Richard intended to explore the neighboring states of Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The plan was to move about by whatever manner any given moment presented, and to seek out random encounters with strangers, in the hope of finding tour guides and new friends, and hopefully, guest beds, couches and floors.
But that was not at all how things turned out. Instead he met only people who wanted his money and his possessions, and whatever he could do for them. He slept many nights hungry and in the open, he was rained upon, he was chased by dogs, and bit by dogs, and bugs, taunted by teenagers, yelled at and spat upon, and when he was attacked and robbed and had a knife within an inch of slashing his throat, he decided to call the venture failed. He turned toward home and walked almost one hundred miles over three days until he was there.
After a few days of mulling his future, he settled on several decisions. He missed academia, and yearned to return, so he went to the bank, took out a loan on the house that was his inheritance, and enrolled in some classes at the local community college. He took several classes that satisfied all college requirements, and one elective, Cognitive Thinking, to satisfy a personal interest in the subject.
He had been enrolled and studying for about two months when one afternoon he was walking across campus when he came upon a guy with a megaphone address a small group of people. Richard stopped to listen and quickly caught the gist.
“This is not a game of world conquest, this is a very real threat, and you should be afraid, deathly afraid, of what might come to pass. For what made America great could become the Achilles’ Heel that brings about her downfall; the very open armed generosity she extended to the rest of the world will be her undoing. For she is a hodgepodge mix of all the nations of the earth. And when the immigrants were pouring through her ports, as many as ten thousand a day, to seed the land, so to speak, they came from every corner of the globe--Europe, Asia and Africa, Central and South America. They also came, good and evil. And the evil brought with them Lucifer’s system of government, the communist red menace.
Communism succeeded for a time under Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini, but those dictators were all defeated by allied forces led by the USA. Since America would be the most glorious jewel in Lucifer’s crown. Since he could not take it by force with a frontal assault, he retreated and devised to conquer us from within. Their invasion has been gradual, but they seeds they scattered over the years have now taken root, insidious tendrils spreading like venomous vipers through the fabric of our society. They’ve been biding their time, but that time is drawing dangerously near.”
Richard was listening intently. He had browsed some of the anti-communist literature that someone had lately been distributing around campus, and was profoundly intrigued. He spent endless hours reading history and political philosophy—so much so that he was using it as material to fulfill the curriculum of his Cognitive Thinking class. He was riveted by the man’s speech, who was one of his peers; and when he caught a long pause, he asked the man if he might have the microphone. It was handed to him, Adrenalized emotion surged in his gut, and he passionately said: “He is right. They are here among us and have been for decades, and now do they intend to rise up, and band together against us. Where you have sowed, they intend to reap, the houses you built they intend to occupy, and when your daughters grow up they will take them to wife. You will deposit the money in the bank and they will withdraw and spend it. And the wine you press? Not only will they drink it, you will serve it to them. They will enslave you, and you will pave the roads they travel. What you think is freedom will be slavery, slavery to the government, who will be your god. The question is: are you going to fall in line like lemmings, or resist and be yourselves? Stand your ground and demand your liberty? Or will you be led into a shower to be scrubbed and brainwashed and handed a uniform, a government issued uniform. A striped government issue uniform--not the red and white stripes of liberty, not the thin pintstripes of success--but the harsh black stripes of prisoners. If you are not pulling the strings you are the puppets, and if you are sitting here and can hear my voice, I assure you, you are not pulling the strings. You are dangling pawns who will soon be laying your backs at the feet of communist, Marxist, socialist, fascist overlords!”
That hour’s classes were readying to begin, and most of the small crowd of students who were listening began to trickle away. The young man took the mike back from Richard and introduced himself. “You speak well, brother. My name is Terrence Gill.”
“Richard Sleitzer,” he answered, returning the handshake. “Have you been leaving the literature around campus?”
“That was me. Have you been reading it?” he asked. “It sounds like you have.”
“Indeed, it’s very intriguing,” Richard remarked.
“We’re having a meeting this Saturday night,” Paddy said. “Though it’s really more an excuse to invite some girls over and drink beer. You’re more than welcome. The address is one hundred Blake Street. It’s two blocks that way, the red house on the corner, you can’t miss it. Any time after ten.”
Another student approached the two and said: “You both speak with great conviction, but I think you should know something. People started spreading those false fears a hundred years before you were born. If such a system were going to take hold here, it’s time was long ago, and that time has passed. You also exaggerate some things, and say others that simply aren’t true. Socialism as you hear it advocated nowadays is a political philosophy collective control of the things we necessarily share, such as infrastructure and natural resources, as well as providing equal dignity for our fellow man with regard to education, housing, health care and general welfare. Communism is a philosophy which abolishes class structure by a central government which controls all aspects of life—stores, schools, hospitals, banks and businesses. From the womb to the tomb, so to speak. Karl Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto, so to say ‘communist Marxist’ is redundant. Fascism derives from the Latin word ‘fasces,’ which describes a bundle of wood with a protruding axe head. In political philosophy it is a totalitarian regime that mercilessly oppresses the masses economically, with the vast majority of the citizenry ruled over by a small elite who wield the power of their wealth. They are three very different philosophies, and shouldn’t be lumped together as you just did, and as so many others do also. It makes sloppy rhetoric, flawed forensics, and is intellectually weak.”
“I will keep that in mind, and it was nice to meet you too,” Terrence sarcastically responded. “I have to get to my Political Theory class. It was great to meet you, Richard. Don’t forget the invite for Saturday night.”
“If you’d paid attention to your professor, you’d know these things already,” the stranger remarked. Then he too turned and headed away, adding: “You propaganda drinking nimwits drive me crazy. You slurp it up. I’m in awe of propaganda. In expert hands it is used to convince people to see as good and support the very system that victimizes and destroys them . You don’t want to know the truth, you just listen for what you like, however phony or downright false.”
Richard pondered the wisdom in those words for a few moments, and had turned to go to Cognitive Thinking class when another young man approached him. “That was some dynamic oratory. Wow. I was really impressed.”
“Well thank you. My name is Richard Sleitzer,” he said, offering his hand.
“Paddy O’Maddy,” he answered. “We’re in the same Cognitive Thinking class.”
Richard scrutinized his face, and replied: “I don’t recognize you.”
“That’s because I haven’t been in class for almost two months.”
“That’s half the semester,” Richard remarked.
“I know, and I have to talk to Professor Melonwhite, to see if I can salvage a grade,” Paddy explained. “Speaking of which, we should be going, I’ve already gotten myself in deep enough, I don’t want to compound it by being late on my first day back.”
They walked there together, and were in fact five minutes late. They slipped in the back of the room and quietly seated themselves at the rear. The course was team taught by two women who lectured on alternating days. Professor Melonwhite was a middle-aged woman whose primary discipline was philosophy. She started every class with a five minute introduction, whether she was lecturing or not. Professor Adamly was an elder woman who’d been in the history department for twenty five years. She took attendance during Professor Melonwhite’s introductions, and was seen to fall into naps several times during her lectures.
After class Paddy said to Richard: “Can I buy you a cup of coffee at the campus union? I’d like to hear more of your thoughts on politics.”
“Sure, why not?” Richard answered.
“Great,” Paddy said. “First let me go explain my long absence to Professor Melonwhite. “ They approached the woman and Paddy very apologetically explained that he’d been attending to an illness in his family. She was understanding, and said they could arrange for him to do enough work to get credit. Then she turned to Richard and said: “And what about you?”
“What about me?” he replied incredulously.
“Where have you been for the past two months?” she asked.
“I’ve been right here,” he answered. “I haven’t missed a class.”
“That’s not what the attendance book says,” Professor Melonwhite declared. She retrieved it from the desk where Professor Adamly sat, and showed Richard where he had been marked absent for eight weeks. He produced from his book bag a paper she’d graded and returned the previous week. “I had to be in class to get it back.”
“That explains one,” she said.
“Well I had to be here to turn it in!” he said in exasperation.
“That explains two, what about the rest?” she demanded.
“Do I have to have a special occasion every day to prove I’ve been here? Professor Adamly has obviously been overlooking me when taking attendance, which is no surprise, as she sleeps through the classes she’s not teaching.”
Stung by the insult, Professor Melonwhite lost her cool. “If you can’t prove you were in those other fourteen classes, I’ll have no choice but to fail you.”
“I’ll just re-enroll in your class next semester,” Richard retorted, “after speaking with the department head first, of course. With you two asleep at the wheel, this course is careening out of control. It just sideswiped Professor Evans economics class, clipped the chemistry lab, which it crippled, and flipped into a barrel roll and is bearing down on your beloved history department like a hundred mile an hour tumbleweed! It’s about to scatter your colleagues and decimate their offices with the force of a mighty ten pin strike! ”
“Very well, Mr. Sleitzer, I am a reasonable woman,” she calmly stated. “I have a better solution. You’ve demonstrated a great understanding of cognitive thinking, and let’s just count that little outburst of yours as your final. If you never set foot in my classroom again I will promise you an A. Do and it reduces to a B, do it and open your mouth, you’ll get a C, and anything beyond that will result in you passing with the minimum grade that ensures I never have to see your face again. Deal?”
He smiled and silently turned his back. She disappeared into the crowded hallway.
Paddy gave Richard a slack jawed stare, then said: “That was awesome….”