The great question that perplexed progressives throughout much of the 21st century was how to completely untether us from the past, thereby for the first time in history truly liberating ourselves from our moorings and ushering in a new age of gender freedom, radical equality, and ethnic equity.
His fingers twitched, but they were just mirroring the twitching in his brain. He pulled himself away from the computer and went for a walk. A long walk. But when he returned the twitching had not subsided. He took a deep breath, hesitated once more, and then began a furtive incognito googling. He knew, he knew damn well, that the “incognito” software was no longer what it pretended to be and that the entire internet was now closely monitored by well-meaning and devoted Falcons, who were entrusted with keeping the ether as sanitized as our community. He understood the risks, but his craving sharpened with each passing hour. He cursed himself for his weakness, he shook his head in disgust at his failure to fight against his darkest impulses, and nonetheless began typing the code that would bring forth the sounds he yearned to hear. He fast forwarded to the final, fourth movement, to that surge of exultant ecstasy once long ago commonly called the Ode to Joy. This music, sometimes accompanied by words based on a Friedrich Schiller poem, had once been the official anthem for a united Europe. But it was proven to be divisive and chauvinistic and certainly racist, and the entire 9th symphony had been abolished during the time of the New Awakening. This was the year 66 ANA and life was so much better than ever before.
Lost in his dark ecstasy, Malcolm did not hear them coming until his door crashed open, accompanied by a loud cacophony of heavy boots and screams to “get down, get down, and don’t move a muscle!” There had been no knock; there was no need for such niceties. When one has Right on one’s side, anything is allowed. Listening to such music was a clear hate crime and would not be tolerated. Schiller had once written that, “Against stupidity the Gods Themselves contend in vain.” Several of the Falcons took turns delivering kicks to his belly, their boots glistening as brightly as their eyes. Cheerfully they laughed and noisily exulted in a job well done. As they put the black hood over his head and handcuffed him, Malcolm knew that it was equally true that “Above the shrieks of the self-righteous, even God cannot be heard.”
The Defense Attorney
“Oh no. Not another defender of DWEM culture?” she smiled broadly and laughed so loudly the trees seemed to shake. “My name is Angelina Elderberry. I’m your lawyer. You can just call me Angie.” Malcolm was a bit unnerved by her booming voice, and wasn’t at all sure why she had been foisted on him as his lawyer. She didn’t seem to take her job very seriously. “What is DWEM culture?” he asked puzzled. She laughed again. “DWEM, as in Dead. White. European. Male.”
Great, he thought to himself, I’m about to be put away for 30 years and she just keeps laughing. Irritated, he asked her bluntly, “Why did my family hire you to be my lawyer? You don’t seem to understand how serious this is.” She looked at him sternly: “Listen, honey, the last thing you want is a lawyer who takes any of this crap seriously. This is nonsense, but you won’t avoid prison by proving that they are all full of . . . nonsense.”
“Then how can I avoid going to jail?” He was genuinely frightened; he had heard rumors about how tough the judges could be when it came to these sorts of crimes against society. But Angie just looked at him and gave him another smile that seemed to fill the whole world. “Look at me, young man, I’m the poster child for the New Awakening. I’m what is known as a double trifecta!”
“A double what?”
“Trifecta. An old horse racing term—from long ago, before we got so woke we realized how inhumane and cruel it was to force horses to race.” She paused a moment, and there was a mischievous glint in her eyes. “Do you know which was one of the first societies to really be concerned for animal welfare?” He shook his head. “The Nazis. Old Hitler himself thought horse racing and hunting cruel and uncivilized. He actually had a lot more in common with today’s progressives than most people realize. The Nazis passed animal protection laws and then followed them up with forced sterilization laws and finally euthanasia. An excessive concern for animals sometimes accompanies a disturbing indifference toward individual human life.”
Malcolm could hardly believe what she was saying; she was risking her career with every word she spoke. She seemed to read his mind and sighed, “Don’t worry about me. I’m untouchable. Like I said, I’m a double trifecta.” Still confused he asked again, “What does that mean?” Another booming laugh and a quick flip of a switch and a soft whirring sound as she swirled in a circle and wheeled right in front of Malcolm. “What do you see, Malcolm?”
“Well, I see you,” replied Malcolm. She shook her head sadly and said that was the wrong answer. “We don’t see people any more, we don’t see individuals. In the modern world we see attributes that define and control us. So, what do you see?” Malcolm looked at her closely and started to speak: “I see a woman. A black woman. An elderly black woman. In a wheelchair. Wearing a hijab.” He stopped and she took his hand in hers and patted it. “Very good Malcolm. You got five out of six on the first try. A double trifecta of course would be six, not five. You left out my sexual orientation. I’m a lesbian. There, that makes that most rare and awe-inspiring of modern creatures: a person with six minority statuses.” Yet again she smiled, but her smile this time was somewhere between a sneer and an unspoken sadness.
“Listen Malcolm, being an aged, wheelchair-bound gay member of a historically oppressed religion, race, and gender makes me the most formidable defense attorney you can get. Hell, I’m the Holy Grail of entitlement. But I also have another quality that may help save you from a re-education camp. I majored in European music at university.” Malcom looked at her surprised. “Yes,” Angie continued, “you can still take courses in classical music if your mentors are convinced of your loyalty to the cause. My doctoral thesis was how the racist imperialists used music to oppress the poor and downtrodden. It was so full of nonsense it was made into a book that was nominated for a Noble Prize for Literature.” That didn’t sound quite right. “You mean Nobel Prize?” Malcolm helpfully interjected. Yet another loud, irritating laugh from his attorney. “Where have you been for the last decade, young man? That miserable, sexist, anti-Semite’s name was subtly modified long ago to be more inclusive and less elitist. And the awards are now given in a much fairer fashion, according to the progressives. Do you realize that over 20% of the old Nobel laureates were Jews? Can you imagine how that made everyone else feel? Jews make up less than one half of one percent of the world population and they got a fifth of all prizes.” Angie just didn’t know when to stop, her sarcasm seemed to have no limits. “In what just society is that ever allowed? Something had to be done. Jews are like Asians. We sympathize with their past suffering, but cannot abide their insolence in taking more than their equitable share of wealth and knowledge.”
Malcolm thought her insensitive. “You don’t believe that everyone deserves equal opportunity?” Angie rolled her eyes again. “Yes, of course. Only a racist jerk would be against equal opportunity. But our society no longer sees any difference between equality of opportunity and equality of outcomes. And it takes another kind of racist jerk to demand equal outcomes. They are monsters. The worst kind. They are righteous monsters who desperately want to make the world a better place.” Malcolm wasn’t convinced. “Maybe you’re being naïve? You really don’t think the rich and people who go to better schools have an unfair advantage over others less well off?” Angie nodded slowly, “Yes, of course. But this has nothing to do with leveling the playing field to give everyone the same chance. What we have done for the last hundred years is get rid of the playing field altogether and place the interests of various groups ahead of the individual. If a quota isn’t filled yet, a rich, well-educated, old, black, female lesbian in a wheelchair wearing a hijab like me has a much better chance of landing a good job than some lower-class white kid like you. It’s all about having diversity nowadays.” Malcolm started to say something, but then decided it wasn’t important.
As Malcolm got up from the park bench, Angie handed him a pamphlet, folded neatly into thirds and sealed tightly. In the bright sunlight, his eyes were an alarming blue-green. “Read this within the next hour. After that it will disintegrate. It will also disintegrate if anyone other than you touches it.” He looked at her askance and asked why she just didn’t send it to him via email. She shook her head and said he should know by now that electronic communications of every sort were being monitored. As he walked off, she shook her head somberly. She would do her best to save his white hide, but it wasn’t going to be easy.
The Pamphlet: A Hystorical Footnote
The great question that perplexed progressives throughout much of the 21st century was how to completely untether us from the past, thereby for the first time in history truly liberating ourselves from our moorings and ushering in a new age of gender freedom, radical equality, and ethnic equity—a notion almost as abhorrent as ethnic purity. One of the thornier practical issues to resolve was to fix, as their counterparts during the French and Cambodian revolutions had tried before them, a new date for commencing and commemorating this new age of enlightenment. Many dates from the past were proposed, but the consensus finally settled upon the presidential inauguration of Monika Clinton, the grandchild of the first President Clinton, as the first day of Year 1 or, more formally, 1 ANA (After the New Awakening). Her grandparents, after all, had sought in their own tepid ways to remake the United States into a more just society where the needs of all were equally attended to. This second President Clinton would often fondly remember her grandparents’ efforts to “make our government bureaucracy look more like America.” Instead of just having people selected for positions of responsibility based on mere competence, they, along with most of their Democratic and Republican predecessors and successors, sought to ensure the right balance of genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, disabilities, and various other attributes that would ensure a truly representative mosaic of America.
But ensuring a federal bureaucracy that equitably represented America was just the start. Before long, this urgent need to remake America in its own diverse image seeped into all aspects of everyday life. One of the last vestiges of old DWEM culture to be rooted out was music. In this matter, the conservative elements of society were more than willing to cooperate with progressives. As was the case long before regarding the shutting down of mental institutions, the shortsighted conservative desire to always save money and the equally misguided liberal desire to always ensure fairness combined to eliminate any public funding for classical music in the waning days of the old calendar. It would take another generation for that decision to morph into a realization by most Americans that classical music, like European art and architecture, had subjugated the masses for countless generations. We needed—out of fairness—to prohibit for some unspecified time period all classical music to ensure that other forms of music were treated fairly. As the second President Clinton had once explained in one of her fireside chats—aptly called because they always ended with the burning of some particularly offensive sheet music, novel, or scientific principle—“We need musicians that look like America; music that sounds like America. What sounds best to an individual is not always what is best for our country. Excellence, true excellence, comes from diversity, not individuality. We excel as a community when we protect ourselves from those who would excel without any thought for the feelings of those around them. We are moving ever closer to achieving that more perfect Union which Lincoln first spoke of and to which we all aspire.”
This decades-long struggle to refashion the United States into a more perfect union ultimately hinged on acknowledging that individualism, even more so than money or power, is the root of all evil. Painstakingly, over nearly a century, progressives gradually modified that vague and individualistic notion of Democracy to a more inclusive Genocracy, that safeguards the rights and entitlements of each group.
This second President Clinton had many achievements, but none greater than the remaking of the EEOC. Once a small, sometimes ineffectual, agency of government, it now stretched its tentacles into every facet of life. But the acronym itself required no change. From the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission it initially morphed into the Equal Employment Outcomes Commission and then finally into the Equitable Empowerment Outcomes Commission. White privilege, she explained, is so deeply embedded not only in our culture and history, but in our very psyches, that its excision required drastic surgical measures. This was accomplished through a Disfirmative Action mechanism: DWEM culture had too great an advantage because of hundreds of years of raping and pillaging other cultures. The only way to truly level the playing field and enable other cultures to flourish was to suspend all DWEM music and art. The government says it is only a temporary measure, like affirmative action, but there is no end in sight because ensuring equity and diversity are never-ending needs.
Like a particularly virulent virus, the progressive ideal of equity infected other countries and the United Nations. One of the most serious abominations that had to be fixed was UNESCO and that organization’s insolent penchant for designating cultural sites without sufficient regard for cultural sensitivities. How could any decent person, progressives argued, tolerate that Italy had more designated cultural sites than all of China, or all of India, or all of Africa? How could the European continent have more than one-third of the total? DWEM imperial cultural hegemony was so deeply embedded in our collective consciousness that it took generations of hard, relentless work to make people realize that all art and all music are equally good and that the only way to restore balance and fairness would be to curtail all art and culture that was founded on the blood and sweat of the world’s downtrodden.
When the judge entered the courtroom everyone stood—everyone except Angie, who was slumped over in her wheelchair, not even trying to look respectful. Most trials these days lasted at most an hour or two and did not bother with too many niceties like due process and the antiquated presumption of innocence. This erosion of legal protections had also begun in the early days of the old 21st century, usually only involving allegations of sexual assault, but by 66 ANA the presumption of innocence and due process more generally seemed little more than clever lawyer tricks to ensure that the guilty never could be convicted.
The judge looked sternly around the courtroom. As he sat down, so did everyone else. He stared at Malcolm and told him to stand. Malcolm did so, as the judge began a lengthy tirade about how Malcolm was a threat to the entire community. “Don’t you understand young man what we are trying to build in this country? Don’t you see how your willful self-indulgence harms us all?” He didn’t wait for an answer, but continued explaining how loathsome Malcolm’s crimes were. “You think that listening to prohibited music makes you special, makes you better than all the rest of us, don’t you? But art is something that must be controlled or it can lead to great numbers of people feeling inadequate. Rampant artistic excellence can be as much a cancer as rampant capitalism. Those who make art without regard to the needs of the larger community are no better than those who make money with no concern for anyone but themselves. Narcissists! This self-indulgence is the cancer that almost destroyed us all. And those who listen to such filth are no better. Mediocrity, when properly understood and implemented, improves us all and renders us as a group more content and thus excellent.”
The courtroom was silent. “How do you plead?” Angie spoke up: “My client pleads not guilty on all three counts, your Honor.” The judge looked at her angrily. “Nonsense! There is no dispute that your client did in fact listen to three pieces of prohibited music, each carrying a mandatory ten-year term.”
“Your Honor, while we stipulate to the fact that my client listened to these three pieces of music, we do not believe that the music he listened to is actually prohibited.” Neither the judge nor Malcolm nor the spectators had any idea what she was getting at. “Your Honor, I would like to put my client on the stand.” The judge shrugged his shoulders.
Malcolm took the stand and Angie whirred her wheelchair in very dramatic fashion into the very center of the courtroom, placing herself right in front of the judge rather than Malcolm. Still looking at the judge, she began asking Malcolm a series of seemingly incriminating questions. “Malcolm did you intentionally listen to this music? Malcolm, did you know that what you were listening to might—might—be prohibited? Malcolm, are you knowledgeable about the three composers whose music you listened to?” To each question, Malcolm quietly answered in the positive.
Angie turned toward Malcolm for just a brief moment, winked her eye and then turned her gaze back on the judge. “Now Malcolm, what was the first piece of music you listened to?”
“It was the fourth and final movement of Beethoven’s 9th symphony.” The judge interjected harshly, his face red with fury: “The one that includes the Ode to Joy? That one? You think that one is not on the list of prohibited music? For decades white Europeans used the Ode to Joy to make new immigrants feel inferior, to make them feel like they weren’t fully welcome in Europe. They used that foul Ode to remind the immigrants that they were just second-class citizens after all. Ms. Elderberry, your willingness to even suggest such music is permissible is insulting to all of us.” Angie smiled sweetly at the judge and softly said that if he would just allow her to finish her line of questioning all would be understood. She briefly touched her hijab and subtly moved her wheelchair back and forth to remind the judge that a Double Trifecta was not to be trifled with.
“So, Malcolm, when was the 9th symphony completed?”
“I believe, using the old calendar, it was somewhere around 1822-1824.”
“I bet Beethoven loved listening to that symphony, didn’t he?”
“Um, actually no. He had gone deaf by 1816.”
“Ah, I see, so Beethoven was deaf when he composed this symphony?”
Turning to the judge again, Angie said, “Your Honor, I submit to the court that Beethoven’s 9th cannot be included in the list of prohibited compositions because this is not DWEM music. Rather, it is DWDEM music—music of a dead, white, disabled European male.” There was an uproar in the courtroom, half the crowd screaming about clever lawyer tricks and the other half laughing and applauding. The judge banged his gavel twice and the screaming and laughter ceased. “I will review the case law on this sort of issue and render my decision later. In the meantime, proceed with your questioning.”
“Malcolm, could you tell me what was the second piece of allegedly prohibited music that you listened to?”
“Well, it was Swan Lake.”
“Swan Lake? Is that just nature music?”
“Oh no, no, it is a ballet and music. Of course, ballet is now also rightfully outlawed for treating women as mere objects. I would never watch the ballet itself. Just listened to the music.”
“Who composed the music?”
“A Russian composer named Tchaikovsky.”
“I’ve never heard the music, but I guess Tchaikovsky was quite famous at one time?”
“Yes, indeed, very famous.”
“Really. I guess his children were very proud of their father?”
“Actually, no. He had no children. He was gay.”
Turning again to the judge, Angie smiled and said, “You see, your Honor, we again are dealing with something quite different from DWEM music. Tchaikovsky’s music is DWGEM music—dead, white, gay, European male music.” The judge was nearly apoplectic, but simply murmured for her to hurry and finish up.
“So, now we come to the last piece of alleged DWEM music. What was that?” Malcolm tried to say it as matter-of-factly as he could, “It was Love Me or Leave Me.” The prosecutor screamed “objection” and the judge harshly reminded Malcolm that he was under oath and was obliged to tell the truth. “But I am telling the truth. It is a version of Love Me or Leave Me, by Nina Simone, a once famous African-American musician.” The prosecutor again interrupted, insisting that Malcolm was being disingenuous in his response. “Well,” Angie interjected, “if you would stop interrupting you would hear a clear explanation from the defendant. Now, Malcolm, what was it about this version of the song that has the government so upset?”
Malcolm looked down at Angie in her wheelchair and her confidence reassured him. “Well, in Nina Simone’s version, about a minute into the song she improvises, riffing a jazzy version of Bach’s Fugue in C major. But the song itself is just another love song that is on the list of acceptable songs.” Angie rolled back to her desk, “No further questions, your Honor.” The prosecutor jumped to his feet; he was not going to allow this trick. “You say this song by Nina Simone is allowed? Do you know that Nina Simone was not allowed to train as a classical pianist? Do you know that the white racists of her time prevented her from pursuing her dream career?” Malcolm nodded his head emphatically. “Yes, of course, I know that. That was a disgrace. That was unfair. But she never stopped loving Bach’s music.”
“Bach. Johann Sebastian Bach?” the prosecutor asked.
“Wasn’t Bach a European?”
“Wasn’t he a Christian?”
“Wasn’t he white, as white as hatched lice and just as disgusting?”
“He was indeed white.”
“And more than white! He was a proto-fascist, wasn’t he?”
“That I don’t know. All I know is that Nina Simone loved his music.”
“No more questions, your Honor. This defendant’s answers suggest that he also loves Bach’s music and is indifferent to the sensitivities of historically oppressed groups. Your Honor, you simply can’t rehabilitate those who listen to this filth. Study after study has proven even conversion therapy can’t change the listening habits of these miscreants. It’s hardwired into them to enjoy this filth.”
The judge took less than five minutes to render his decision. “You are found guilty on all three counts. However, given the confusion regarding the third count, we will reduce your sentence on that charge to five years. You are, therefore, sentenced to a total of 25 years in a re-education camp, as well as a $100,000 fine. The deafness of Beethoven and the sexual orientation of Tchaikovsky do not trump their inherent whiteness. Nor does your seeming ignorance of the law trump your whiteness.” The judge was about to strike his gavel to conclude the trial, when Malcolm blurted out, “Why do you all keep referring to me as white? I don’t understand. I’m not white. At least, not entirely.” Angie’s eyes bulged in surprise and she grabbed Malcolm by the neck, a little too violently. “What do you mean you’re not white?” Malcolm noticeably winced from the pain, but answered: “My grandmother was black.” Angie looked confused, “But your papers don’t indicate that.” Malcolm shrugged: “Probably not. My grandmother thought her race was irrelevant and refused to fill out that portion of the form. But so what? That won’t change the verdict.” Angie roared with joy, “No, the verdict will stand, but not the sentencing!”
Angie nearly jumped out of her wheelchair, but the Prosecutor was already on his feet. “I object your Honor. A person is not free to choose and change his race!”
“Of course, not,” interrupted Angie sarcastically. “Of course, we all realize in this enlightened age that race is an objective standard. It isn’t like gender which anyone can change anytime they choose to do so. And because we realize that race is immutable, it doesn’t matter what we thought he was; if his grandmother was black, then so is he.” But Malcolm still didn’t see how that could possibly affect his sentencing to 25 years in a re-education camp. “Your Honor, black Americans comprise 12% of our population and the nation-wide prison system has already reached its quota of incarcerated black inmates. It would be intolerable to imprison another black man and supersede that quota. By my rough calculations, Malcolm will not be able to find a vacancy in our re-education camps for approximately 78 years. My client will be happy to commence his sentence when he turns 98 years of age, your Honor.” And the sneering smile on her face showed a contempt for the judge so blatant that he would have placed her in jail that very moment, but then she was a double trifecta and he dared not do so.
“Nonetheless, he is still subject to the $100,000 dollar fine,” insisted the Prosecutor. Angie turned dejectedly toward her client, “I don’t suppose you have any savings? Your mother should have been saving up your monthly reparation checks for just such a time as this.” Malcolm shrugged his shoulders and casually replied, “Well, neither my mother nor my grandmother ever applied for reparation payments.”
“What the hell? Were they crazy? Why on earth not apply?” Malcolm almost blushed. “I used to ask them the same thing. But each time I asked, they just got angrier with me. They said to take reparation payments made us no better than the slave owners. They kept quoting Lincoln. Something about ‘wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces.’ They thought the whole notion was hypocritical and narcissistic.” Angie almost lost her composure. These damned purists with their useless integrity, she mumbled to herself. “Well, I don’t give a damn how pure and honorable your mother and grandmother were. You need that money and I can’t think of a better justification than to keep you from being in debt for the rest of your life.”
“Your Honor, my client has been entitled to reparation dividends. At 950 Martha Washingtons a month for the 20 years of his life, my client is owed approximately (it only took her a second to make the calculation) 228,000 dollars.” Malcolm could hardly believe what he was hearing. He looked adoringly at Angie and she looked back at him, with her most angelic smile. In the bleak lighting of the courtroom, she noticed that his alarmingly blue-green eyes were now a disarmingly deep brown, the color of a rich, unsweetened chocolate. He hugged her too long and awkwardly, but she didn’t seem to mind.
He left the courtroom and almost danced down the street. As he did so, only one word seemed appropriate. “Hallelujah,” he bellowed. And without thinking he started to sing at the top of his voice the Hallelujah refrain from Handel’s Messiah. Some young men on the street corner heard his joyous screams and took up the rhythm, rapping and twisting and turning the word over and over again, weaving that one word into a stunning tapestry of street baroque. Malcolm smiled. The counter revolution was already beginning and the progressive Troglodytes of the New Awakening were too oblivious to realize their demise.
The Imaginative Conservative applies the principle of appreciation to the discussion of culture and politics—we approach dialogue with magnanimity rather than with mere civility. Will you help us remain a refreshing oasis in the increasingly contentious arena of modern discourse? Please consider donating now.
The featured image is “Courtroom Scene” and is in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.