Blue Hats (Reprise)
General Wei stood atop a shipping container overlooking his newly arrived troops. It was unseasonably warm for a March day in the Bay Area. This was Wei’s second time in the previously bustling port. His first time had been only a few months before, in November of the previous year, immediately following the crash of the world’s economies.
After his initial arrival in San Francisco, Wei had been sent to Arizona and then to Georgia. He was certainly glad to be back. Much like Wei’s career the past four months, the city of San Francisco had been sacked and looted, but the sun still shone and the gentle breeze still carried the scent of the ocean. For Wei, there was yet hope.
The fall of San Francisco had begun in Oakland in November of 2014, shortly after what many called “the crash”. With a government no longer able to support them, many of the residents of Oakland set out to finish what the Occupy Wall Street movement had failed to complete back in 2011 and 2012.
This time there were no riot police to push back the protestors or put a stop to the looting and burning. Entire neighborhoods went up in flames as dozens were dragged from their shops and homes and beaten to death.
Within a week, the looting, killing and fires spread from the dark inner-city streets of Oakland to the glitter of downtown San Francisco. Haight Ashbury, the Presidio and Lombard Street went up in flames. The newly homeless and formerly wealthy flooded the Golden Gate and Lake Merced Parks looking for a place to escape the violence raging through the streets. Trash and bodies piled high as conditions went from bad to absolutely horrible. Disease ran rampant adding to the body count. Violence ruled the day as gangs of desperate individuals roamed the streets doing whatever they thought necessary to survive.
Months later, as Wei surveyed his troops, a pallor still hung over the metropolitan area. The odor of burning buildings and rotting flesh occasionally overrode the pleasant smell of the ocean when the wind swirled out to sea.
Wei paid no attention to the occasional stench as he stood on a shipping container that had arrived from China only months before. The general looked out over the troop formation and began his prepared speech.
“Proud members of the People’s Liberation Army,” General Wei began, “we gather today knowing that we will be remembered by our countrymen as a generation of heroes. For the first time in years, we have the opportunity to seize what is rightfully ours. For the first time in decades, we will have proper payment for the wrongs committed against the great nation of China.”
The general’s voice rose as he continued, “Most of America’s resistance has been defeated. Their momentum is broken. Many of our troops have already gone home. Their achievements are a testament to their courage, selflessness and teamwork. They focused on the mission at hand and paved the way for your accomplishments.”
The general paused and his troops cheered as if on cue.
“Think about what is within our reach.” The general basked in the adulation of his troops as he continued. “Imagine what we can accomplish if we follow their example. We can return to mother China what is rightfully hers. We can control our own destiny.”
Wei noticed that a handful of men had passed out as he had been speaking. No matter. They would be punished for their disrespect.
“Let us remember how we got here,” General Wei lowered his voice. “Long before the American recession, our previous leaders entrusted trillions of Yuan to these stupid capitalists. At the time, our leaders had no way of knowing that the Americans would continue to spend and borrow beyond their means. The Americans knew it was wrong. They knew it was irresponsible. Yet they continued to borrow and spend. Along with the Europeans, they plunged their economy into a crisis that dragged the rest of the world down with them.”
“Shortly after the crisis, our troops came to the American shore, under the flag of the United Nations, to help them recover from the crisis they created,” General Wei was warming up, getting ready to drive his point home and motivate his troops to charge forward to accomplish their mission. He had his fill of defeats from the American people. This time would be different.
There would be no repeat of what happened in Arizona … or Georgia.
“The ungrateful Americans met our troops with resistance,” Wei’s ire was evident. “The American people were uncooperative and combative. Many of our troops were killed during their peaceful mission. This will not be tolerated!” Wei was shouting now, spittle flying from his lips.
As Wei spewed his vitriol, more and more of his men became wobbly and dropped to the pavement. Perhaps it’s time to wrap up, Wei decided.
Wei stabbed home his final points as his soldiers, too weak to stand for the entire length of his speech, were dragged to the back of the formation and then hustled off for their beatings. To show such disrespect to a general of the PLA was an offense of significance.
These men would not soon forget the lesson taught them. Very soon the weight of their ruck sacks rubbing against the raw sores raised by the caning lashes on their backs would serve as a constant reminder of their insolence and contempt.