Tag Archives: politics

Precious Wasteland

I cut off the engine and coasted by bike to a peaceful stop on the side of the road. Gravel crunched pleasingly under my tires. As I stepped off I fumbled around in my backpack for my guidebook. When I found it, I flipped to the page I had bookmarked last night.

Gravesend, CA, U.S.A-

A community formed on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Once a thriving town, the population was driven out following the acquisition of water rights by the Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power. It has since become a lawless hotbed for those who seek to live off the grid of modern society.

Movements like these had overtaken the country. Millions of people sought an escape from the pressures of life. A distinctly American instinct arose- a need to get away to the wilderness. To establish oneself anew. The phenomenon was well documented in my book I was writing: “Hermit Habitats”. That is the theory behind the movement. I had the metrics, but I was missing actual accounts, detailing what these communities were like. That is why I rode out to Gravesend.

I would be the first to record what it was like in an actual “Hermit Habitat”.

I dusted off my jacket and strutted down the street towards a hastily built gate with a lone gunman standing in front.

“Hey you!” The man yelled. “State your business!”

From my research I had learned that visitors were turned away from the isolated communities. Only permanent residents would be allowed within the city gates.

“I’m looking to move out here-” I responded. “Got room for one more angry 20-something?”

The man chuckled and gestured for me to proceed. I jogged back to my bike and turned the ignition. I accelerated through the opened gate, giving the guard a two finger salute off my forehead. A few hundred feet past the wall, small houses dotted the sides of the street. I parked in front of what seemed to be a general store and dismounted.

I stood for a while and took in the small details of this paradise. Every home was roofed with solar panels, tarps for collecting rainwater formed sweeping canopies over the gravel sidewalks.

“Are you new here stranger?” A voice interjected.

I spun around, dazed by the interruption of my thoughts. The words came from a young redheaded woman. She grinned at my confusion and pushed a mess of hair from her face.

“Uh- Yeah. I just came in today.” I mumbled nervously.

“I noticed you admiring our rain collection network.” She explained. “First thing you outta know about Gravesend is that water is king. And the second it touches the ground it belongs to the City of Los Angeles.”

I nodded in understanding and whipped out a notebook. “Could you explain more of the rules to me?”

“Certainly” She stammered guardedly. “Though there aren’t many rules. What would you like to know?”

“Why do people move out here?”

“If you’re moving in wouldn’t you know?”

“Uh- Well yeah, but I was wondering if there was a cause behind the movement in general ya know?”

“Movement?”

“The emigration of individuals from the bigger cities of the United States to parts of veritable wilderness to form their own communities.

“Why?”

“I’d like to know the reason behind this phenomenon.”

There was silence.

My curiosity had gotten ahead of my common sense. I had ousted myself. I could tell by the pissed off face of my redheaded acquaintance. She took a step in my direction.

“To answer your question.” She raged. “We are out here because we don’t appreciate being treated less than human. Outside of this city you are: a consumer, a voter, a drivers license number, a phone number, a social security number, a bank account, a sucker. I’m a person damnit!”

She snatched the notebook from my quivering hands and flipped through the pages. Her expression grew dark as she read.

“Let me explain!” I pleaded.

“Your work speaks for itself Mister Investigator.” She put two fingers to her mouth and whistled loudly.

Within moments, people began peeking out of windows and cracking open doors. As if they had been summoned to gather.

“I’m sorry that you came all this way.” She teased. “But we despise numbers, and you’re trying to put us in a fucking box.”

The mob of people conglomerated, cutting off my routes of escape. I wondered.

If my blood soaked into the ground would it too be owned by the City of Los Angeles?

It was much to late to publish, but I now understood their anguish.

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Find Your Voice

“You’ve ruined this country!”

“You had a chance to fight injustice!”

“You threw your vote away!”

A few comments stuck out, but eventually the taunts of enraged people yelling from across the classroom fused into an incoherent jumble. Konrad Johnson was president and the crowd made it feel like the world was going to end. I voted for Peter Snoqualmie, a third-party candidate from Montana. He seemed like the candidate I wanted for the job so I voted for him. If only it was that simple.

Earlier today, when my Political Science professor asked us to move to certain parts of the room based on our votes I did so with no predispositions. I thought it’d be fun to see the political views of my peers. But apparently the party that lost was not too thrilled. They were angry, and aimed their wrath at the several of us huddled in the north corner of the room. Since I was not with them, I was against them.

The following weeks were an isolating experience. Whenever I entered that class I was met with piercing glares. My normal study group wanted nothing to do with me. People were just so damn mad about him winning, and the media was all too happy to fan the flames of civil unrest. I should have noticed the change in the atmosphere before it started getting out of hand.

One day I walked into the lecture hall ready for a pre-class quiz. I had gotten in the habit of just watching my feet as I found my seat, to avoid passing glares. So I didn’t notice how empty the room had gotten until I fished out my books from my bag.

“Where is everyone?” I asked the sparsely populated student body.

A few students shrugged or looked away. It seemed no one cared to answer.

I heard a tooth grinding screech as the double doors flew open.

“Class! We are going to watch the live-stream of the protest on campus!” He excitedly held an open laptop as he skipped to the front of the class. “This is history in the making!”

With a few cords and keystrokes the live-stream was connected to the projector and shone on top of the blackboard. A pimple faced journalism major held a microphone up to the protesters, asking their cause. My classmates stood in the background waving signs.

“We want Konrad Johnson to resign! Your voice is a weapon! Use it to fight injustice!”

The ringleader spoke for a while longer, but as he did a crowd began to form opposite the protesters. The distinct sound of a bottle shattering on the ground interrupted the interview.

A counter protest had been spurred into action and it got violent fast. The audio cut out, and video was choppy but we could see the reporter struggling to escape. He caught an elbow to his jaw, knocking him to the ground for a moment before scrambling along the ground to get out of the center of the brawl. Blood streamed down his chin.

My professor jittered with excitement. His eyes grew, as if they were absorbing the flickering images from the screen.

“This is politics in the 21st century”

I stared blankly at the chaos projected at the front of the class. My fellow students fought viciously for their beliefs. This was not politics, this was a war rivaling the spectacles at Carthage or Hastings.

It dawned on me then why candidates like Peter Snoqualmie would never win. You can’t win a war by remaining neutral. It didn’t matter how much I liked Snoqualmie, I had to check the ballot unfolding in front of me. And he was noticeably absent from the choices.

I pushed back my chair and stood. It squealed against the linoleum floor. My professor was too enthralled by the dancing lights of the projector to notice me sliding through the double doors. As I neared the quad, the sounds of screaming and battered flesh echoed into the hallways ever louder. Sirens faintly approached from the distance adding a subtle sterile flavor. My nails dug into my palm as I clenched my fists.

I still was not sure what side I would join. But I would come out swinging.

It’s better than not having a voice.