Scene ONE : I DON’T NEED YOUR VOTE
Kentucky needs no bigger reason to its claim to fame in American politics. Lincoln was born here. His memorial here attests to his legacy of having spearheaded the fight for the emancipation of slaves in America. Yet, this place is only a pale shadow of its past self, today. It has become a worn down town with dilapidated buildings, unkempt roads and ruinous public infrastructure. It does not resemble the proud home of a revolutionist who stood by his beliefs and fought for what he thought was right. To any visitor, the place appears to be pleading for attention.
It is here that Timothy Arnold, a Jew by birth, will stand up to address a public gathering. Unlike many of his ilk, he had chosen to engage in politics.
It is election time in the states, and with the campaign trail heating up, it is anybody’s guess as to who the presidential candidate for the Republicans will be.
Timothy arrived this morning and was greeted with the appalling news of a double homicide in the very town where he planned to make his speech, which he knew would be heard across the region. He knew for a fact that the press would be all ears for his views on local governments, the maddening shootouts, rising suicide bombers, unemployment and the growing number of dead cities. Aware that the press would also be deeply interested in his take on the double homicide, he squeezes in to his tight schedule a quick visit to the grieving families who had been hurriedly assembled by the campaign team. Empathy came naturally to him, always. Nobody doubted his integrity. He offers his condolences and assures them of every possible support in seeking justice for their loss and restoring peace in the town. Just before he enters his car, he gets swarmed by cameramen egging on him for his view on the homicide as well as the upcoming elections. He stays calm before uttering out a brief statement which sounds like, “I am here as a friend of those who have lost their loved ones. I pray for justice to be delivered and for the souls to rest in peace”. He leaves soon after in his car, heading straight towards the venue where he plans to speak.
Seated in a makeshift room, he reflects on the merits of his being called a Republican, and what it has meant to grow up in the shadows of a man he considered his father – a man who took America to war and gave money to the rich, and whose policies and vision have stood against Timothy’s own ideology. He could feel beads of sweat sprouting on his forehead. The moral dilemma of being caught between righteousness and his love for his father plays up again and again before every big speech of his. He ferreted in his pocket for the handkerchief.
The room Timothy is now preparing himself in is the best the party had managed; a green room set up inside an old auditorium lit up with candle light. The lights are off. They have been gone for a couple of weeks and Timothy is in no mood to use the back-up generators that the party has arranged for the event. He has been gifted with this uncanny ability to come up with master strokes. He feels the speech should be made in candle light, not just in honor of Lincoln’s legacy, but also in honor of those who have been pushed to poverty and destitution by an incumbent government that has made the American public believe in an illusion called change.
A table at the center stacked with the day’s newspapers and party pamphlets makes the room look more like a study in a suburban ghetto. A fan from the pre-globalization era mutely hung from the ceiling. The walls, obviously having been long deprived of a well-deserved coat of fresh paint have been stigmatized by water soaked patches.
Towards one corner, Timothy is seated, styling his hair to give it the seriousness his personality carries. His hair is neatly parted and gelled, adding to his burlesque physique, hidden behind a pin striped suit. He gives special attention to the few, yet pronounced, white strands that announce unmistakable wisdom. Unlike the usual entourage that travels with Timothy, today he has with him just Ray and Chris. Ray oversees Timothy’s press engagements. Chris has the crucial job of crosschecking his speeches, keeping a tab on the news, and is Timothy’s trusted eyes and ears. With the town in such a mess, a massive campaign seemed unconscionable, and so, instead of sending a big group of people to make the arrangements, this responsibility was left to the local volunteers.
Sitting on the table, sifting through the material, Chris, a Republican to the core of his heart, wears a rather glum look. He is jotting down a few points that Timothy may choose to use during his speech today.
“Ok, so, shall we go with tax breaks for the rich, increased spending on internal security, more prisons to tackle crime? Tim, are we on the same page here? The last speech wasn’t received well within the party. The things you say sometimes make me wonder if you miss the Bolsheviks or even wish to bring back Stalin to rule the New world. The old guard in the party is miffed with the way you go about telling people about your vision for the country.”
Speaking into the mirror, Timothy replies with a lot of comfort as though it’s been running for ages in his mind.
“The old guard can cling on to its old ideas. Stalin isn’t my hero, nor are the Bolsheviks.”
He pauses for a while and then continues, “We are starting on a new page here, Chris. This country fell for ‘change’ in 2008, and look at what it’s gotten itself into. The economy is still in a mess, unemployment has never been this bad, and thanks to our skewed relationship with Mexico, we seem to have become the biggest market for cocaine in the Pacific Ocean. How long will America remain fooled by the same verses – ‘MORE JOBS and BETTER ECONOMY’, without realizing at whose expense, and for how long? I feel like I’ve got a new game while everyone is busy playing the old one”.
He sounds compassionately excited, as though he has got a solution that America has been looking for the last three decades.
Chris, though not completely in agreement, is happy to see the reactions at Tim’s meetings, and hence continues to listen to Tim. Though still not very clear in his mind about how much he agrees with Tim, there is a sense of Jewish bonhomie that calls him to support him.
“While there is no constant right or wrong, the only underlying factor is, within the limitations of your understanding, how honest your attempts and intentions are. Today’s right can be tomorrow‘s wrong and today’s wrong can become tomorrow’s accepted way. Look at the state we are in. Our foreign policy has created enemies all around the world”.
He is still looking at himself in the mirror while his mind is busy dwelling on the concepts of nature’s justice and cosmic law and order that made him articulate what he was saying. These are not established philosophies that he is talking about, but self –proposed, built-in theories and values that are running his life now.
James, the local convener of the party, troops in to check if everything is alright. At 48, as an old hand of the party, he has seen enough of elections to sense a change in mood this time around.
“What’s up, James?” Timothy asked lifting his head up from the files he was going through.
“We have waited long enough for an important leader of your stature to come by and give this town a good talking to.” James’s words had the necessary tonic in them.
Timothy replies with the wry smile that has begun to grow on the people he has come in touch with over the years.
“Don’t embarrass me this way. You’ve been around long enough to make me stand up and applaud you for your contribution to the Republican cause. With someone like you around, the town will never feel like they need a bigger leader.”
Impressing James further, he asks, “How are the kids? It’s been a while since I saw them. Dad tells me he visited during their christening.”
James, who has managed five elections in Kentucky, is overwhelmed by the young man in front of him. He shakes off the spell he is under, and replies gratefully. “Thank you for being nice Tim. Do give my regards to the old man. Tell him the kids are fine and are waiting for the day they will get to see him again.”
Chris gets up to offer James a seat. There’s still 20 minutes to go before the speech kicks off, and James will have to quickly fill the room with his wisdom on local politics.
“Give it to me straight James. How are we doing this time around? I’ve read some encouraging stuff in the papers but I want to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth”, Tim insists.
“Tim, we have been working hard as a party, and here in Kentucky we are swinging it. The place hasn’t had power for weeks, and the local senator, luckily a democrat, hasn’t gotten off his haunches in Hawaii. You heard about the double homicide, right? It’s been happening way too often. Can’t imagine this is the same place where Lincoln was born.”
“The democrats have a big event lined up next week. So, what you say today will be heard with bated breath. Since 2008, we’ve had new voters joining us and they are working hard for the party. There’s this debate over the Republican stand on climate change, gay rights and the war on terror. The old guard is looking to hold on to these points. I am aligned with the old guard, but with the winds changing, I understand how essential it is to sound right.”
“James”, Tim cuts him short by raising his hand and leaning forward.
“We are in Lincoln’s home town, James. Given the state this place is in, I doubt if the people here are worried about when the next homo is going to come calling or when India’s carbon emissions are going to screw our ionized air. I don’t deny there are apprehensions here, but please understand I need your support not because it may seem or sound right, but because you need to share my vision to this great nation.
“I want you to have this. It’s a candle, and I want you to light up the entire auditorium with it. I want the audience and the volunteers to have one, and I want the world to know that we are fighting the greatest battle of humanity in this election. Lincoln freed the slaves. I want to free my countrymen from the state the leaders of this nation have gotten them into.”
With this Timothy rises in a way suggesting that the meeting is over. James gets up to leave wiping the sweat off his brow and heading straight to Timothy tells him, “I share your vision, so let’s do this.”
James leaves the room to look after the last minute arrangements. The scene outside reflects on James’s commitment to his party. The volunteers have been able to muster up quite a crowd. The road leading up to the venue has party flags and slogans. We find Ray making last minute phone calls to the press to ensure that the speech reaches out to everyone who matters.
James meets Ray in the corridor, asking him about the coverage the speech is getting.
“Everything under control, chief. Can’t wait for Tim to go out and capture prime time news this evening.”
Ray worked at the news corporation before being offered a role by the party as a media advisor to Timothy Arnold. His experience as a media manager has ensured that his old friends in the media always come by to support his political meetings.
James then gives Ray a satisfied look and rushes to check on the seating. Most importantly, he needs to get the candles out for the meeting and ensure they stay lit for the entire time Timothy makes his speech.
Meanwhile, Timothy is pacing up and down the room, going over what he plans to say. Chris is on his phone Instagramming the Lincoln Memorial he clicked while on his way to the venue this morning. An intern comes in with some Gatorade. Tim loves keeping himself hydrated. It keeps him on his toes.
James comes back, this time more in a hurry than his earlier appearance, “We are going live in five minutes.”
Timothy and Chris ready themselves and leave the room to a waiting entourage of cameramen and local volunteers. A nod here, a smile there, Timothy walks through, looking as confident as he was as a school level debater. The stakes then and the stakes now have changed, but the ambition to serve his nation has not.
As he enters the auditorium, he is greeted with a rapturous applause by those seated. James’s effort has paid off as Tim can see kids seated on the ground between the rows and people standing wherever they could find some place.
Timothy Arnold smiles at his audience, waves to the crowd, and raising his other hand, asks everyone to settle down.
He lights his candle and raises it up in honor of those present to hear him.
“I don’t need your vote, but I need your conscience.” He takes a deep breath before continuing.
“I won’t promise more jobs. I won’t promise an economy that cannot sustain.
If you think that you want 10 options for every meal while most of the world struggles for a meal a day, I don’t need your vote.
If you think that you have a right to use up all the resources gifted by the earth while the rest of the world craves for bare minimum needs, I don’t need your vote.
If you aren’t sensitive that certain countries’ educational needs can be met by the paper we use to clean our asses, I don’t need your vote. I’d rather prefer the education.
If you are not a citizen of the universe and don’t think like one, I don’t need your vote.
If you are blissfully ignorant to not question the use of military as a means for resolving political problems, I don’t need your vote.
If you think selling sophisticated weaponry as only a business opportunity, I don’t need your vote.
If you can be comfortably numb to the root cause of the hatred against us, honestly, I don’t need your vote.
If you don’t question spending a trillion on the warfare and security, I don’t need your vote.
If you think these concrete jungles, cars and this vulgar consumption of ours are signs of progress, I don’t need your vote.
If you think wars and arms production are the only way to job creation, I don’t need your vote.
If you think you need more, when the budget spent on our lawns is equivalent to the budget of certain nations, I don’t need your vote.
If Hollywood can alter your ideals and values, I don’t need your vote.
If you don’t question racism, sexism, hatred of homosexuals and anti-Semitism, I don’t need your vote.
If you don’t think it is our duty to preserve our home, the earth, in such a way as to promote the maximum well-being of all its inhabitants now and in the future, I don’t need your vote.
If you don’t question nuclear weapons which pose the imminent danger of a global catastrophe and hold the potential to give the earth back to the insects and grasses, I don’t need your vote.
If you don’t vote out :
Number one – Wealth without work,
Two – Pleasure without conscience,
Three – Knowledge without character,
Four – Commerce without morality,
Five – Science without humanity,
Six – Worship without sacrifice, and
Seven – Politics without principles,
I don’t need your vote.”
About an hour later, as he drove out of the town, Timothy Arnold had a satisfied look on his face.
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