Journey to a New Land
The Obama campaign as an explorer’s ship.
We were sailing to the lowlands. The journey had been long, almost four years, and many of my crew, including four boatswains, had already jumped overboard for despair of our situation and defense of their honor. If they perished, they said, they wished to do so on their own terms. Some said it was my overbearing nature, that I was a harsh, uncompromising captain. I disagreed.
We sailed on a cutter called Stephanie. I wish I could say she bore us true, but her masts were rickety and we had to constantly readjust for the winds. The crew worked hard day and night to tighten axles and rods and stay the sails. Yet we still could not keep a course.
My first mate had gone completely mad, raving about chains and merchants with strange accents. I had the crew lock him in the brig for his own safety, and ours. Some said they had seen him drinking from the sea; others claimed it was just his advanced age.
Propped on the horizon we saw our competitor in this journey, a large ship whose captain I knew by reputation. He was a wealthy entrepreneur and philanthropist, a former magistrate with a large family and a strange creed. For the past few months he had closed the gap between our vessels, and I could see him and his crew more clearly through the spyglass now. They looked cheery and energetic as they worked, swinging from deck to masts and marching around the boat, and he seemed to have a modicum of authority with them. I was surprised at their number. There were even women among them.
Daily I instructed my crew to throw messages overboard, to try to turn those on that ship against their captain. I know they received them because I could see them netting the bottles up into their ship and reading them. I pointed out how greedy he had been with his riches, and that he had a trove hidden in a cay not far from where we sailed, which he refused to share with them. I spun a tale of how he had closed a shipyard he owned and left the workers to fend for themselves–even arranging for the wife of one of those workers to catch a palsy. I called on him to release all his records from his businesses, and from his governance as magistrate. Surely they would convince his crew he was corrupt.
Yet as I watched through the spyglass I saw them still laughing, and rage rooted itself in me. Could they not see his barbarism, as I could? This man who had built so much and yet shared so little? Whose beliefs told him to hoard his riches to the detriment of others? Whom had he helped, besides himself?
Gradually the ship advanced until it was at our starboard, a mile off. I continued to monitor it, and wondered why it didn’t come closer.
At last we saw land. My new quartermaster–who was actually an old friend, a tough woman I had recruited from my home port on a landlocked sea–commanded the crew, and we stopped past the sandbar, launching our dinghies to arrive at shore. I rode in the fourth, leading them from behind.
The people who occupied this land lived in simple tents, with small fires for cooking. There were frequent disagreements among them. Every so often, I understand, one would stand up in the town square and shout ideas out to the others, and they would mimic him. Then they would all disperse, to no result. They defecated in the open and there was therefore an odor to the entire place, but I supposed I could get used to that.
Some of the messages I had thrown into the sea for the magistrate’s loyal to find had washed up here, and the locals had read them and embraced my words. They had already begun to remake their society based on the ideas I had put forward in my treatises and were making wonderful progress. They had pooled all their monies into a collective, and distributed equal portions to everyone in the country–which we now learned was a small island. The doctors were paid only as much for their services as the bartenders were for theirs, and although many physicians had already left the island, others were taking their place with new and exciting approaches to medicine. The ruling council now owned all businesses on the island, and speeches were made regularly to the people describing the tenets of my writings. (I was unimpressed with the quality of the words, but my presence would help them improve.) For its leadership the ruling council took a modest extra fee.
When I told them I was the author of the writings they had found, they embraced me wholeheartedly. Their land was parched, I had noticed on my arrival, with little arable soil to be found. I promised to heal their land, show them how to achieve true equality in their society, and move them forward. The next day, I assured them, I would help rewrite their constitution.
That evening I watched the magistrate’s ship sail north, to the mountain country. The competition had been foremost in my mind, but now the tension faded. (The fool was sailing to the wrong country, after all!) I would be happy here, with people who understood equality and choice. We had arrived at the lowlands we had sought. Our journey was over. Our brothers were here. We would call this place New Low.