How Much Does It Take?
Alfred sat across from the president, his hands gripping the arms of his chair until his knuckles turned white. His blue eyes bored holes into the president's dark eyes with barely veiled burning hatred. It had been so long since Alfred had felt such anger. It had been so long since he had felt such hatred toward someone, much less someone who was supposed to be one of his own. For a moment, inside his head, he fantasized having Jedi powers and turning to the dark side to strangle the president with those dark powers.
"Was there something you wanted to ask me, Alfred?" asked the president calmly.
"You're still pushing for that healthcare bill to get through congress and the senate, aren't you," said Alfred, his tone sharp. It wasn't a question anymore; it was a statement of fact.
"Alfred," said the president, sounding like he was talking to a child who simply couldn't understand the intricacies of what was happening in the world yet, "we must reform the system. It's unsustainable—"
"That bill is unsustainable," said Alfred quickly.
The president eyed him a moment and then continued, "It's unsustainable, Alfred, the way the system is right now. People are dying because they can't get coverage. People are dying because they're being turned down for coverage on account that they have preexisting conditions. The companies are killing them with their policies. They need to be regulated."
"They need to be controlled, you mean," said Alfred, "Controlled by the government. You're talking Fascism. Privately owned companies run by the government; that's Fascism."
"Now… no, I am not talking about Fascism, Alfred; this is to regulate the companies and level the playing field," said the president, "It's a framework for reforming the system."
"This is to make a framework to change the American way," said Alfred, his tone getting sharper.
"No, this is a framework to reform healthcare into something better," said the president. He smiled at Alfred suddenly with that cold, belittling smile he used when trying to convince people. It had only the effect of angering Alfred more. "Alfred—America—what I'm doing is going to help you. It's for your own good."
"Why don't you actually let the people decide what is good for them instead of trying to decide for them?" snapped Alfred.
"The people don't know what they need. They need guidance and to be nudged in the right directions. They need to be shown the right way to do things rather than letting them do it themselves," said the president.
Alfred sat silently and glared at the president from over the top of his glasses. When he spoke, it was slow and deliberate. His hands shook slightly as he restrained himself. "I told you back a month ago that if you kept this up that the people would not tolerate it any longer. You went to Copenhagen when I told you that the deal being made would override the constitution and that was wrong. I told you that the healthcare bill was unconstitutional. Mr. President, I have given you every warning and now I want you to follow me to the Senate."
"All right," said the president, pulling his personal blackberry out and calling someone on it. When he hung up, he put it back in his pocket and walked with Alfred out of the oval office and collected their coats before heading out to the senate with a couple of secret service men. The whole way there Alfred and the president stared at each other; Alfred's was as hard and angry as ever and the president's was as cool and collected as ever, an arrogant upturn on the corners of his mouth. When they made it to the senate the president walked in and announced Alfred's presence in much the same way as he had when they went to the House of Representatives.
"Good day, ladies and gentlemen of the Senate," said the president, "I have with me a man who works for me in the White House who wishes to personally speak with you." He smiled and laughed a little, waving his hand a bit at them. "Now, really, I've told him already that you're busy, but he really wants to have his say and I think you should let him talk. After all, it's his right to talk to you. It's his right to talk to me. He spoke to the House a month prior and now he wants to talk with you. So… give him your attention and then proceed to make sure you decide on this bill before Christmas. Okay? Okay." Then, the president sat down and waved Alfred forward. For a moment, Alfred thought he was looking more at a king than a president waving some commoner to speak at court.
Alfred came forward no less and got up where everyone could see him. He looked at everyone; snow in his hair and his nose reddened by the cold. He watched as a large number of eyes sort of regarded him like he was a bit of a nuisance. "My name is Alfred F. Jones," he said, "and the bill you are trying to pass through is unconstitutional."
"How many times must the people shout at you to stop this spending, how many times must the people shout at you to stop speeding through bills that no one is allowed to read or, at worst, has things in it that will ultimately destroy America until you actually start listening to the people? How many times must the American people come directly to you and shout out at you that what you're doing is wrong before you'll listen? How many?" said Alfred. The room was silent as he looked around at everyone. "How many of you know what's in this bill? How many or you actually believe that it's a good thing?"
No one raised their hands, but none spoke either. It was as though they were just biding their time until he left. The Republicans, thankfully, looked less like they were biding their time and more like they were listening to him. "You, Democrats, do you realize that money will be going to that corrupt organization ACORN?"
"Yes, they know," said the president, "It's a good organization, though, sadly, it has had its share of corrupt individuals."
"It is a wholly corrupt organization with very few actually decent people!" snapped Alfred. "The same goes for the SEIU that you pledge yourself by every fucking chance you get! Neither one needs any money!"
Again the place fell silent and the Democrat side started shifting away from him a bit in their chairs, shuffling papers in their laps and doing whatever they could to not look at him. "The people know more about this bill than you've ever tried to profess to know! And yet you treat them like children, saying it's for their own damn good and that you know what's best for them! You don't know what's best for yourselves much less what's best for the American people! If you did then you wouldn't be going along with a bill that has an amendment in it that will make the whole thing permanent! It can't be repealed even when new people are voted into office! It can't be retracted! It's in direct violation with the constitution set up by our founders!"
Alfred then pointed at the president and walked toward him. "You! You have said yourself that you don't even like the constitution! You said it was a document of negative rights."
"I have said nothing of the—"
Alfred jumped up and punched the president squarely on the nose. The president faltered backward in his chair as Alfred was pulled off by the secret service men. "YOU FUCKING LIAR! YOU ARE ALL LIARS!! Tell the truth for once in your God damn lives, you fucking scoundrels! The people already know what's in this bill! You're hiding NOTHING! You're only trying to cover your miserable asses while you try to push this bill out and completely undermine the constitution with it! IT'S UNCONSTITUTIONAL! You're stealing the rights of the people away from them, you're stealing the money from their pockets to line your own—This is nothing more than a slush fund for you and your fucking cronies!!"
"Take him out!" shouted one of the Democrat Senators.
"Take your hands off of him and let him speak!" shouted one of the Republican Senators.
"You would want that, wouldn't you, when it serves your own purposes!" snapped another Democrat. "He's assaulted the president!"
Alfred could have easily thrown the two men holding him back. He was far stronger than he appeared and he was a rather broad shouldered young man to begin with. He used to swing around buffalos when he was a little baby! Instead, he kept the two men from simply dragging him away with his feet firmly planted on the ground. "SHUT UP!!" he shouted above them all. "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, JUST SHUT UP!"
The room fell silent and all those eyes turned on him again. He panted, adrenaline coursing through his body swiftly. "Listen for once in your damn lives! Turn down this bill and do what's actually right by the people and listen to them! They don't want this!"
"They didn't want the war either, but my predecessor went in without their consent, too," said the president as he held a handkerchief to his bleeding nose.
"YOU SHUT UP!" snapped Alfred. "Just shut up about your predecessor for once and take the blame! You did this! You've done it all and it's all on your own head! You spent us into a trillion dollar hole and then blamed it on Bush! You kept spending us into that hole and blamed it on Bush! You ignored the troops and Afghanistan and blamed it all on Bush! You keep making him take the blame and take none for yourself! You've apologized to countries across the globe for America when America has done nothing to warrant it and made America look like the most delicious target in the world because of it! And you won't do a thing against that image, will you! You want us to be a target to further your own fucking agenda!"
"Now, Mr. Jones, calm down," said the president.
"DON'T TELL ME TO CALM DOWN! I warned you! I warned you that if you continued on this path that you would have to face the American people, well, buddy, you are going to face it NOW. The founders went to war over LESS that what you have heaped on us!" Then, he shoved the two men away from him easily, too easily, and turned away, walking out the doors. The men came up behind him and he heard the president call them back. He didn't give a damn if they did arrest him or interrogate him. He only needed to send out one call and one call only.
The cold did nothing to cool him down. It just made him shiver. Inside his blood was boiling. He pulled out his phone and dialed out to Hannah Cook, Texas. "Howdy, Alfred," she said on the other end.
"Hannah," he said softly, gazing ahead of him at the snow covered landscape.
"Yeah, hon, what is it you want?" she asked.
"Send out a call to the other girls," he said, "Start gearing up for cessation. I want you girls to protect yourselves first."
"Alfred… what is that going to do to you?" she asked, worry in her tone.
Alfred smiled a little. "Just worry for yourselves right now. This bill that's in there right now… even if other people were voted in, they would never be able to repeal it. I asked you before to stay in for as long as possible, but I'm asking you now to protect yourselves first. We can't afford to let them have all out control of all of you like this. You can fight better from the outside than in."
"No, Alfred," said Hannah, "We're staying in. Right, Mia?" The color drained from Alfred's face.
Mia's voice came over the speaker and Alfred felt tears come to his eyes. He stifled them as well as he could. "Alfred, what are you talking about cessation? We can't do that! What about you? What about the people?"
"Mia," he said, his voice shaking a little, "Please do as I ask. I don't know how much longer we can do this and you not be affected. Please, just do whatever you can to protect yourselves and your people."
"We're Americans," said Mia softly. Alfred sat down abruptly on the curb of a sidewalk and held his head, crying. Mia's voice on the other end was worried as she spoke, "Alfred! Alfred, please don't cry! Please! Alfred—oh please talk to me! Alfred!"
It took a little time for Alfred to calm down. He breathed slowly and wiped his eyes, trying to get a hold of himself. "Sorry, Mia," he said, giving a short laugh.
"Alfred," she said softly, "Please just go home and rest."
"Yeah, I'll do that," he said as he stood up, "I love you, Mia."
"I love you too, Alfred," she said. He turned the phone off then and held it to his mouth, sighing a little.
The only way this could ever end now was in bloodshed.