What Does Reality Have to Do with It?

After 30 years as a reality show star, Rafael decided he wanted to do something real. Something important. He examined his considerable bank account and decided to run for congress.

So just as he’d done when he picked his next reality show, he started to research. After studying the various political consultants he found there was one, known just as Kev, who had a 100% win record. His real name, so far as anyone could tell, was Kevin Smith, but nobody called him that any more. He had his name trademarked. His prices were several times what anyone else’s were, but with his record, he could charge them and afford to be selective.

This is a work of fiction. All places, persons, and events are the products of the author’s imagination.
Copyright © 2012 Henry E. Neufeld

Now Rafael thought of himself as a pretty special person, much superior to the blips. “Blip” was the slang term for someone who spent their entire life on Basic Living Payments. With the advance of automation very few people were actually required to work. Basic Living Payments were quite adequate to live a reasonable lifestyle. The only problem was that one felt rather useless, provided one bothered with such feelings. And there was plenty of entertainment to keep one’s mind occupied.

Entertainment. That was the key. Entertainers still had jobs. One could, of course, fake it. Animated movies were barely distinguishable from ones done with live actors (if that). At the same time, however, there had been a revival of plays. Well, that, and reality shows. Shows that were certified to place real humans at real risk. Not massive risk, but real. And Rafael had been a reality show great.

But now he wanted to do something important, so he sent off a message to Kev. (Nobody bothered with the “e” in e-mail any more. There was no snailmail.) He thought it was likely that Kev would ignore him. After all, he had no political experience at all.

But Kev responded almost immediately. He asked for a face to face chat. Now this no longer meant that they would get together, but rather than they would communicate electronically in real-time complete with 3D video.

Kev looked at Rafael for a few moments after they connected. “I already checked, and you can afford my services. The question is, do you want to work for me?”

“I thought you would be deciding whether you wanted to work with me,” said Rafael. “After all, I’m a political novice. I might not be winning material.”

“I already know you’re potentially winning material. You can afford my price. But can you work with me?”

“I work well with others and under direction.”

“Let’s see then. We need a “look” for you,” said Kev. He produced an image on the screen. It fit with Rafael’s body type and general size, but it was both more heroic in expression and yet more common in general appearance.

“I see what some of that fee goes for. Plastic surgery.” Rafael looked doubtful.

“Now we need a history.” Kev started to outline some points. It left Rafael with time for the reality shows he’d starred in, and it appeared Kev knew precisely when he’d been recording the shows and accounted for the time correctly. At other times, according to this time, he’d been involved in other sports and some intellectual activities, most of which he couldn’t really identify.

“But what’s wrong with my own history?” asked Rafael.

“Your history is very good. But it doesn’t guarantee a win. It only makes it probable. I guarantee a win.”

“What about policies and positions?”

“We’ll determine those from the polling.”

“So what you mean by ‘working with you’ is that I accept plastic surgery, have my life story written, and let you pick my positions.”

“I didn’t say anything about plastic surgery.”

“But I don’t look like the picture you showed me.”

“You won’t be appearing in public.”

“Don’t I have to meet voters?”

“I’ll have actors to do that.”

“If I had done all the things your bio says I did, I’d be broke and wouldn’t be able to pay your fee!”

“Nobody has to know that. Besides, isn’t the point of most of those things to have done them? Well, you’re just buying the ‘have done’ cheap.”

“So none of it will be real.”

“You’ll be a congressman. That will be real. Well, more or less.”

“What do you mean?”

“We’ll have actors to take care of actually appearing in Congress.”

“But they’d have to vote the way I say, right?”

“Well, actually we’ll use the polling data for that. We have to be prepared to get you reelected!”

“So none of it will be real. None of it.” Rafael sounded discouraged.

“Actually, what does reality have to do with it?” asked Kev, sounding a bit puzzled.




Which Is the Patriot?

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of the characters, places, or events to anything in the real world is purely coincidental. Copyright © 2012, Henry E. Neufeld

Jeremiah, known just as Jer for short took in the scene in an instant. He was a sheriff’s deputy, and a good one. He could write the story in a moment. He instantly also regretted not calling for backup before he got out of his patrol car and walked into this field. But he had recognized his friend Billy amongst the young men in the field, and he had been certain he could handle whatever Billy got into. Billy got into little trouble, not big.

Had been certain. Not now. The body lying on the ground didn’t look good. He thought he’d seen movement in the moment he had to take in the scene. He didn’t have his gun out. He didn’t see any guns on the young men there, but he was certain there was one under Billy’s jacket.

Before he could say anything, Billy spoke up. “It’s not what it looks like,” he said. “He’s a terrorist, … a Muslim terrorist. We caught him and he attacked us.” Jer considered the half a dozen young men and the slight figure on the ground. The scenario was unlikely.

“You’re going to have to come with me,” he said, looking at Billy, but taking in the group.

“Listen, Jer,” said Billy. “You don’t have to do this. You’re the first on the scene. Let the others go, then I’ll claim self defense. He is a terrorist. We heard him talking about Allah and all that and how bad things would happen to this country. He was going to blow things up!”

“Yeah,” said another of the young men. “We’re patriots! We’re defending our country!”

Jer could see Billy watching him, hoping he’d be distracted. But even though he’d managed to get himself into this bad situation—why hadn’t he called it in!—he knew how to handle himself.

“No, you’re not,” said Jer. “You’re breaking the law.”

“I can’t believe you’d get soft on these terrorists,” said Billy, looking shocked. “I always thought you were a patriotic American!”

Jer saw the slight movement of Billy’s right hand. Billy thought himself fast. He thought himself quite a marksman. But his expertise was largely in his own mind. Before his hand was halfway to the open flap of his jacket, Jer had his gun in his hand.

“Don’t go there!” he said firmly.

“You wouldn’t shoot your old friend Billy, would you?”

“Put your hands on your head, or you’ll find out,” said Jer. His look and tone took in all the young men. A couple of them moved as if to run. “Don’t even think about it! Get down on the ground!” he said firmly, and just loud enough to make everyone hear.

With everyone on the ground he made that call for backup.

As Billy was being placed in the back of one of the cruisers, he called Jer over. “You’ll see! He’s a terrorist.”

“No, Billy,” said Jer. “He’s just a student with some opinions you don’t like. He was walking home. He lives just a block from here. Luckily for you, he’s going to live.”

“But he hates America,” said Billy. “Some time soon he’ll blow up one of our schools, and then you’ll be sorry you stopped us! I’m a patriot!”

Jer just turned away. Someday he might just have to stop a terrorist. He figured it could happen. Or it might be one of his colleagues. But he was pretty sure it would be someone like him who did it, not someone like Billy.

Which of us is the real patriot? he thought.

The God-Talk Club – Voting I

[This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters, places, or events to reality is strictly coincidental. It is also part of a series. Characters who have been introduced in previous episodes will not be re-introduced. You can find a list of characters from episodes up to this one here.]

Only four members of the God-Talk Club had gathered this evening. They were Mark Morton, who was taking a break from studying for a test in his systematic theology class, Jerry Simonson, more determined than ever to reach Mark with the gospel, even though Mark was a seminary student, Mandy Kelly, who never missed her prescribed break from home life, and Justine Reeder.

“How is it that I never see you studying?” Mark asked Justine.

“Oh, I study! I just don’t do it here.”

“But I never see you studying on campus either.”

“You never see me on campus.”

“I have too seen you. A couple of times. I just never see you studying or in class.”

“I know,” said Mandy. “She’s so smart she doesn’t have to study!”

Justine looked embarrassed, but didn’t say anything.

“If you don’t mind my asking,” said Mark, “What’s your GPA?”

“I do mind you asking,” Justine replied. “I think that’s rude!”

“I bet it’s so high you’re afraid we’ll think you’re boasting,” said Mandy.

Jerry looked embarrassed. One of his problems with this group was that he was very courteous. It was hard for him to get his viewpoints taken seriously in this group without being blunt, and to be honest quite rude. “How about the election? Have any of you decided who to vote for?”

There was a moment of stunned silence at the obvious change of subject, then Mandy laughed. “Yes, Grandpa! We’ll settle down and be a little less rude,” she said.

“I didn’t mean that.” Jerry paused. “Well, I suppose I did. But I’d still like an answer, if anyone is willing.”

“Why don’t you go first?” asked Mark.

“Very well,” said Jerry. “I’ll be voting for Fred Thompson in our primary.”

“Do you think he still has a chance?” asked Mark.

“I don’t know, but I think he best represents my values—smaller government, private education options, and pro-life.”

There was another long pause. Jerry looked from one face to another. Had he stepped over a line with these folks by asking their political views?

“OK, I’ll go,” said Justine. “I’m voting for Barack Obama.”

Continue reading “The God-Talk Club – Voting I”

Book: The Senator and the Priest

If you’ve been around any of my blogs for long you already know that I love Andrew Greeley, and especially the Father/Bishop Blackie mysteries. I’m a little bit less excited about his more romantic fiction, but his political fiction is also great. It’s entertaining and it makes some excellent points along the way.

Thus The Senator and the Priest attracted my attention as soon as I first saw it, and soon I took it home to read. I was not disappointed.

Conservatives and Republicans will be disappointed that the good guys are Democrats, though there is one Republican presented favorably. The media is seen mostly in a negative light. Its faults and failings as portrayed are precisely those I see with the media. It’s not a matter so much of political agenda, as it is of a simple profit agenda, combined with a great deal of stupidity.

As always, Greeley’s books are permeated with the gospel message of God’s implacable love (his phrase), and the portrayal of God’s passion for us through sexual passion. One shouldn’t get the idea here that we are dealing with a sort of allegory. I really don’t like fiction that is written with the primary aim of conveying a message. Fiction needs to present a story first, and the message rides in on the story, the less obtrusively the better. But having characters of faith, who attend church, are concerned with their relationship to God, and who experience the presence of God is not message–it’s just a portrayal of human characters who exist in the real world yet are often avoided in fiction in order to avoid a “religious” message.

I would say simply that I wish that the heroic characters of this novel were real people. I suspect there are real people out there like them, and we should be looking for them to serve our nation. Their goals are good. Greeley is a Democrat, and he portrays characters who are Democrats. As an independent myself, I have little faith in either the Democratic or Republican parties at this point, but if one party would clearly embrace a message of civility and campaigns that are issues oriented, I would climb on board quickly. I just suspect such a party would not look much like the current parties, because I believe the combination of issues would change simply by the fact that elections were being fought on issues.

Good fun, good writing, good message. Can you beat that?