daphne’s psyche, or Daphne into Janah’s, or now Nikko, then there’s no fun, no unexplained, nothing from left field. Janah loves Daphne’s weirdness. If she studied it too closely, as two as one, then the beauty of the unexpected disappears.”
Chris, “I actually fuckin’ get it. They are so cool with each other that they prefer the unexpected. There is no demand for consistency, or even rationality.”
Janah, “Good catch C-mom. Daphne’s brain is a toy box of irrationality. She’s like Alice in Wonderland's strange characters, there to change my state of mind. To keep me off balance, teetering on the edge, even if it’s statements that make no sense, or oddball observations.”
“Oddball? They all make perfect sense to me. If you were me, you would understand, even though you are, you’re not, so you can’t.”
James, “Yes, actually I do.”
“There you are, validation by a most distinguished student of the mind and human behavior.”
Susan, “If we’re done with Daphinity, could we move on to what happens with Amaya?”
Nikko, “Nothing happens with Amaya. She becomes who she becomes.”
Sis, “I understand that. My concern is, she’s had several hits on a well known satellite radio station. So far, the anonymity has proven to be a draw. Neither Zipper nor the Pamela Anderson’s would reveal her. But there are sound guys, audio personnel, people who aren’t close to the situation, what about them?”
Janah, “Sis, do you think we put her in a recording studio with a bunch of unknown factors? She voices over the music by the Pamela Anderson’s, Daphne and Amaya do the mix. None of those people have any idea who is doing the singing.”
Susan, “Geez, you’ve thought of everything. So, she’s safe from public scrutiny?”
Janah, “There’s no guarantee. We’ve closed every loophole we could think up.
Chris, “As long as the girl is safe, good. She is trusting us with her life.”
“I am confident, and so is Janah, that the Pamela Andersons are precisely clear on confidentiality. If they screw up, it’s not the end of the world. Amaya has a documented history, she’s two years older, taller and features have morphed from preadolescent charmer to closing in on teen. She’s still disgustingly gorgeous.”
Chris, “I think it’s a good idea to let the dust settle. No more hit records, she has lots of other stuff to do, doesn’t she?”
Janah, “We’re taking her and two of the monks to Canada for a month, the Li family, anyone here is welcome as well.”
James, “I think a week of the month is in order, if you don’t mind the parents tagging along.”
Janah, “The parents are welcome to come along to any trips, except the obvious. Mom will, I guarantee, find new inspiration. You may regret coming, Kara will disappear for a while on her return.”
James, “If it’s that inspirational, I’ll happily, kind of happily, make the sacrifice. I’ll dig into work; my usual strategy when she’s into something.”
That’s settled, we’ll leave in two weeks, the Society makes the usual arrangement, same cabin, same rules. We’ll go in August, when the world shuts down and everyone leaves their town to visit somebody else’s town.
We see Mini and Chuck at the Village Diner, stop off to visit the Jamaicans.
Janah, “You and Nikko take Amaya to the diner, I want to talk to Juju.”
We walk across the street to the diner.
Juju is flanked by Quiet Man and Mighty Jim, “You did a good ting’ back then, what near two years now, cleanin’ up dat subway trash. I know you didn’t do nuttin’, but the nuttin you did was a very good ting’. We got dat shit in Jamaica, too. It ain’t a US problem, it’s a world problem. Dis young girl wit’ you, you tink we don’ get it?”
Janah, “Covering my bases. We’re out of town all of August, in a safe place. I’m being paranoid, she’s sprouted up, tall as me and she’s only twelve. People who knew her at nine or ten likely won’t recognize her now. Just keep your nose to the wind.”
She joins us in the booth, five minutes later, Amaya looks puzzled, “Who’s gonna eat all this food?”
Nikko, “Ask that question in fifteen minutes.”
Twenty minutes later, Amaya asks, “What happened to all the food?”
“I ate some of it, you ate some of it, Nikko ate a spoonful of scrambled egg and bacon, Janah ate the rest.”
Amaya, “How can Nikko do all the work she does when she never eats anything?”
“One of the great mysteries of the universe. When you can explain Nishiko, you will understand all you need to know. Janah and I have known her for years and we still don’t know her entirely, good luck.”
Nikko is studying her daughter, Amaya made Nishiko designated mom, an excellent decision. She checks over the restaurant and the windows to the street. She’s satisfied, and returns her gaze to Amaya.
Amaya, sips down the last of her Diet Coke, looks at Nishiko, she too begins to study the crowd. She has an instinct for imitating voices, perhaps she can tap into more. She decides to find out. Janah told her many things take a very long time to master. It’s why a master is a master. Why a prodigy who avoids the tedium of practice will be a mere imitator. She can imitate any singer, living or dead. To become Daphne or Nikko, that will take a great deal of gung fu, hard work.
Amaya, “Mom, we are going to see your family tomorrow, yes?”
Nikko nods, her eyes on the people in the diner, and the street outside.
Chapter Forty Three VI
For a long time I thought I wanted to be a nun.
Then I realized that what I really wanted to be was a lesbian.
Ari Murakami listens while Amaya performs a short repertoire of songs.
Ari, “Girl is always remarkable,” she’s sung for the Murakami’s before, now every time we visit.
Nikko, “Yes, and willing to learn. She is not a warrior, she is an artist, but not a martial artist. If she wishes, and you will undertake it, she can learn geisha talents: the art of conversation, music, serving tea, making guests comfortable and joyful. This, I think is her calling. However, it is not for me to decide. She decides her future. We set things in front of her, she tries them on.”
“While you and Daphne practice with your father, let me talk with her. The first thing is to find out if she can understand the old traditions. Can she not have to know everything in one short conversation, and more, can she reveal nothing while her guest reveals all?”
“I haven’t told her about geisha except in general discussion of life in Japan. She knows you train Daphne of course. She sees Daphne do the tea ceremony, she likes that part. Amaya is precise, she does not like disorder.”
Nikko, of course, has no intention of Amaya using her training to entertain. She’d already been used for that ugliness. A true geisha is not a prostitute, she is a performance artist, taking her audience into a world of beauty, convivial conversation, beautiful music, dance, stories and poetry.
Ari, “Go to your father. Amaya and I will talk.”
She takes Amaya to the tea room, on the other side of the house, “Please, wait for a bit. Enjoy the stillness, I will return soon. You will observe only. No questions.”
Amaya sits on her knees, an incense stick is lit, the smoke gently lifts.
Twenty minutes later, Ari returns in a kimono, and begins setting out implements for making tea. Today is tea only, the short version; Ari plays the biwa, a short necked lute, and a flute, after the tea is made and served. Amaya is treated as a guest, so she can experience the tradition from one side, and decide if she wants to pursue learning it.
Nikko and I bang through a few million bokken repetitions. Soichi says little to Nikko, he has a great deal to say to me.
“The upward cut is too slow after the down strike, attend to your form! You are master, but a beginner only. Practice! I see you have been busy lying around and letting your friends attend to you. You are not an Empress!!! You are hardly a decent student. Do it again! And focus!”
It’s my turn in samurai hell. Nishiko never gets a turn. It’s like Soichi has been chatting with Mrs. Fong, and decided to double team me. I smile inwardly, they see how I respond, so they press, hard. I am in my element, challenged, tried, forged.
By the end of our session, Soichi smiles at Nishiko, which is his compliment, and almost smiles at me…it could have been a sneer, hard to read these Asians.
We leave Soichi at his shrine, praying for my lack of ability I suppose, although Nikko assures me they are prayers for our safety and health.
We find Amaya and Ari in the kitchen, Amaya jumps into Nikko’s arms, “I am going to be geisha!!!”
Nikko kisses her, looks at Ari, who only says, “She has some small talent.”
Nikko understands that Ari has been mightily impressed, to invite Amaya to learn on the first visit is unprecedented. It had taken me a few tries and I am mostly a tea expert, only recently maiko, not full geisha.
Ari, “The Shaolin is learning, slowly. She has grace, her temperament is to do, not to be still, the young one will pass her in a few years, perhaps sooner.”
Sheesh, I’m going to need a major self-esteem vaccination; I mental Janah, who replies, I’ll boost your self esteem later tonight. by the time you go to sleep, you’ll be back to Empress of Manhattan.
I smile, Janah knows just what to say…and to do.
Ari, “I will need the child more than just the Friday mornings you spend with Soichi.”
Nikko, “We are going away for a month, in part to introduce her to a life she has not seen, the vibrant stillness of the wilderness. We kept thinking we would take her, life kept getting in the way. We carved out time, she needs a dose of more nature than Manhattan. When we return, I will get her here as often as you wish. She can stay overnight if that suits you.”
Ari, “The forest will settle her mind, a happy accident that you are taking her there first.”
Nikko, “Janah doesn’t have accidents. I don’t know how she arranged this, but it isn’t a coincidence.”
Ari, “That one is beyond all of us, a bosatsu. If her hand brought this talent to me, then I must rise to the honor.”
Back at our apartment, I’m browsing the New York Times, William and Catherine are getting hitched, one ambitious Middleton sister had finally clawed her way up to a title. I am the royalty in our domain, and most humbled by my duties and obligations, noblesse oblige and all.
Janah, “Think your noblesse could oblige herself to get me a cup of green?”
I snap my fingers a few times, no servants appear, I fight my way to the kitchen, battling the pillows piled on our lay around and sex mat. With Amaya here, sex happens in the bedroom now. Ah, the good old days of room to room lust are but a fading memory.
Janah “What! When Amaya was at the moms last week, we practically had to have the place sanitized.”
“Last week is forgotten, I am Now.”
“Could I have my tea….now, Now.”
It isn’t a question, still, I reply, “It has to steep properly. I steep deep, as is your preference.”
I take the tea to Janah, kneel, she’s propped up on pillows on the couch, looking delicious. Regrettably not nude, but her t-shirt is short enough to enable hard body thigh gazing, Taking advantage, she now holds the cup, I dispense a few kisses to tight legs.
“Tonight, I’m going to make you finish what you started.”
“And you will be begging for it, the second and third time. It’s simple, you lay there, and I’m going to cover everything, as in everything. Dwell on your Janahfection while enjoying your tea.”
Nikko, “’m up here on the roof getting mangled by Miyako, Amaya is twisted up in yoga positions and you two are nestling comfortably, giving sweet young Japanese girl nasty thoughts.
Then come down and I’ll bathe you, and you can inspire us with even deeper, more insightful, nasty thoughts.
Two minutes later the door opens, Nikko is sweaty, but otherwise, uninjured, she looks even more dangerous wet, which is making me wet.
Janah, “You been taking Viagra? Usually it’s us jumping you.”
“We are one, obviously you are putting thoughts in my head.”
Janah, “Busted. It’s like you read my mind.”
Nikko pulls me up, kisses me, “Keep your promise. I’m getting out of these sweats and you are going to make me clean and unwholesome.”
Janah, “Take them off right here, I want to peek at tonight’s menu. Leave the stuff on the mat, I’m going to do laundry anyway.”
I undress Nikko. One ear to the stairwell in case our young charge comes bouncing down. Off to the showers.
Amaya comes in while I’m washing my warrior.
I hear Janah tell her to take off her stuff and get a bath, “You did well. Nikko said you were doing yoga while she and Miyako jumped around. I’m happy you continue your interest.”
Amaya, “I am greedy for your ability. Actually, it is fun, but more work than it looks like. Where are Nikko and Daphne?”
Janah, “Nikko is showering, Daphne’s helping.”
Amaya grins, comes in to us naked, “Just leave it on, I need to get clean.”
Nikko steps out Amaya steps in, “You may wash my hair Daphne.”
Okay, I get her soaked, then lathered, rinsed, “Do the rest, like you did for mom.”
I use the loofah to exfoliate, scrub her feet with a pumice stone, she sings while I scrub, when I’m done she’s all silky shiny.
Amaya, “Nice, I feel splendid, how could I feel otherwise, I am splendid.”
Nikko, “Your humility is showing.”
She admires herself in the mirror, “My everything is showing, and it’s all splendid.”
Chapter Forty Four VI
I’ll never vote, or even register to vote.
I could never vote for anyone who wanted to be a politician.
Day after tomorrow we leave for our Canadian getaway, this time dad and K-mom are going, they can stay a full week, then have get back to earning a living. We and the Li family are staying for a month, better to be in the Canadian mountains for August than the steamy streets of Manhattan. Lacy will come and go with the parents, she has school to prepare for.
Tonight we’re alone, the four of us. During dinner, takeout Thai, I discourse on civics for Amaya’s educational benefit.
“Do you know the difference between a democracy and a republic?”
Amaya, “Is it like Democrats and Republicans?”
“No, those are just two species of goldfish in the same bowl.”
“What do you mean?”
“Put the political parties aside for now, let’s talk about the difference between a democracy and a republic, and governments in general, ready?”
“According to history, and people who write about these things, a democracy would mean that everyone gets to vote on an issue, say whether to create a tax to build roads and keep them in repair. If more people vote for the tax, that becomes a law, and roads get built and repaired. However, we don’t have a democracy, we have a republic in America.”
Amaya, “So what happens with the vote, and the tax and roads?”
“Good question. In a republic, the majority doesn’t necessarily win everything. The people who put together the Constitution, our governing document, said that a pure democracy might create a majority that infringed on the rights of the minority. In the case of our example, the people who didn’t vote for the tax. If the majority gets its way all the time, then the other people never have a say in how things are done.”
Amaya, “That does not seem fair.”
“On the face of it, perhaps. And that’s the justification they used for a republic. In a republic, all the people still vote, but they vote for a representative who goes to Washington to represent their interests. Now, that could lead to majority rule, since the majority would elect the person who represented them, it would be the same thing as a democracy. So, to help sort out that problem, they came up with three branches of government. The legislative, which itself has two branches, the House of Representatives and the Senate. We’ll skip the details, just know that the House has more congressmen than the Senate has senators. To get a law passed, there has to be agreement between the people in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Then the ‘bill,’ that’s what they call a law before it’s a law, goes to the President. That’s the Administration, who either goes along with the bill, or vetoes it. Veto means he can say he doesn’t agree and stop it from becoming a law.”
Amaya, “So one guy can kill the whole deal?”
“There’s a backup to that. The President’s veto can be overridden by another vote in the Congress, that is the House and the Senate, with enough total votes by the representatives. But to do that, they need two-thirds of both the House of Representatives and the Senate to cancel the President’s veto and make the bill a law.”
Amaya, “Sounds confusing.”
“It is, but that’s okay because the people doing the voting almost never know exactly what it is they’re voting for. But we need to put that aside as well. There is a third branch of government called the Judicial. That is ultimately the Supreme Court.”
Amaya, “If it is Supreme, they can make any law they want?”
“No, their job is to know the Constitution inside out, and when lawyers bring cases to be heard by them, they can either decide to hear the case, or decide not to. They don’t make laws, they hear cases they choose to hear and match them up against the Constitution to see if they violate any Constitutional rules. In theory, they can’t make up any rules themselves. That’s only theoretical, they have biases that cause them to make up rules they claim they don’t make up, but that’s another story.”
Amaya, “So all those departments together, the representatives, the President and the Supreme Court is a republic?”
“Very good, dear one. The idea is called ‘checks and balances.’ The legislature can’t do anything it wants, because either the President can veto it, or the Supreme Court can say it violates the rules in the Constitution. There’s even a check on that, since, if the Congress can get enough votes, it can amend the Constitution and change the basic rules. It’s a very difficult process, which is why it doesn’t happen very often. The founders of America didn’t want it to be easy to change the Constitution.”
Amaya, “How can it be changed?”
“By getting together enough votes.”
Amaya, “So if enough people decide to change the Constitution, it can be changed?”
Amaya, “How many?”
“It, again, gets complicated. But, in general, three fourths of the individual states, like New York, and many other more forgettable states, have to have their own legislatures approve the amendment.”
Amaya, “So individual states have branches of government like the whole United States?”
“Right again, smarty. Without going into miniscule details of how to do this and how to do that, what’s the real difference between a democracy and a republic?”
Amaya thinks about this for a while, “It sounds like a Republic makes it harder to get things done.”
“It does, on purpose. Remember how the founders of the United States didn’t want the majority to rule over the minority anytime they wanted to?”
Amaya, “Yeah! So the complications are supposed to keep the minority people from always having to do whatever the most people want to do.”
“Precisely. And it’s a good idea, except for one thing.”
Amaya, “What is that?”
“The initial assumption is wrong, so the outcome is confused.”
Amaya, “I do not understand.”
“See, the initial assumption is that the majority will always be the majority. And it sounds reasonable, but it doesn’t work that way. People change sides, change their opinions, don’t always vote the same way all the time. Older folks die off, their kids have their own ideas, things change and majorities change. So, in my unconstitutional opinion, the whole thing is far more complicated than necessary. Lots of stuff people want done doesn’t get done, like fair health care, good schools, equitable taxation. And the reason it doesn’t get done is the complications of getting a bill though the system to become a law.”
Amaya, “And changing to a democracy is even more complicated?”
“Much more complicated. And may not, in fact, be any better. Both systems have the same problem.”
Amaya, “Which is?”
“Both systems ultimately require representatives to get elected by the people of their state by a majority vote, which is a democracy. No matter which way a representative gets elected, he needs money to run ads, do surveys, hire a zillion consultants for public relations. So, what do rich people have that poor people don’t?”
“And what does it take to get elected?”
“You see where this is headed?”
Amaya, “Yes. People with money get what they want, and poor people get what they get, maybe nothing at all.”
“So no matter which system is set up, the people with the money are in control.”
Amaya, “But are there not more poor people than rich people?”
“Aha! You’ve come across a good reason for rich people to want a more complicated system, a republic, rather than a democracy.”
Amaya, “That does not seem fair.”
“No, it’s not. So let’s step back and make it personal for a minute. The four of us have talents and skills beyond the capacity of most people. Some we were born with, some we earned through hard work on the talents we had, or we developed new skills. So is life fair?”
Amaya, “It is not, as I am well aware.”
“Yes, you are. And it never will be….for a simple reason. Fairness is in the eye of the beholder. What’s fair to Mr. X is unfair to Mrs. Y. My take on the whole business is, first, never get involved with government or politics. The reason, for me, is quite obvious. Any government can only restrict freedom, since all law is a restriction of somebody’s freedom. Governments have convinced people that they give people freedom. But what they actually do is control, which is not freedom.
Second, it doesn’t matter if it’s a democracy or a republic, since the game is rigged in favor of money either way. There’s nothing wrong with having money, our family is wealthy. We don’t, however, under any circumstances, give any of it to politicians to get something done for us, or to get something done to someone else. None of us are registered to vote, none of us has ever voted, we will not work for governments.”
Amaya smiled her broad beautiful smile, “I found out something really good.”
“I need not waste time studying government; it is all paint, slightly different shades of gray.”
“Spoken like a true artist.”
Reader, you may argue that poorer people get stuff like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid or Obamacare, but those are things they pay for out of their income over years. Rich people get those too, and they pay as well. But rich people get benefits in other ways the poor don’t, like tax deductions for business expenses, depreciation of property, and mortgage interest deductions.
And now, reader, enough civics class, you now know more than you need to know to drop political discourse forever. You’re welcome.