(NOTE: In the late 1980s, I started writing a political novel, banging out Chapter One on the typewriter. Recently while cleaning a few files, I came across those thoughts and words. Be sure to read the note at the end. Enjoy!)
It was getting late, but there was still time to catch the end of the acceptance speech. Joe Willie Smith was one of the gang, one of the brothers from the dark side of the Bronx, and he was now a long way away from his roots. H was in the middle of Madison Square Garden, but he was light years away from his world of slums and ghettos and filth and trash. He was a far cry from the crime of the poor and the hungry.
The rise to this level of his career had been swift. Qualifications never stood in the way. He was a chosen one. Powerful people, those with influence and know-how and political savvy, had put him in this position. Joe Willie Smith stood before the audience in the Great Hall in the Manhattan garment district of New York City and before millions of viewers and listeners worldwide. He was making a historic address.
The lights were dim in the musty-room of the old lodge on 156th street, and it took a while for the Motorola to warm up. The picture was fuzzy from the poor reception, but the words soon rung out loud and clear. The voices in the room went from boisterous to a whisper before complete silence filled the room. The sound of a pin rushing past the room’s smoke-filled air could be heard above the cry of a distant siren and the continuing cry of a young child nearby. It was quiet except for Joe Willie’s voice which now was coming in crisp and deafening.
“The distance from the outhouse to the castle,” projected Joe Willie in his distinguished accent that sometimes rumbled like the subway trains the gang rode so often to see the Knicks play in the same space Joe Willie now spoke, “is usually a very long way. Sometimes it’s a lifelong journey that is never travelled. However, sometimes the distance can be short and sweet. It also can be short and sour. And the trip back usually takes a much shorter time.
“This may sound a bit complex, but if you’ve come from where I’ve been then you know of what I speak. My trip here was short, but that’s not due to the “A” train. That’s due to what I feel is a gang bang, the complete adulteration of America. It’s a complex situation, one that would not take very long to reverse.”
Joe Willie paused as a bit of applause came from the rear of the Garden. He was waiting and hoping for more of the same. He wanted to build to a thunderous ovation, but he just knew that would come later. He also knew that he was speaking out of character, but not necessarily out of his. It was more like that of a fish out of water. The fish was physically okay and it needed a bit of water in which to breathe and swim, but the land didn’t like the smell. He continued.
“Life in the United States is full of complexities. The standard is that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer and the middle class is caught in between. However, there are the stories, seemingly every day now, about the poor family from the Bronx which just won $12 million in the New York State Lottery. There’s the farm family in Pennsylvania that was struggling to make ends meet but was lucky enough to hit on one Lotto ticket, and today that family is rich and famous.”
As he spoke, Joe Willie began to think what it would be like to have such luck. He knew he was lucky to be where was today, but having monetary freedom would be idealistically better. He was in a tough spot, but he was not about to take a step back.
“I tell you this because I want everyone to know that my rise to fame has followed a quick and narrow path but I am willing to accept the consequences that come with the Vice Presidential nomination of the Republican Party. I will gain, and have already gained, international fame. I will become a much wealthier man than I was prior to my selection as your vice presidential nominee. But, I can say to you now that this situation will not change the life of this black man. I will still call the ghetto home. I will still campaign on the rights of black and other minorities. I will stand for principles and morals and what is and should be right in America and the world.”
The applause from the back of the room grew louder and moved forward toward Joe Willie. A few on the platform applauded as was their duty. Joe Willie was still looking for the thunder, but he knew now that his theme was a bit reluctant. He wanted so much to please the hundreds of upper-class whites who dominate the Republican Party to understand that he was on their side but that he wanted them to recognize the life from whence he came.
“Yes, I carry the flag of this great party,” he bellowed as the applause picked up a bit, “and I know full well that I am simply a token in a crucial situation. The Republican Party has shifted so far right that the founders of the Grand Old Party would not know the purpose of its existence today. As your nominee, I will hold my head high and do you justice. I will see to it that our Party remains in the White House and that where possible more of the seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate of the United States are filled with Republicans and that the Governors’ chairs across the nation and the State Assemblies are dominated by Republicans.”
Joe Willie was rolling now, saying things the audience wanted to hear. He was playing the role, and the thunder was coming. “I will bring into this party many people from across the nation, those who are looking for a winner. And, that is what the Republican Party is. It is a winner of great proportions. It is the party of the nation. It leads the business sector. It has the support of many unions because the leaders of those solidarity groups know what it takes to move forward.”
The roar from the crowd was near levels which made the sounds from Penn Central Station a mere shadow of decibels coming from the floor of Madison Square Garden. And, Joe Willie Smith continued to speak. “I’ve always said that if you can’t beat ’em, then join ’em and you’ll be a better man because of it. I’m a winner, and you’re a winner, and when we win this election in November, the United States of America will be the big winner. Go with me; walk with me; run with me. Let’s grasp this historical moment and make this nation great together.”
This was 1996, and no black had made it this far in the United States political scene. There had not been women on the ticket since Geraldine Ferraro was nominated for Vice President in 1984 by the Democratic Party. That was historic as was when Jean Kirkpatrick was nominated for President by the Democrats in 1988. However, women are a majority in the United States. No member of a minority had ever been nominated to one of the two highest offices in the nation, and here was Joe Willie Smith calling on all Americans to follow his lead. Indeed, this was a historical moment.
“To paraphrase the Reverend Martin Luther King who was one of our great leaders,” shouted Joe Willie, “My dream has come true. The Reverend could only talk about having a dream and hope for reality of an idealistic life. I have made it to the nomination for the second highest post in the nation. It is a victory for me, my people and all citizens of the United States. Thank you very much as I accept the Vice Presidential nomination of the Republican Party.”
The balloons were falling from the rafters, and, as the music blared and the crowd cheered wildly, some even standing in the chairs, the gang in the lodge up on 156th Street smiled and congratulated each other. One of their own had made it near the top. Joe Willie Smith, a brother since he was just 21, who had worked his way out of the ghetto as a politician, who had done the things necessary to be accepted by the white establishment, who had attained success, who had made it from the outhouse to the castle, was smiling at the cameras. His face was nearly completely covered by the snow caused by TV reception on the Motorola, but his words were coming through loud and clear. The brothers at the lodge were back slapping. Cigars were puffing away. It was a festive mood, to say the least.
Everyone there was happy and showed it, but something more than happiness was rushing through the mind of Kevin Barrow. His smile was not one of laughter as much as one of pleasant thoughts. Kevin was one of the masterminds of the gang, and no matter the present circumstances, he was always thinking down the road. He was always a few steps ahead of the rest of the brothers, but usually his face didn’t give away his thoughts. He wanted the others to think he was happy for the current situation, but this time the smile gave away his thoughts. He wanted the others in the room to think he was happy for the current situation, but this time the smile gave him away and Jasper Lawrence could see that from his seat across the room.
“Great for Joe Willie,” praised Jasper, slapping a few of the brothers on the back as he started to move towards Kevin. “Nice to see him make it this far. He’ll remember us, just as he said on the TV. He’ll be back. He’ll take us in. He knows just what to say and do. This is good.” And, then he was standing next to Kevin Barrow. He didn’t want to let on right away that Kevin’s smile was so obvious.
“Great day for the brothers,” said Jasper, not looking at Kevin.
“Great day,” returned Kevin, talking to the smokey air.
“He’ll be a good Vice President,” said Jasper, focusing on Kevin.
“Yep,” returned Kevin as the smile broadened. “Might even make a good President one day.”
“Yeah,” said Jasper. “If elected, he’ll be in the second highest office, and that’s just a heart beat…” Jasper’s voice broke off. Kevin was glowing, and Jasper couldn’t believe what he was thinking.
“Let’s step outside just a minute,” said Kevin. “There’s something I want to talk with you about.”
(NOTE: If you are a writer and are interested in writing the next chapter, please be in touch. I’d like to have a finished novel of about 10 to 12 chapters, each contributed by different authors. I’ll also pen the last. So, if interested, contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)