I swear to you, those two topics will cross paths during the writing of this note. You see, in a state of only partial employment these days I do a few things to pass the time. I play some old video games that I missed out on when they were new. I write, even spending a little bit of time writing fiction, working on this story that's been bouncing around my head. (I may need a literary agent, anyone got one?) Oh yes, I also watch TV, sadly far more television than I really need to be watching.
There's this thing I find highly fascinating, presidential succession. I never was able to put my finger on why it was so interesting to me, until recently, when I realized that a large part of my interest in presidential succession fiction is because it offers a window into a world where an author gets to paint humanity at what must be one of its most difficult times. Tom Clancy wrote about presidential succession in his novels, when terrorists crashed a plane into the United States Capitol building. This view of the succession story saw the mantle of leadership peacefully passed from the now deceased President into the hands of the former Vice President. The country rallied around their new leader, and the only bad guys were the terrorists responsible for the plots against the country. Author Harry Turtledove, who writes alternate history that I find compelling, interesting, and a lot of darn fun, has taken on the succession several times. He's killed off VP Henry Wallace during WWII (by aliens), and several other Presidents in other novels. Again, these stories tend to feature the death of a President at the hands of outsiders, and power transfers cleanly to where it belongs. Then there are the stories where the transfer isn't quite as clean, as legal, or as humane. In 2012 we watched as the President's Chief of Staff declared himself in charge and gave orders that would have resulted in the deaths of thousands. Finally, all of this meandering as led us to my most recent television discovery. Through the wonders of Netflix I have recently discovered Jericho, and while I am quite sad it didn't last long, I'm glad that I don't have to wait to watch the episodes one per week.
In this fictional TV series a whole slew of nuclear weapons go off around the country, laying waste to huge swaths of land. We know that Washington DC, Philly, Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, and San Diego are gone. We know that this small town in Kansas is okay, but cut off from the world and left on their own.
That is where my thought process begins. A small town, I know they mention it less than 5,000 people, but I don't remember an exact number, for the most part bands together to take care of itself, and the people, mostly, work to take care of one another. Outside their walls though, we see places where things aren't nearly going as well. We see roving gangs of people, fighting over gas, over grain, over guns. It is a truly grim feeling at times watching these people, the people outside of Jericho, struggle to survive. We hear one character even say the world belongs to "the quick and the strong", and I can't help but think that's a sad state of affairs. Are we all just animals at heart? Would we, without the strength and guidance of the federal government, all just form little bands who cared for nothing except ourselves? Would we shoot people we didn't know, without ever making an effort to know them? It saddens me to think of a world like that, where we all look out for nothing but our own little community. There's something else about this TV series though, and I'm beginning to think it's the reason it didn't last long. It's brilliantly written, brilliantly acted, and a visual pleasure. The stories, the characters, the lives they lead, they matter. I can sit there watching this and almost feel what they're going through. Which is why it didn't last. I might be feeling it a little too much. For just a brief moment in time, as I reached into the freezer to grab a Klondike, I thought to myself, "Wait, can we get more of these?" Literally, the thought crossed my mind that I was living there, for just a brief moment. That thought has occurred to me a couple of times after watching a few eps of Jericho, and I can see how unsettling it might be to people. I choose to believe that humanity, that Americans, are better than this. I choose to believe that in a time of crisis we would rise to live good and moral lives, even without the guidance of a federal government. I choose to believe that Northglenn would not go to war with Brighton. Does this make me crazy? Am I giving people far too much credit? I don't think I am. I think Americans have a history of coming together when times are tough, a history of working together for the common good.
On the other hand, I won't be here to see it regardless. There are four cities I would live in, somewhat in this rough order; San Diego, Denver, Washington DC, Milwaukee. In every nuclear scenario San Diego and Denver are taken out immediately for military reasons, and DC is taken out because it is the seat of government. Chicago is an important shipyard, so most people don't think it's around either, and I imagine the fallout from Chicago would end Milwaukee quickly. So, I won't be around to see how the people of America react during a nuclear holocaust, but don't let me down folks...