30 Stories in 30 Days #16 – “We the People”
We the People
Just like every weekday morning, his neighbor’s alarm woke John. Unlike her – who would hit the snooze button at least twice more – once awake John stayed that way. Before he had been laid off, he hadn’t minded being able to hear her alarm through the thin walls as it had acted as a backup to his own alarm on a couple of occasions. But for the past month it had only made for rude awakenings: she, eventually, would go to work while he puttered around his apartment waiting to hear back from all the companies he had sent resumes to.
Grumbling, he got out of bed and went to the bathroom. When he came out, he went to the kitchen to turn the coffee maker on and then into his living room to start up his computer.
With a mug of coffee in hand, he checked his email. He only had one unread message, but he had to read the subject line of, “From the office of the President of the United States of America,” several times. That has to be spam, he thought. But he opened it anyway to read:
Congratulations, Mister John Candlin. You have been selected by lottery to participate in the June 13th Virtual Cabinet with President Burke. On that date at 3:00 PM EDT, you and nine other Americans will have a live, one hour video conference with the President as part of his campaign promise to hold monthly meetings with average Americans to discus the issues of the day. The meeting will be recorded and distributed to reporters.
To insure your participation in this event, you must reply to this email before June 6th confirming that you are able and willing to participate. Please read all the terms below before replying….
John didn’t bother reading the below terms. He remembered how two years ago candidate Burke talked about how back in the 19th century, ordinary Americans could walk into the White House and meet with the President. But after assassinations and terrorist attacks that was no longer an option. Technology, however, allowed for a workaround. Candidate Burke had promised that if elected, each month he would video chat with ten citizens selected at random. This way he could stay in touch with the concerns of ordinary Americans.
And true to his word – surprising for a politician – within a week of the election, President-Elect Burke had set up the website where people could sign up for the lottery to be picked as a member of the President’s Virtual Cabinet. John, like tens of thousands of other Americans, signed up knowing there was little chance of winning. And after the first Virtual Cabinet meeting, that would probably be a good thing.
That first video conference happened just after Valentine’s Day, when the President and First Lady had adopted a black lab puppy for their son. It was a fluff news story that nobody really cared about, except for the one lady who won that first lottery. Instead of talking about the devastating winter storms in the Midwest, a large chunk of the first meeting of the Virtual Cabinet was spent talking about dogs: a fact the President’s opponents had fun with for weeks.
And things didn’t get much better after that. It seemed the only time news shows reported on the Virtual Cabinet meetings was when some bozo – looking for their fifteen minutes – did something stupid: the woman who flashed her breasts at the President, the guy who went on a racist diatribe, and the parents who tried to set their daughter up on a play date with the President’s son. While some participants did their homework and were able to thoughtfully convey their issues, they were a minority. From the short clips John had watched, it seemed the President spent more time explaining to the people that their problems would be better handled by their local school board, their city council, the police; pretty much anyone other than the President of the United States.
Most people had written off the idea of a Virtual Cabinet as a bad joke, but – also unusual for politicians – President Burke kept at it. And now John had the opportunity to talk to the President.
John replied to the email saying he looked forward to speaking with the President. He then went to the Virtual Cabinet website and began studying the videos of the old meetings. If he could find a way to stand out – without being a jackass – maybe he could parley that into a job. His work was cut out for him.