"Only the dead have seen the end of the war."--Plato
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
SENATOR OBAMA short story (fiction)
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A short story by Zach Foster
Based on “LBJ” by Walter Jones
The sun shined bright as a cool breeze swept through Galena, Illinois. The trees were illuminated to glow an unusually brilliant shade of green as the energy in the air was high, almost electrically charged. A large crowd at least a thousand strong had gathered on Main Street which was closed to cars for the morning.
A line of city police and county sheriff’s deputies held back the crowd, pushing them back as they pressed closer and closer to the stage and podium erected in front of the Galena General Offices. At the front of the crowd stood Giovanni Hernandez, standing at an unintimidating 5’6” but holding his ground nonetheless. Today was his eighteenth birthday and he’d checked himself out of school for the day. This was, after all, a special occasion.
The growing crowd of people continued to lurch forward as more excited onlookers tried to push their way to the stage. Everyone pushing to the front did so only in his or her own interest, but they unknowingly acted in unison as a mob and sent the leviathan pushing forward into the line of police. Giovanni held his ground. He hadn’t woken up extra early and waited all this time just to lose his place in front.
From the back side of the stage, the Jo Daviess County Sheriff ascended the steps and stood next to the podium with a megaphone in his hand. One of the deputies behind the stage made an unintelligible radio call. He nodded to the sheriff who seemed to have been expecting a signal. His expression changed. Raising the megaphone to his face, he addressed the crowd. “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve just received word that Senator Obama has just landed at Heller Airport. His motorcade is on its way here now.
The crowd exploded in cheers. The energy had just increased tenfold and Giovanni was incredibly excited. What better way to spend his birthday than seeing the next President of the United States?
Minutes passed. He looked past the stage and saw in the near distance a small crowd of hecklers. There were only five of them, and they held signs with some of the strangest messages. One of their signs said “End this war!” while another read in large red painted letters “Clinton = Bush” on the top row and “Obama = McCain” on the bottom row. Next to that activist was a woman wearing a POW-MIA t-shirt who held up a sign saying “4,127. How many more?” The most noticeable in their little group was dressed like one of the minutemen from the Revolutionary War as he proudly held up a yellow flag with a snake outlined in black over the words “Don’t tread on me!” Next to him was a muscular young man in his mid-twenties with a crew cut holding up a Ron Paul campaign sign.
“What are they doing here?” Giovanni heard himself wonder out loud.
A random man to Giovanni’s left, wearing tight black jeans and a faded t-shirt with a French cap over his balding head, answered his query. “They’re the Ron Paul people. They’re waiting to heckle Obama.” He looked to be in his mid-thirties though he had the aura of a college student.
“I’ve never even heard of that guy,” Giovanni replied in bewilderment.
“Most people haven’t,” said the man. “I give him credit for wanting to bring the troops home, but the rest of his platform is crazy. Totally loony. So not that many people pay attention to him.”
“Oh.” Giovanni had nothing else to say. He was bewildered at the idea that any anti-war activists would support anyone other than Obama, let alone the strange concept of an anti-war Republican in the year 2008.
Out of nowhere arrived a team of men wearing black suits and dark sunglasses, flanking the stage behind the line of police. One of them hopped onto the stage and said something in the sheriff’s ear. The sheriff nodded and handed over the megaphone to the Secret Service agent. “Ladies and gentlemen,” the agent blared at the crowd, “Senator Obama will be here in just a moment. For his safety and for yours as well, we need everyone to move back at least ten steps away from this stage.”
People grumbled and boos emerged from the crowd. There was no way Giovanni was about to back up without everyone else backing up first. He’d arrived extra early for his place at the front.
The agent demanded once more, “Move back, ladies and gentlemen, or else Senator Obama’s motorcade will turn around. This is for everyone’s safety!”
People began to halfheartedly shuffle back upon being threatened with not seeing their hero. When Giovanni shuffled back he accidentally bumped into a pair of breasts. “Oh, sorry!” he and the woman exclaimed anxiously at the same time. When he whipped his head around to apologize, it took him a split second to realize that the thin, curvy frame, stout bosom, shiny skin, and long black locks of hair belonged to Kiara Williams.
“Oh, hey!” she greeted his dumbfounded face. It took him a moment to replace his befuddled look with a sheepish smile. “Hey,” he replied. He wished he had something clever to say.
“You came to see Obama too?” she asked with a smile as she touched his upper arm in a congratulatory manner, hardly even realizing she did so. Her smile was perfect, just like out of a Hollywood headshot.
“Wouldn’t miss it!” he answered with a beaming grin. Kiara went to his high school and was in his grade. She even sat near him in his history class. She was a breathtakingly beautiful black girl who could easily have been a glamor model in magazines. She had no idea what a crush he had on her.
The electric crowd erupted in cheers as a line of police motorcycles flanking a shining black SUV turned the corner onto Main Street, approaching the stage and coming to a slow stop. Exiting the vehicle first were two bodyguards, finally followed by the man of the hour. The crowd went insane as Senator Barack Obama made his way up the stairs, waving as he approached the podium. In his youthful aura he seemed to feed off the energy of the crowd and return it in greater amounts, sending off wave after wave of positive vibrations that had people jumping up in down in tears of joy. Giovanni heard Kiara shout “Obamaaa!!!”
Every race and creed could be seen in this crowd almost acting in unison. Many of these people seemed to genuinely love the young Senator from their home state. Many people wore Obama campaign t-shirts and held up the famous red, turquoise and navy blue posters of him. Others held up artistic signs on which Barack’s trademark red, white and blue “O” was superimposed over the peace symbol. People from all walks of life were truly uniting around Barack Obama. This was how Giovanni was certain his hero would be the next President.
The Senator raised both his hands and then brought them down in unison, signaling for the crowd to quiet down. A hush fell over the entire assembly.
“Boy, is it great to be back in Illinois!” Another cheer erupted, though it faded quickly as Giovanni, Kiara, and a thousand other people hung onto his every word. “I see those peace signs that some of you are holding and it gives me hope. It gives me hope that many Americans are finally awakening and uniting to bring change to America.”
The crowd nearly exploded in cheers and applause as the word “change” echoed a hundred times throughout the assembly.
“Ladies and gentlemen, together we can end this war in Iraq, and we can bring a responsible conclusion to the fighting in Afghanistan. It is unacceptable that seven years after 3,000 Americans were killed on our own soil, the terrorists responsible for 9/11 are still at large. We can find Osama Bin Laden and Al Zawahiri and bring them to justice. We will soon be able to bring our troops home, and we must begin by ending the war in Iraq.”
Applause thronged and the peace signs shook and waved on the mention of ending the war. Giovanni cheered as well, and felt Kiara’s breath and energy as she applauded and shouted in agreement.
“We cannot tolerate this strain on our forces to fight a war that has not made us safer. I will restore our strength by ending this war, completing the increase of our ground forces by 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 marines, and investing in the capabilities we need to defeat conventional foes and meet the unconventional challenges of our time. We can bring our troops home in sixteen months. I want the Iraqis to take control of their own future and their own stability so we can be at peace once again.”
The assembly broke into the loudest segment of cheering and applause yet. Giovanni wasn’t left out. He cheered and whooped until his voice was hoarse. He was genuinely pleased at the possibility that the war would end and America would return to peace. He would be able to join the Marine Corps during peacetime, see the world, and then go to college on the GI Bill. He would get a degree, find a good job, and never have to struggle to make ends meet like his immigrant parents.
“Let’s be clear on something,” Obama continued, “Senator McCain would have our troops continue to fight tour after tour of duty, and our taxpayers keep spending ten billion dollars a month indefinitely.” The entire crowd booed and hissed the mention of John McCain. Giovanni eagerly awaited the next statement.
“My campaign is still about hope. It’s still about change. We can change the country. We can change the world. Change is coming to America. It is time to stand for CHANGE!”
Sparks flew and hats were thrown in the air as the entire crowd screamed praises for the Senator. Obama then stepped away from the podium, stepped off the front of the stage, and began shaking the hands of admirers as the two bodyguards scrambled to flank him. Dozens of people were pushing past the line of police to get to Obama. Giovanni barely managed to reach past two city cops when he saw Obama approaching. He was overwhelmingly stupefied and star struck when he saw and felt Obama squeeze his hand.
“St. Louis, Senator, St. Louis!” one of the bodyguards shouted into the Senator’s preoccupied ear. If we don’t leave now, we’ll miss the fundraiser!” Giovanni’s adrenaline was pumping and he hardly noticed Obama turn around with his bodyguards and re-enter the SUV. The crowd chanted in unison as the motorcade drove away: “O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma!”
When Giovanni came to his senses he was looking into Kiara’s ecstatic face. She screamed in hysterical joy, “Oh my God, Obama touched your hand!” and she threw herself at him in a full embrace, her bosom pressed tightly against his chest and her arms locked around the shoulders of the boy she knew who had touched the legendary Barack Obama. She let go and was absorbed by the crowd as if it were an amoeba looking to expand.
What a hell of an eighteenth birthday! He not only got to see his hero but shook his hand as well! On top of that, he had something to talk about with the girl he was sweet on. He would never forget this incredible day.
Nearly four years later Giovanni was on his third combat tour, slogging through a river bank with his platoon as the ceaseless sun baked down on them and their Afghan counterparts. Wary villagers eyed them from a distance. He looked up at the merciless sun in the heated blue sky and thought of Kiara and how radiant she looked on that day four years ago, joyful hope written all over her face. She was the last person on his mind as an AK bullet slammed into his neck. He hit the ground hard and was met by a second round that vigorously tore through his femoral artery.
Days before his twenty-second birthday, Giovanni Hernandez died of gunshot wounds in the Helmand River Valley.
* * *
If you have an opinion on US intervention in Syria, take a look at this idea for action in Syria that involves no US troops.
Obama family photo by Ben Stanfield and used via CC BY-SA 2.0 license. Military photos are by the US government and in the public domain. All images were obtained from Wikimedia Commons.
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