Skip to comments.Shadows of Future Thanksgivings
Posted on 01/20/2011 11:08:06 AM PST by IbJensen
Winston, come into the dining room, its time to eat, Julia yelled to her husband.
In a minute, honey, its a tie score, he answered. Actually Winston wasnt very interested in the traditional holiday football game between Detroit and Washington. Ever since the government passed the Civility in Sports Statute of 2017, outlawing tackle football for its unseemly violence and the bad example it sets for the rest of the world, Winston was far less of a football fan than he used to be. Two-hand touch wasnt nearly as exciting.
Yet it wasnt the game that Winston was uninterested in. It was more the thought of eating another TofuTurkey®. Even though it was the best type of Veggie Meat available after the government revised the American Anti-Obesity Act of 2018, adding fowl to the list of federally-forbidden foods, (which already included potatoes, cranberry sauce and mince-meat pie), it wasnt anything like real turkey. And ever since the government officially changed the name of Thanksgiving Day to a National Day of Atonement in 2020, to officially acknowledge the Pilgrims historically brutal treatment of Native Americans, the holiday had lost a lot of its luster.
Eating in the dining room was also a bit daunting. The unearthly gleam of government-mandated fluorescent light bulbs made the TofuTurkey® look even weirder than it actually was, and the room was always cold. Ever since Congress passed the Power Conservation Act of 2016, mandating all thermostats, which were monitored and controlled by the electric company, be kept at 68 degrees, every room on the north side of the house was barely tolerable throughout the entire winter.
Still, it was good getting together with family. Or at least most of the family. Winston missed his mother, who passed on in October, when she had used up her legal allotment of live-saving medical treatment. He had had many heated conversations with the Regional Health Consortium, spawned when the private insurance market finally went bankrupt, and everyone was forced into the government health care program. And though he demanded she be kept on her treatment, it was a futile effort. The RHCs resources are limited, explained the government bureaucrat Winston spoke with on the phone. Your mother received all the benefits to which she was entitled. Im sorry for your loss.
Ed couldnt make it either. He had forgotten to plug in his electric car last night, the only kind available after the Anti-Fossil Fuel Bill of 2021 outlawed the use of the combustion engines for everyone but government officials. The fifty mile round trip was about ten miles too far, and Ed didnt want to spend a frosty night on the road somewhere between here and there.
Thankfully, Winstons brother, John, and his wife were flying in. Winston made sure that the dining room chairs had extra cushions for the occasion. No one complained more than John about the pain of sitting down so soon after the government - mandated cavity searches at airports, which severely aggravated his hemorrhoids.
Ever since a terrorist successfully smuggled a cavity bomb onto a jetliner, the TSA told Americans the added inconvenience was an absolute necessity in order to stay one step ahead of the terrorists. Winstons own body had grown accustomed to such probing ever since the government expanded their scope to just about anywhere a crowd gathered, via the Anti-Profiling Act of 2022. That law made it a crime to single out any group or individual for unequal scrutiny, even when probable cause was involved. Thus, cavity searches at malls, train stations, bus depots, etc., etc., had become almost routine. Almost.
The Supreme Court is reviewing the statute, but most Americans expect a Court composed of six progressives and three conservatives to leave the law intact. A living Constitution is extremely flexible, said the Courts eldest member, Elena Kagan. Europe has had laws like this one for years. We should learn from their example, she added.
Winstons thoughts turned to his own children. He got along fairly well with his 12-year-old daughter, Brittany, mostly because she ignored him. Winston had long ago surrendered to the idea that she could text anyone at any time, even during Atonement Dinner. Their only real confrontation had occurred when he limited her to 50,000 texts a month, explaining that was all he could afford. She whined for a week, but got over it.
His 16-year-old son, Jason, was another matter altogether. Perhaps it was the constant bombarding he got in public school that global warming, the bird flu, terrorism or any of a number of other calamities that were just around the corner, but Jason had developed a kind of nihilistic attitude that ranged between simmering surliness and outright hostility. It didnt help that Jason had reported his father to the police for smoking a cigarette in the house, an act made criminal by the Smoking Control Statute of 2018, which outlawed smoking anywhere within 500 feet of another human being. Winston paid the $5,000 fine, which might have been considered excessive before the American dollar became virtually worthless as a result of QE13. The latest round of quantitative easing the federal government initiated was, once again, to spur economic growth. This time they promised to push unemployment below its years-long rate of 18%, but Winston was not particularly hopeful.
Yet the family had a lot for which to be thankful, Winston thought, before remembering it was A Day of Atonement. At least he had his memories. He felt a twinge of sadness when he realized his children would never know what life was like in the Good Old Days, long before government promises to make life fair for everyone realized their full potential. Winston, like so many of his fellow Americans, never realized how much things could change when they didnt happen all at once, but little by little, so people could get used to them.
He wondered what might have happened if the public had stood up while there was still time, maybe back around 2010, when all the real nonsense began. Maybe we wouldnt be where we are today if wed just said enough is enough when we had the chance, he thought. Maybe so, Winston. Maybe so.
As many of us will recall, Winston was the name of Orwells protagonist in 1984. We suspect the name was not chosen randomly for this short vignette. Further, we fear that this is far, far closer to the truth than any of us wish to admit. We are, in the US, a nation that delays its football games because of snow; that close schools when snow is merely forecast and hasnt yet fallen; that demands that our children wear helmets to ride bicycles and thus denying them the pleasure of the wind in their hair; that has banned diving in many high schools as a part of the swim team fearful of injury; that doesnt keep score in childrens ball games; that puts animal rights above those of human beings... and we could go on and on.
Read this short story again and be afraid for our future; be very, very afraid.
Kurt Vonnegut ?
Who is John Galt?
“Not too funny,eh?”
I’m not laughing.
Huh. Ours is at 64. If I feel the need to push it up to 66, I know I'm coming down with something. We also use CFLs in shaded fixtures, but use ones with low color temperatures.
by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.
Some things about living still weren’t quite right, though. April for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron’s fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.
It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn’t think about it very hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn’t think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.
George and Hazel were watching television. There were tears on Hazel’s cheeks, but she’d forgotten for the moment what they were about.
On the television screen were ballerinas.
A buzzer sounded in George’s head. His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar alarm.
“That was a real pretty dance, that dance they just did,” said Hazel.
“Huh” said George.
“That dance-it was nice,” said Hazel.
“Yup,” said George. He tried to think a little about the ballerinas. They weren’t really very good-no better than anybody else would have been, anyway. They were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in. George was toying with the vague notion that maybe dancers shouldn’t be handicapped. But he didn’t get very far with it before another noise in his ear radio scattered his thoughts.
George winced. So did two out of the eight ballerinas.
Hazel saw him wince. Having no mental handicap herself, she had to ask George what the latest sound had been.
“Sounded like somebody hitting a milk bottle with a ball peen hammer,” said George.
“I’d think it would be real interesting, hearing all the different sounds,” said Hazel a little envious. “All the things they think up.”
“Um,” said George.
“Only, if I was Handicapper General, you know what I would do?” said Hazel. Hazel, as a matter of fact, bore a strong resemblance to the Handicapper General, a woman named Diana Moon Glampers. “If I was Diana Moon Glampers,” said Hazel, “I’d have chimes on Sunday-just chimes. Kind of in honor of religion.”
“I could think, if it was just chimes,” said George.
“Well-maybe make ‘em real loud,” said Hazel. “I think I’d make a good Handicapper General.”
“Good as anybody else,” said George.
“Who knows better then I do what normal is?” said Hazel.
“Right,” said George. He began to think glimmeringly about his abnormal son who was now in jail, about Harrison, but a twenty-one-gun salute in his head stopped that.
“Boy!” said Hazel, “that was a doozy, wasn’t it?”
It was such a doozy that George was white and trembling, and tears stood on the rims of his red eyes. Two of of the eight ballerinas had collapsed to the studio floor, were holding their temples.
“All of a sudden you look so tired,” said Hazel. “Why don’t you stretch out on the sofa, so’s you can rest your handicap bag on the pillows, honeybunch.” She was referring to the forty-seven pounds of birdshot in a canvas bag, which was padlocked around George’s neck. “Go on and rest the bag for a little while,” she said. “I don’t care if you’re not equal to me for a while.”
George weighed the bag with his hands. “I don’t mind it,” he said. “I don’t notice it any more. It’s just a part of me.”
“You been so tired lately-kind of wore out,” said Hazel. “If there was just some way we could make a little hole in the bottom of the bag, and just take out a few of them lead balls. Just a few.”
“Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out,” said George. “I don’t call that a bargain.”
“If you could just take a few out when you came home from work,” said Hazel. “I mean-you don’t compete with anybody around here. You just set around.”
“If I tried to get away with it,” said George, “then other people’d get away with it-and pretty soon we’d be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing against everybody else. You wouldn’t like that, would you?”
“I’d hate it,” said Hazel.
“There you are,” said George. The minute people start cheating on laws, what do you think happens to society?”
If Hazel hadn’t been able to come up with an answer to this question, George couldn’t have supplied one. A siren was going off in his head.
“Reckon it’d fall all apart,” said Hazel.
“What would?” said George blankly.
“Society,” said Hazel uncertainly. “Wasn’t that what you just said?
“Who knows?” said George.
The television program was suddenly interrupted for a news bulletin. It wasn’t clear at first as to what the bulletin was about, since the announcer, like all announcers, had a serious speech impediment. For about half a minute, and in a state of high excitement, the announcer tried to say, “Ladies and Gentlemen.”
He finally gave up, handed the bulletin to a ballerina to read.
“That’s all right-” Hazel said of the announcer, “he tried. That’s the big thing. He tried to do the best he could with what God gave him. He should get a nice raise for trying so hard.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” said the ballerina, reading the bulletin. She must have been extraordinarily beautiful, because the mask she wore was hideous. And it was easy to see that she was the strongest and most graceful of all the dancers, for her handicap bags were as big as those worn by two-hundred pound men.
And she had to apologize at once for her voice, which was a very unfair voice for a woman to use. Her voice was a warm, luminous, timeless melody. “Excuse me-” she said, and she began again, making her voice absolutely uncompetitive.
“Harrison Bergeron, age fourteen,” she said in a grackle squawk, “has just escaped from jail, where he was held on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government. He is a genius and an athlete, is under-handicapped, and should be regarded as extremely dangerous.”
A police photograph of Harrison Bergeron was flashed on the screen-upside down, then sideways, upside down again, then right side up. The picture showed the full length of Harrison against a background calibrated in feet and inches. He was exactly seven feet tall.
The rest of Harrison’s appearance was Halloween and hardware. Nobody had ever born heavier handicaps. He had outgrown hindrances faster than the H-G men could think them up. Instead of a little ear radio for a mental handicap, he wore a tremendous pair of earphones, and spectacles with thick wavy lenses. The spectacles were intended to make him not only half blind, but to give him whanging headaches besides.
Scrap metal was hung all over him. Ordinarily, there was a certain symmetry, a military neatness to the handicaps issued to strong people, but Harrison looked like a walking junkyard. In the race of life, Harrison carried three hundred pounds.
And to offset his good looks, the H-G men required that he wear at all times a red rubber ball for a nose, keep his eyebrows shaved off, and cover his even white teeth with black caps at snaggle-tooth random.
“If you see this boy,” said the ballerina, “do not - I repeat, do not - try to reason with him.”
There was the shriek of a door being torn from its hinges.
Screams and barking cries of consternation came from the television set. The photograph of Harrison Bergeron on the screen jumped again and again, as though dancing to the tune of an earthquake.
George Bergeron correctly identified the earthquake, and well he might have - for many was the time his own home had danced to the same crashing tune. “My God-” said George, “that must be Harrison!”
The realization was blasted from his mind instantly by the sound of an automobile collision in his head.
When George could open his eyes again, the photograph of Harrison was gone. A living, breathing Harrison filled the screen.
Clanking, clownish, and huge, Harrison stood - in the center of the studio. The knob of the uprooted studio door was still in his hand. Ballerinas, technicians, musicians, and announcers cowered on their knees before him, expecting to die.
“I am the Emperor!” cried Harrison. “Do you hear? I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!” He stamped his foot and the studio shook.
“Even as I stand here” he bellowed, “crippled, hobbled, sickened - I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived! Now watch me become what I can become!”
Harrison tore the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper, tore straps guaranteed to support five thousand pounds.
Harrison’s scrap-iron handicaps crashed to the floor.
Harrison thrust his thumbs under the bar of the padlock that secured his head harness. The bar snapped like celery. Harrison smashed his headphones and spectacles against the wall.
He flung away his rubber-ball nose, revealed a man that would have awed Thor, the god of thunder.
“I shall now select my Empress!” he said, looking down on the cowering people. “Let the first woman who dares rise to her feet claim her mate and her throne!”
A moment passed, and then a ballerina arose, swaying like a willow.
Harrison plucked the mental handicap from her ear, snapped off her physical handicaps with marvelous delicacy. Last of all he removed her mask.
She was blindingly beautiful.
“Now-” said Harrison, taking her hand, “shall we show the people the meaning of the word dance? Music!” he commanded.
The musicians scrambled back into their chairs, and Harrison stripped them of their handicaps, too. “Play your best,” he told them, “and I’ll make you barons and dukes and earls.”
The music began. It was normal at first-cheap, silly, false. But Harrison snatched two musicians from their chairs, waved them like batons as he sang the music as he wanted it played. He slammed them back into their chairs.
The music began again and was much improved.
Harrison and his Empress merely listened to the music for a while-listened gravely, as though synchronizing their heartbeats with it.
They shifted their weights to their toes.
Harrison placed his big hands on the girls tiny waist, letting her sense the weightlessness that would soon be hers.
And then, in an explosion of joy and grace, into the air they sprang!
Not only were the laws of the land abandoned, but the law of gravity and the laws of motion as well.
They reeled, whirled, swiveled, flounced, capered, gamboled, and spun.
They leaped like deer on the moon.
The studio ceiling was thirty feet high, but each leap brought the dancers nearer to it.
It became their obvious intention to kiss the ceiling. They kissed it.
And then, neutraling gravity with love and pure will, they remained suspended in air inches below the ceiling, and they kissed each other for a long, long time.
It was then that Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, came into the studio with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor.
Diana Moon Glampers loaded the gun again. She aimed it at the musicians and told them they had ten seconds to get their handicaps back on.
It was then that the Bergerons’ television tube burned out.
Hazel turned to comment about the blackout to George. But George had gone out into the kitchen for a can of beer.
George came back in with the beer, paused while a handicap signal shook him up. And then he sat down again. “You been crying” he said to Hazel.
“Yup,” she said.
“What about?” he said.
“I forget,” she said. “Something real sad on television.”
“What was it?” he said.
“It’s all kind of mixed up in my mind,” said Hazel.
“Forget sad things,” said George.
“I always do,” said Hazel.
“That’s my girl,” said George. He winced. There was the sound of a rivetting gun in his head.
“Gee - I could tell that one was a doozy,” said Hazel.
“You can say that again,” said George.
“Gee-” said Hazel, “I could tell that one was a doozy.”
“Harrison Bergeron” is copyrighted by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., 1961.
Notice the similarities?
Two good stories in one post...my thanks to you both.
Later Read bump
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