Friday, July 3, 2009

Happy Birthday, America

By Rachel Coleman

Dear America, I hope you receive my best wishes in time for this, your 250th birthday on July 4, 2026. Two and a half centuries of American independence deserve some notice.

I'm so sorry that you won't be getting a party this year.

Hamburgers, ice cream and apple pie are no longer included on the Approved Nutrition List published by Our Leader; too much fat and sugar, which leads to obesity, which is the leading cause of overdrafts in Personal National Health Accounts. For more than a decade, the GovDocs tried time-outs and a sticker chart to motivate the public, but too many citizens were unresponsive to positive reinforcement. Repeated abuses of PNHAs forced Our Leader to outlaw red meat and sugar, along with tobacco, caffeine, high fructose corn syrup, table salt and alcohol.

Health Czar Mary Poppins threatened to limit chili pepper consumption as well; jalapenos and cayennes may cause heart palpitations and passionate outbursts that disrupt the general population's general apathy. However, accusations of discrimination by Citizens Who Like Spicy Food and the Worldwide Food Equity Panel put a halt to that.

But a couple peppers don't make a party.

In spite of our recent alliance with Turko-China, few people purchase fireworks anymore on account of the carbon emissions generated by open flame. Even the old-timers balk at using up three months' worth of their carbon allowance for a few sparkles and booms. We have to budget, even if no one uses air-conditioning much anymore. Summer temperatures around here hardly ever top 80 degrees. I'm talkin' fahrenheit, because I'm just too old to convert every cubic … centimeter of my brain to the Global Measurements.

Global Warming turned out to be a gigantic experiment in mass hypnosis and worldwide propaganda and that shyster Al Gore lost his Prophet's License. Even so, carbon taxes never did roll back. If there's one thing folks won't squander, it's their electricity allowance. Winter's still pretty cold out here in Kansas.

A few renegade cattle ranchers persist in keeping illicit herds. They figure the cow-chip furnace is a better deal than tallying carbon credits. It's a pretty safe bet: the electric cars Government Motors gives the EPA run out of battery power before they reach the farthest corners of cattle country. So you might see a few bottle rockets bursting in air out in the canyon pasturelands. I sure hope so, because I miss a good old-fashioned Fourth of July.

I'm not the only one. Down at the Age Empowerment Center, we talked about trying to organize a Patriotic Parade down Obama Boulevard. A few cantankerous souls flatly and loudly refused, saying "he sold us down the river!" but a group of former librarians, teachers and pastors persisted.

"It's our heritage," we argued. "America is the land of the free —"

"Ha," someone snorted.

"— and the home of the brave." That mention of courage bolstered the timid, especially history buffs. They're still angry about how the Compulsory National School Curriculum changed the description of World War II from "an effort to aid and liberate" Europe to "a conspiracy to raid and obliterate" Europe.

"My grandpa was at Normandy," a tiny, white-haired woman announced, clutching her cane. "I'll march in the parade!"

Only eco-cars are allowed on the toll-roads, even in town, and no person over 50 is issued a permit. That meant our Patriotic Parade would be limited to foot- and cycle traffic. Still, we planned, buoyed by visions of Paul Revere and the horse-riding founders of our country. They didn't need gasoline to rally the people. Some of us still own the old-style flags — Old Glory without the big, blocky fist surrounded by a circle of stars. We knew displaying our outlawed flags in a parade would probably mean confiscation and a fine, maybe even detention, but nostalgia had taken hold.

Our attempts to recruit younger, able-bodied people to push the wheelchairs largely failed. The workers fulfilling their Civil Labor Obligation at the center were not familiar with the Revolutionary War. One agreed with enthusiasm, only to back out when he learned Che Guevara did not take part. We had a brief moment of hope when a nutrition dispenser recognized the name of George Washington.

"Oh, I learned about him at school," she said. "Isn't he the guy who invented wooden teeth?"

To our delight, a 33-year-old man at work in the recycling division volunteered to push a wheelchair.

"I studied to be an engineer," he whispered, "but when I argued with my advisor that the United States was originally a Christian nation, my free university status was terminated. The same thing happened to a lot of my friends. I'll see if they can help."

But it was only when we applied for a Public Gathering Permit that I realized how silly we had been.

"What is the name of your proposed equal-opportunity nonoffensive secular multiperson public event?" asked the clerk.

"A Patriotic Parade," I said. "For Independence Day."

"Date?" she yawned.

"I would think that's obvious," I said.

"Not today's date, Citizen," the clerk said disdainfully. "The date of your proposed —"

"July 4."


"No, this July 4. Next week."

"Government regulations require that organizers of proposed equal-opportunity nonoffensive secular multiperson public events submit DNA samples, a privilege fee of 10 ounces gold and a written request witnessed and signed by two government officials five years in advance," the clerk said in a rapid-fire combination of boredom and glee. Paperwork please."

No one seemed to notice as we left the office. They were watching reruns of Oprah on their tele-spectacles.

I just want you to know I didn't forget it's your day, my country, sweet land of liberty. You make me want to sing. I'll try to do it with pen and ink and less complaining.

Ever since Our Leader suspended postal operations in 2012, right after the Final Election, it's been pretty tricky to get paper documents from place to place. And the Communications Tax Collectors issue hefty fines — a thousand global bucks per paper violation!

It would be cheaper and safer to have the Media Division deduct the usual 10 globals from my 100-a-month pension allowance and send you an ecard. But ecards just don't seem fitting, what with the global holograms embedded in the background and the Restrictions on Language.

I'm pretty sure this sentence would not make it past the Approved Language List: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."

Nope. This outdated patriot will take the risk and send my greetings by carrier pigeon. If the message falls into the wrong hands and my name is moved to an unfavorable data base, so be it. You, the symbol of Liberty and Justice, are worthy of personal sacrifice. Thank you for the years of freedom you provided. Forgive me for not doing more to keep you strong.

I regret that I have only this birthday card to offer my country.

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