Does Orville Baumgardner get your vote?
Political satire by James Hanna
Orville Baumgardner and Carrion Crows
“Good students of Harvard University, thank you for inviting me to speak here today in this glorious assembly hall. I suspect you invited me here because I spoke out against the Big Lie, the impassioned conceit of my former colleagues that the 2020 presidential election was pilfered from Humpty Dump. Having picked up the melancholy burden of sanity, I am a Republican no longer—like Jonah I was vomited from a stale and stifling lair. I did not speak the truth out of principle—I am hardly a principled man—but because I needed to change the narrative of my life. You see, after my recent arrest for consorting with a twelve-year-old girl, I assailed the Republican Party in a most unforgivable manner. I stated flat out that their Beelzebub was a monarch lacking a throne, and I insisted that his lewd indiscretions were far more depraved than my own. And so, I stand before you as a castaway—a man without moorings or friends—but a man who can pay no additional price should he choose to speak his true mind. So, I must thank you again for allowing me to grace your hallowed hall, and I must also thank the Castleberg Superior Court for permitting me to post bail.
“Now then, before we proceed to the subject I have chosen for today, I would like to take just a minute to tell a bit more about myself. I was born in Castleberg, Indiana, sixty-two years ago, and I spent my youth reading great books and collecting butterflies. I did not distinguish myself in school because I was too busy expanding my mind, and I daresay I can now recite from over a hundred books. After graduating from Butler University with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, I challenged the Democratic incumbent in House District 54. To my amazement, I won in a landslide, not because I expressed new ideas, but because I had the good sense not to embrace any ideas at all. And so, for the forty years I served as a Republican state congressman, I never supported a single bill that was placed upon my desk. Instead, I read more books and continued to develop my mind, and now I am ready to take my place among the thinkers of this world.
“Now then, let us delve into the subject I have picked for today: the secular hijacking of the United States Supreme Court. The Court that obediently overturned Roe and brought havoc to the land even though six of its justices swore that Roe was settled law. ‘We did not lie during our Congressional hearings,’ these indignant jurists insist—to which I reply that unless one lies, his sponsors will tarnish his name. Was I not an accomplished liar when I was a state congressman? Would I have held office for forty years if I were not a duplicitous man? There are countless ways of keeping the truth from befouling your patron’s plan, and I will mention a few of these methods to prove I’m familiar with them. You can lie by cherry-picking facts, you can lie with hyperbole, and you can lie by faking statistics or using false analogies. And should these tools of rhetoric prove too slippery to use, you need only keep talking in circles until the issues are confused.
“But those jurists were not at all artful in lessening their lie—they simply skirted the issue of Roe in the hope it would slip our minds. So tactless was their evasion, so amateurish their scam, that I, an accomplished liar, admit that I’m disappointed in them. So, will these robed partisans also skip out on the judgment of history? I, for one, will state what they are—not what they profess to be. When ebony robes are used to conceal such festering deceit, I see their wearers as carrion crows who are feasting on broken meats. But I dare not confuse their subservience with a lack of appetite—I fear it will not be much longer until they peck at the rest of our rights.
“Ah, how refreshing to speak what I must—not what I was once bonded to say. Had I known that a pariah could soar to such heights and breathe such rarified air, I suspect I would have flown from my nest many years ago. So let us examine the trick of omission and apply it multifold, for the concierge judges of which I have spoken are not an exception at all. Rather, they are the rule if we may judge by our history books—texts not defined by their content so much as by what they omit.
“Did our founders not belong to a cult like the one that banished me? A club that sentimentalized a blind monopoly? A clique whose price of admission was the willingness to proclaim that, while all were men were equal, not all were allowed in the game? Forgive me for being redundant—I am nothing if not trite—but since history is written by censors, is it not up to me to speak up? Do slavery, slaughter, and peonage not merit equal space to polemics of independence that profit only one race? My word, even Patrick Henry, who cried ‘give me liberty or death,’ was a child of secular privilege and a slave owner all of his life.
“Ah, I see one of you has a question. Yes, please speak up, pretty miss. You are asking if Abraham Lincoln was an exception to the rule. May I rid you of that notion, my dear, for no longer will I insist that the freedom of slaves could only be won by Lincoln’s lordly fist? A fist that struck so callous a blow that six million men died like flies—a blow that Lincoln chose to obscure with the most poetic of lies. Consider the masterly wording of the Gettysburg Address: its claim that the honored dead gave their last full measure of life so that government by and for the people should not perish from the earth. Is this not an intellectual pickpocketing, an imperialist’s sleight of hand? How does gutting a civilization and burning it to the ground in any way suggest that self-government was at hand? Was carnage the only way possible to free the better angels of men? Could the sin of slavery not have been cleansed with less barbaric means? I hold that our civil feud was no more than a mundane collision of tribes, and that had the South sued for real freedom and won, Lincoln would not have escaped his lie. Ah, but even though Lincoln is salvaged by the omissions of history, I yield to Walt Whitman, a truer poet who said, ‘the real war will never get into the books.’
“I see another hand raised. May I repeat your statement, good sir? You say I am talking mighty loud for a man who is prison-bound. To this, I reply that a cellblock does not a prison make—that iron bars will confine me less than the fibs I now choose to forsake.
“So, have I become a Democrat now—a chanter of equity? I would happily join these druids, good sir, if I still traded in fantasy. But where were the Dems when abler robots took away millions of jobs? Where were they when deals forged in smoke-filled rooms shipped many more incomes abroad? And if this does not tie these populists to the hauteur they claim to deplore, why did they vote to send thousands to die in completely unnecessary wars? So, I say that the Dems are deserving of the fury their folly has birthed, and that when it comes to hypocrisy, their party is surely the worst. Yes, were we to judge them more by their fruits than the promises they sow, we would see that their luster too closely resembles the plumage of carrion crows.
“So where do I stand in all this, you may ask, as a man who may have no tomorrow? I stand willing to lend a prophet’s eye to our sightlessness and our sorrow. And if a seer’s eye proves deficient to salvage our nation’s soul, I will bow my head like Jesus and carry a cross for us all.
“Ah, I see that my hour is up, but my time with you need not end. I have some podcasts available for whatever you’re willing to spend. So, thank you for inviting me here today and for letting me speak out of turn, and I wish you godspeed until such time as we might meet again.”
About the Author
James Hanna is a retired probation officer and a former fiction editor. His work has appeared in over thirty journals, including Sixfold, Crack the Spine, and The Literary Review. His books, most of which have won awards, are available on Amazon.
About the Artist
Kiki is best described as 45% Elvira, 45% Dolly Parton, and 10% Danny Devito. Though she’s always been a lover of all forms of art, technology has always been her forte. She studied computer science for four years before dropping out and coasting through life in various retail management positions. That’s until she found her true calling: being an embarrassment to her family online. When she’s not whipping up websites or blessing the world with memes and generative art she’s hunting for oddities at thrift stores or reading the most disturbing pieces of experimental fiction she can find.