April 22, 2015: Impeachment?
Today’s meeting went well right up until I suggested that we “circle the wagons” and pull in our borders. As soon as people realized that they might have to leave their homes, we nearly had a revolt on our hands. Much as I assumed, the response was, “No way!” … and stronger. A few folks called me some names. Others suggested that I had let power go to my head. I quietly reminded them that I had not sought the position I now hold – that they had pushed me into the role.
That didn’t help much.
Pete, Ariela, Terry and Joseph all stepped in to defend me. (Terry and Joseph were my only family members in attendance.) The tone of the meeting slid down a slippery slope from there. We even ended up with some pushing and shoving. Voices were raised. Fists were drawn back. No one threw a punch, thankfully.
You’d have thought I called people’s babies ugly.
“Look,” I said, “I put myself in your position just last night. I asked myself how I would feel if we decided as a group that the Johnsons needed to leave their farm.”
There was a lot of mumbling. Someone shouted, “Why don’t you?”
I took a breath. “Arguably, we could pull the borders in any direction. We could congregate to the east or west, north or south. Or, we could pull in from the outer edges to the middle.”
“I vote north,” a man raised his voice in the back of the room.
“You would!” replied another fellow who obviously didn’t live in the northern reaches of the community.
“Let’s look at this from a couple vantage points,” I suggested as I laid out a topographical map of the area on a table.
“Apparently, you’ve already looked at it from your vantage point,” a guy in the front row snarled.
I recognized him, but couldn’t put a name with the face.
“Hear him out,” Pete gave the guy a no-nonsense look that shut him up.
“Why are we considering this?” I asked.
The room was quiet for a moment as the question settled into everyone’s mind. I gave Pete, Terry and Joseph a look and a quick shake of my head. I wanted someone else to come up with the answer.
A big guy in the middle of the crowd raised his hand. He wore grubby overalls and a long-sleeve shirt despite the warmth of the April day. His long hair was covered with a cap that had most likely been given to him by his seed corn dealer several years before. His heavy beard was scraggly and unkempt. Around his ample waist was a lap belt from an old car. The belt was cinched tight to hold a leather flap holster on his right hip. I suspected that the holster held a well-worn .45 – perhaps one that the man had carried in Viet Nam. He looked to be about the right age. Like the guy in the front row, I recognized the man but couldn’t recall his name.
“We need to be able to defend ourselves,” his voice rumbled in his massive chest.
“Exactly,” I nodded. “What do we need to defend ourselves against?”
The big guy stroked his beard as he continued, “We got people migrating from the cities. We got possible Chi-Com’s comin’ up to assimilate us.” He spat out the word “assimilate” as if it was vinegar.
“Those are the potential threats that we know about,” I agreed. “There may be others. As resources become more and more scarce, bands of people may organize to go on the offensive.”
That got the crowd to mumbling.
“Frankly, beyond the exodus from the cities and the possibility of U.N. troops making their way here to … assimilate us … we don’t know for sure what other threats we may face.”
I had their attention.
“My suggestion is that we … uh … circle the wagons, so to speak. All due respect to Pete and any others here with Native American blood.”
I stepped in it pretty good when I said that.
Pete saved me. “No offense taken … white man. Just make sure you’re not speaking with a forked tongue.”
Pete chuckled and the crowd loosened up a bit.
“No forked tongue, Pete,” I assured him. “I’m just trying to make sure we can defend ourselves as a community. There’s strength in numbers but only if we can rely on those numbers. If we’re spread from here to breakfast, it will take time to respond to anyone in need.”
I paused and let that thought sink in. As I watched, people turned to their neighbors and talked. Heads started to nod.
“Folks, I don’t like city living any better than the next person,” I continued my pitch. “I moved back to the farm from the city precisely because I didn’t like having neighbors living within spitting distance. I’m not eager to build a bunch of houses on my property and have all of you living in my back yard. No offense.”
I grinned and noticed that a few of the faces in the crowd grinned back.
“We have two alternatives as I see it,” I continued. “First, we can do nothing. We can leave our radio network in place and hope that we can respond in time if someone needs help or spots trouble. The other alternative is to move everyone in closer together so we’re defending less area and can respond more quickly. If anyone else has another idea, we should discuss it.”
“What if we stayed where we are but worked to improve our response times?” It was the unhappy guy from the north end.
“That’s an option,” I agreed. “Anyone else have other alternatives to discuss?”
“I think we have to evaluate the threat level,” Ariela spoke for the first time.
It surprised me a bit. I couldn’t recall Ariela saying anything in any of our community meetings prior to this.
“Can you explain what you mean?” I wanted to integrate her more deeply into the community. After all, if she was going to be my secretary of defense, people needed to see why I made that choice.
“Sure,” Ariela pushed off of the wall that she had been leaning against. She cut quite a figure with her eye patch and close-cropped hair. I was thinking of Demi Moore in the movie G.I. Jane as Ariela walked confidently to my side. Ariela’s hair wasn’t shaved that closely but she was a sight, nonetheless.
“What I mean,” Ariela began, “is how real is the threat … how imminent. Is it a threat that we are certain to face? Is it a threat that we will face tomorrow? Or, is there a degree of uncertainty? Is the threat a ways off … in either time or distance?”
“Would you care to give your assessment?” I asked.
“Affirmative.” Ariela was a Marine through-and-through. “Based upon our relatively recent reconnaissance and Miriam’s sighting, I would say the probability of civilian ingress is exceptionally high. Although they may not be specifically targeting this area, it is an area rich in natural resources within a few days’ walk of several metropolitan areas.”
The crowd was silent, almost entranced by Ariela and her bare-bones, just-the-facts assessment and precise analysis.
Ariela continued, “The probability of a U.N. troop invasion seems less likely. However, that probability may increase if and when word of our preparedness passes back through migrating civilian populations.”
That thought hadn’t even occurred to me! I’m sure glad Ariela is on our side.
“Therefore,” Ariela went on, “breach prevention is tantamount to our security. Any breach of our security … external or internal … raises our risk exponentially. I saw this among the farmers and villagers in Afghanistan. It was nearly impossible to get information out of them. They recognized that even the slightest slip of the tongue exposed them to the risk of retribution from the insurgents in the area. We were only able to gather information to the extent that they believed we could protect them from their own countrymen who were fighting us.”
“I was over there too.” a young man leaning against the wall near the back of the room spoke up. “I didn’t work closely with the villagers but I heard the same thing from the guys … er, troops … outside the wire.”
The young man looked apologetically at Ariela.
“No offense taken,” Ariela laughed.
The crowd laughed with her as the young man ducked his head and blushed.
“So,” I chimed in, “we have one threat that represents both a high degree of probability and a high degree of imminence and a second threat that, while it does not currently rank quite as high on the threat level scale, could be exacerbated by the first threat.”
“Correct,” Ariela affirmed.
“Ladies and gentleman,” I began my summary, “this is not a decision that has to be made today. This is not a decision that should be made without careful consideration, but it is a decision that needs to be made in the very near future. We’ve already spotted at least one family migrating into the area. Others are likely not far behind. As soon as we’re discovered, word will spread. We must be prepared.”
The crowd began to murmur.
“Before you head back to your homes,” I raised my voice above the noise of the crowd, “I want to ask you to give consideration to the proposals before us. The first is to make no real changes, but to remain vigilant and hope that we can respond quickly to any threat. The second is to move everyone in the community in closer to decrease the amount of area we need to defend. Finally, the third proposal is to remain where we are but work to improve our ability to respond quickly to any threat.”
I paused briefly to let the three options sink in.
“Regardless of which option we ultimately choose, it is of the utmost importance that we maintain tight security. Any information that reaches the outside world is, quite literally, a threat to our lives. It may be tempting to help those who wander into our midst. Many of them are innocent and in dire need of assistance. It feels wrong to have to turn them away, but quite simply it comes down to an us or them situation.
“While we consider our options, we must prevent any breach in security. Unfortunately, we must turn away anyone who wanders in our direction. If you choose to share food or supplies with these people, it is critical that they not be allowed to see your stores or defenses. Keep them on the outskirts of the Union Creek area. Do not allow them near your homes.
“Are we in agreement?,” I asked.
Heads nodded. A few people shouted out affirmative answers.
“Is anyone in disagreement?” I followed up.
“Good.” I clasped my hands together, cupping my right fist in my left hand. “I want to thank each of you for coming and for your patience. We face unprecedented times and challenges. We’ll only make it through if we work together. Stay safe.”
The crowd broke up. Everyone returned to their homes … for now. Perhaps that will change in the very near future. Or, perhaps I will be impeached and everyone will do whatever they think is right.
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