A HISTORY LESSON, PART 1.
Jesse methodically rotated his eyes toward Christopher Bristol in his plaid beige sweater vest, like a predator eyeing its prey. Anticipating a response from his most scrutinized student, Bristol approached the courtyard windows with a curious sneer. Jesse’s eyes remained fixed on Bristol’s as his teacher’s shadow descended upon him.
“Jesse?” Bristol raptly asked with a rugged screech.
No reply, even as Jesse’s eyes targeted Bristol’s.
Still no response.
“You heard your teammates, surely?!” Bristol pled with a hint of desperation. “Just because you’re the quarterback doesn’t mean you’re exempt from respecting your educators! Why haven’t you tuned your holotab as I instructed?”
“I don’t know,” Jesse dismissively murmured.
“You what?!” Bristol snarled.
“Wish I’d thought of that,” Matt whispered to himself.
“You want to talk about Remembrance Day, sir?” Jesse firmly responded. “You want to talk about the Conflict? You came to the right person!”
“Oh?” a startled Bristol asked. “And why is that, Mr. Maith?”
“I can help you,” Jesse leered.
Bristol re-adjusted his glasses and huffed. “Mr. Maith,” he cautiously replied, “I know what happened to your father. I can’t imagine how it feels for you. But this doesn’t give you the right to patronize me!”
“I’m not trying to patronize you, Mr. Bristol,” Jesse calmly replied. “I just thought the class may like to hear an alternative take on the Endgame Conflict and the real purpose behind Remembrance Day.”
Bristol apprehensively glanced back and forth between Jesse and the rest of his students, who all sat silently, intently fixated on he and Jesse, as if an FNN or NOR-type debate show was about to be filmed in classroom 3003.
“Okay, Mr. Maith,” Bristol rumbled. “The floor is yours. Would you like to get up in front of the class and perform your impromptu presentation?”
“No, Mr. Bristol, I’m fine right here.”
“Then enlighten us, ol’ chap!”
Jesse rubbed his hands together and puffed out his chest. “If you say so, sir! I’m glad you’re ready to be challenged!” He then stood up and eyed all his classmates assiduously. As he silently rotated his head back and forth for ten seconds, the suspense in the room rose to heart-pounding levels.
“First of all, folks,” Jesse began with a clear inflection, “you all know that being here on Remembrance Day is total bull, right?” The class uproariously laughed.
“TESTIFY!” Matt shouted.
“Mr. Maith,” Bristol snapped, “Let me…”
“What country do we live in, sir?” Jesse vociferously interrupted. “America, or the DRF?”
“The DRF,” Bristol delicately replied.
“Exactly!” Jesse emphatically replied while slapping his hand on his desk. “Today, we are commemorating an event that happened in a country that no longer exists! Why is that? Is that our choice? Is this our way of validating freedom? No student in this room lived through the events of 11 September 2001 AD! Who here fears Islamic terrorism? No one, right?! But who remembers the fear behind Islamic terrorism? That’s right, you-know-who! And that young you-know-who, complete with imperialistic predispositions, enlisted in the U.S. Army on 12 September 2001 AD despite not yet being of legal age! But now, because he remembers how Americans united behind the Islamic terrorist enemy following the attacks, we must correlate this day with patriotism and resolve!”
“What exactly is your point, Mr. Maith?”
Jesse’s tone slowly geared from stoic to impassioned. “The DRF isn’t a beacon of hope or a breeding ground for individual rights, and it certainly is no mouthpiece for ‘peace or death’! It’s a pet project!”
“Excuse me?! What in the world does that mean?”
“Think about it! You-know-who can talk all he wants about how we enjoy the same liberties as Americans once did: the freedom of speech, religion, free press, et cetera. But we all know he named this country the Divine Republic of Freedom as part of his dream to lead a pious theocracy in which you’d better worship Joshua Evans, or else!”
“That’s bloody ludicrous!”
“Why don’t we talk about Jesus Christ anymore? Simple: because Joshua Evans martyred himself, and we all remember it! It didn’t happen three millenniums ago! It happened fifteen years ago! It’s fresh in our minds! But remember, God himself told Mr. Evans to defuse that Hathaway bomb in Central Park, right? Because Mr. Evans was Mr. Jesus Freak himself that preached at churches and other social gatherings and carried a lot of clout in the latter stages of the American empire?”
“So are you implying that His Magnificence isn’t allowed to look up to Joshua Evans as a source of inspiration?”
“I’m not saying that at all, and I’m not disputing Joshua Evans isn’t a source of inspiration. I’m implying that you-know-who uses Joshua Evans’ legacy for personal gain.”
“How exactly is this all…personal, as you put it, for His Magnificence?”
“Why was it called the Endgame Conflict?”
“Because that was what the media of its day dubbed it.”
“Incidental. It was you-know-who’s personal endgame. To make America the only superpower, for then and for all time, to destroy any last remaining threats to its supremacy – militarily, economically, and socially. He failed! Hence why he made the DRF his personal redemption story! Look - you know what he said during the Genesis Address! ‘God is good. He gave us all a second chance. Joshua helped. And we will not fail Him.’ I was coming out of my mother’s belly when you-know-who was blah-blah-blahhing those words! It’s just funny how the nurses and doctors in that hospital room clanked champagne glasses and cheered his every word, because that’s just what he wants – unquestioned reverence and obedience!”
“So, Mr. Maith,” a suddenly curious Bristol asked as he took a seat atop the desk immediately in front of Jesse’s, slouching his back against the windowpane behind him. “Since you’re volunteering to take my job for free for a day, and you seem to know everything there is to know about the Endgame Conflict, perhaps you’d like to regale the class with your infinite wisdom about how this great country of ours rose from the Ashes of America after the Endgame to become the last beacon of hope for freedom in the world?”
As soon as the word “freedom” rolled off Bristol’ tongue, Jesse’s insides began vibrating in a simultaneous release of unbridled laughter and utter bemusement.
“What’s so goddamn funny, Mr. Maith?” Bristol annoyedly asked while beginning to roll up his fingers into his palm.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” Jesse squealed, extending his right hand towards Bristol in a half-hearted attempt to prevent him from leaning closer. The sheer force of his laughter caused Jesse to labor the remainder of his statement. “Freedom?! Thank you, sir…I needed that laugh!”
“Freedom is amusing to you, Mr. Maith?” Bristol rumbled, his face contorting in anger. He then waved his right index finger towards Jesse’s face as the rest of his body tremored. “Let me tell you something, young man, I migrated to this country from England because of the promise of…”
“The promise,” Jesse interrupted in a near-deafening shot, “regardless of race, creed, or ethnicity, are granted equal and unbreakable rights to property, free speech, free press, public forums, the right to vote, and the ability to lead a healthy and prosperous life! I know all about the First, sir! My aunt and uncle went to the frontlines to fight for freedom.” Jesse’s voice then began cracking, and his face turned pink. “My father and the Bergen Boys died Washington fighting for freedom…It was all in vain!”
An awkward pause ensued as Jesse huffed and puffed and ran his clammy hands through his now sweat-saturated hair.