The first amendment

The big golden hands of the clock towering over the Kunt International Hotel read a few ticks before 12:50 pm when I stormed out onto Pennsylvania Avenue and shuffled east, taking the scenic route to Union Station past the National Gallery of Art towards the pearly-white neoclassical splendor of United States Capitol building, whose enormous, tall, 8,909,200 pound ellipsoidal, cast iron, dome sparkled intermittently as the razor-sharp winter-sun burst through broken-clouds lined up in neat rows like blow on a mirror.

It was an unseasonably warm winters’ day and I paused in front of the splashy steel-and-glass façade of the Freedom Forum’s Newseum to shed my coat and read the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which is etched into a giant marble slab, that hangs in front of the Newseum like an ancient Roman tablet when a digital billboard would have worked so much better.i


"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, of prohibiting the free exercise thereof: or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." 


My happy clapping was rudely interrupted by a corpulent U.S. Capital copper with black beads for eyes, Private First-Class insignia on his broad shoulders, a semi-automatic rifle hanging out in front of his body-armored chest from a thick neck inked with a Wolfsangel — an ancient Germanic symbol adopted by neo-Nazi boy clubs like the Aryan Nations. The copper let me know he didn’t like me all that much by spitting on the sidewalk a few inches from my brogues.

Degas,” he said in a voice as shrill as his biceps were inflated, loud enough to draw the beginnings of a crowd. And then he pointed North East at the White House, which was mottled by shade from the broken clouds: “If you’re looking for your bro’? I’m afraid you missed him. He left the White House for Joint Base Andrews at 11:22 AM. He’s on his way to Key Largo with Nadiya and your bitch.”ii


“Nah,” I tossed back at him. “I came to Washington to bury Kunt, but a vain, dithering, blow-hard, who can’t see further than his own fucking legacy got in my way. In fact, it’s been a disappointing day all round. The kind that starts badly and gets inclement as it wears on. And now I’ve got you gazing at me like we met some place I don’t recall, and I stepped on your bunions, which I don’t recall either.”


I could tell the Capital copper was getting hot under the collar, because sweat glazed his pet Wolfsangel, which added glittering bark to its bite. So, with self-preservation top-of-mind, I waved to the security camera watching over the First Amendment to establish time and date, which frustrated him. He snarled suddenly, rubbed his blue balls with the butt of his rifle, and made a wish upon my dead Mami that next time we met it would be in a dark alley where he could use all the power he’d accumulated to do me harm. I could tell he was planning on it because he told me himself.

I read about you in Blackheart News — You’re a commie, Jew, Latrino, ambulance-chaser that pokes skinny wetback hoes, right? And you made a bunch of accusations against the President with nothing to back them up, ‘cause you want to get paid, right?” he barked close enough to my nose that I could smell a jug of whole milk on his breath. And then he burped for — lactose-tolerance is the genetic mark of a superior being — effect.


“I read about you too, only it was in the Daily fucking Stormer, a few weeks after Kunt’s inauguration. You and a party of five pale, shirtless, stormtroopers hijacked Shia LaBeouf's ‘He Will Not Divide Us’ livestream installation at the Museum of the Moving Image in Gotham City. You danced around LaBeouf in SS officer’s caps to intimidate him, swilling milk from plastic gallon containers like a frat brothers at a keg stand, yelling at the camera ‘Hey mongrels, we can do this/you can't,’ with milk dripping off your chin. Your most memorable line was: ‘Hitler did nothing wrong.’"


Do you believe in ghosts Degas?” He replied, still working his balls with the butt of his rifle.

I shrugged. I already knew his story didn’t end with happy ever after, because, he didn’t know any of those.


“I never really thought about it. But now that I am, I’d say that ghosts fall into the same category of wishful thinking as Gods --- They explain the inexplicable until a better explanation turns up.”


He looked confused by that, perhaps because he already had the best explanation in the world, which he confided in me through a major league snarl:

I was stationed at the White House, right! And one night, responding to an alarm, I met the ghost of Abraham Lincoln marching up and down a second-floor hallway. I’ve seen Jefferson playing the violin and Andrew Jackson swearing at his African Grey Parrot and the fucking parrot swearing back. I never did see the ghost of ‘Monkey Man’ Obama, probably because his mongrel spirit is too weak. But on Halloween I saw Hitler’s ghost in the Sun Room on the third floor lying on a couch.”iv

“Making America Great one orange ray at a time, right?”

It took the copper a beat to recognize the tease. When he did he beat his rifle on his chest like Tarzan and whiffed at it: “We are everywhere — an army dedicated to making America great for Americans, and a living hell for everyone else.”


“And I’m the bastard that’s going to stop you and save us from ourselves,” I replied more confidently than I felt as I stutter-stepped away, leaving the copper festering in my wake.


When I turned around to say farewell the copper was still scratching his balls with his semi-automatic and there was a red dot from a laser sight trained on my heart. A second or two later it went away.

The threat didn’t.

I was a marked man and the marker was not the Capital copper with the mighty itch.


So, I made matters worse by suggesting he might want to tame his crab lice: “Nix Ultra is available over-the-counter. You rinse your pubes with it. Comb out the dead crabs and go take a shower.” And then I shook my head and mused as I pulled away: “Nah, I bet it’s a fucking razor burn.”


At Constitution I turned left and skipped over the bridge, over interstate 395 where a honking line of traffic idled impatiently beneath me, stalled by a jackknifed Peterbilt tractor-trailer that had ‘struck’ the highway divide when its driver fell asleep at the wheel and flipped onto the hood of a red 2014 Honda CR-Z, which wore a “MY OTHER CAR’S A PORSCHE” bumper sticker next to a “KNT 2016” vanity plate.

The Honda driver was conscious but trapped inside his car, which was lacquered with fuel leaking from the trucks’ 100-gallon saddle-tank. The far-off wail of the sirens of emergency crews rising to the occasion promised that help was coming. I wasn’t going to stay around to see if it arrived in time.


I hurried past the 44-foot high white marble Peace Monument AKA the Naval Monument, AKA the Civil War Sailors Monument, which pays homage to the officers, seamen and marines of the United States Navy, and is more about the gory of war than the quiet majesty of peace.


At the top of the monument, towering over me, a lady called Grief wept on the shoulder of a lady called History who held a stylus and a tablet inscribed with ‘They died that their country might live.’ Below them, a lady called Victory wielded an oak branch, signifying strength, flanked by an infant called Mars, the god of war, and another infant called Neptune, god of the sea.


Hidden from my view and from History, facing the Capitol, which was still shrouded in thin white lines of broken clouds, a lady called Peace, held an olive branch, because hope springs eternal.


I arrived at Union Station as a glowing clock in the Grand Hall struck 1:30 PM, leaving me a few minutes to find the track where the 1:50 PM Acela Express 2168 was loitering.

It took two hours and fifty-six minutes to get to New York Penn Station under a drab gun-metal grey sky that had fallen hard for dusk and another few minutes to find Jay-B who was in his G-Wagon nodding his head to ‘Mayores,’ Becky G’s sultry billion-views-and-counting addictive la-la-la reggaeton banger, which features Latin Trap superstar Bad Bunny and celebrates dicks that are too big to fit in the (formerly) gap-toothed diva’s mouth.


“A mí me gustan más grandes, Que no me quepa en la boca, Los besos que quiera darme, Y que me vuelva loca” Jay-B sung with something less than a straight face.


You missed the part where Becky sings that she likes older men,” I said bumping Jay-B’s fist as I took my place, shotgun, in the front passenger seat.

“Amigo, ella dijo vieja, no anciana” Jay-B replied through a chuckle, changing lanes as he weaved in and out of slow-moving rush-hour traffic on the Henry Hudson Parkway North to the Parkchester section of the Bronx where candidate Joy was having her first community conversation with the good people of New York § District 14.

By the time we reached the big, high-gloss-red, double-crossed, double-doors of St. Paul’s, a pretty red-brick detached Evangelical Lutheran Church on McGaw Avenue, a couple of hundred yards off I-95 at White Plains Road; Joy was in full flow in front of a small cross-racial, butcher, baker, candlestick maker, educator, crowd of all ages that was packed into a stuffy community room, fanning themselves with event flyers to make up for the sweltering steam heat hissing, heckling from the cast-iron radiators lining the walls.


“I am here with you today as DEMOCRAT FOR CONGRESS NY-14” because I am concerned that Kunt’s threat is being underestimated and that we are closer to tyranny than is generally accepted. Are you all ready to make a ruckus? Are you all ready to fight for our rights? Are you all ready to say that in the United States of America, everyone is loved, everyone deserves justice, and everyone deserves equal protection and prosperity in our country? If you are grab a badge!”


Yeah, this moment and where we are right now is a resurgence from where the civil rights movement left off. And we are all here to carry the torch forward.” Joy hollered as she brought her arms together to embrace a crowd that had surged forward to grab Alicia Joy Lopez ‘candidate for Congress’ badges from a small table by her side. “Justice is not a concept we read about in a book. Justice is about the water we drink. Justice is about the air we breathe. Justice is about how easy it is to vote. Justice is about how much ladies get paid. Justice is about making sure that being polite is not the same thing as being quiet. In fact, oftentimes the most righteous thing you can do is shake the table. Especially when your President is, according to the Washington Post, on track to make one thousand, nine-hundred and ninety-nine false or misleading claims or outright lies by the end of his first year in office — that’s five and a half of the fuckers a day.”v vi vii

 

Do you believe President Trump is a racist?” Joy asked the crowd.

“Hell yeah,” a burly mailman replied.


"When you look at the words that Kunt uses, which are historic dog whistles of white supremacy. When you look at how he reacted to the Charlottesville incident where neo-Nazis murdered a woman, versus how he manufactures crises like immigrants seeking legal refuge on our borders it's night and day. MY OWN GRANDFATHER DIED IN PUERTO RICO IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE HURRICANE MARIA --- UNCOUNTED. And yet the Presidents’ response is to vilify the victims and refuse to recognize the dead." viii


As the crowed bayed and a chanted “shame” Joy turned away as if she was astonished to find herself weeping. When she turned back to us there was steel in her eyes.


“What I have learned in a few short months of campaigning and traveling to places like Flint, Michigan where it is still unsafe to drink the water; Standing Rock, North Dakota, where you see the seeds of a police state; Mississippi where it is practicaly impossible to abort a child despite Roe v Wade; and the systemic violation of human rights on our border, is that WE HAVE ALREADY CROSSED THE THRESHOLD OF ECONOMIC, ENVIRONMENTAL, REPRODUCTIVE AND RACIAL TYRANNY. And that through his survival the tyrant grows stronger, turning his almost daily assaults on us into political theatre and lying without compunction to create an alternative reality at rallies that overflow with menace, like the fascist Nuremberg rallies of the 1930s. And that his opponents continue to make the mistake of playing to a set of established rules and behaviors that Kunt has no intention of conforming to himself.”


Joy lowered her lashes to her cheeks and kept them stuck there as the crowd grew agitated —“By any means necessary,” was one of the first cries, and then a diminutive lady wearing a Red Kitenge printed in yellow with the Swahili proverb: ‘Amani haipatikani bila thamani,’ which means PEACE IS NOT OBTAINED WITHOUT COST, brought the house down by wailing to the tune of ‘Hey! Baby.’


"Hey mister president, we wanna know why you're such a Kunt!"


When Joy finally raised the curtains, her eyes were very dry and still and the singing stopped so we could hear the finale:

Let us remember that a fight means no person left behind. Because this is not just about identity, this is about justice. And this is about the America that we are going to bring into this world –”

She was interrupted for a moment by a disturbance outside and the sound of breaking glass. She turned to it:


"Well, you know the president is from Queens, and with all due respect, half of my district is from Queens. I don't think he knows how to deal with a girl from the Bronx."

I found her gaze and swallowed it whole. We both knew that the next chapter would start out ugly, but we also new that we’d found each other --- two bastards in a pod committed to bring the motherfucker down.


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TO BE CONTINUED: CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

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