He approached the corner of 1st and Main. He saw a man on the corner yelling at the top of his voice. The man on the corner looked like all the other participants on the street. The participants were mostly dressed in jeans and work boots; the latter usually covered with some sort of dirt or other foreign substance and the former looked worn through.
A limousine stopped at the corner and a young lady, obviously a participant, stepped out on the corner. As she stepped out the man on the corner started to yell at her. The man in the blue suit jumped into action.
The man in the blue suit reached into his overcoat and readied a small knife that he used to open his copious amounts of mail that filled his office. The near pristine blade, save for the bits of glue that clung to the edge, was held unseen to the man on the corner.
“Hey you. Let her go!” yelled the man in the blue suit.
The man on the corner sat back on his heels and instinctively deferred to the voice of the citizen. “I meant her no harm, sir,” he said, “I only meant to awaken her from her deep sleep.”
“You drunkard. Stop babbling at me. Step aside,” said the man in the blue suit.
The man on the corner could not help but stare at the man. All these people, citizens and participants alike, walk around all day asleep. People on the buses, all asleep. The drivers of the buses, asleep at the wheel. The rich families in their chauffeured cars, all asleep. Children sitting through their classes all asleep. He could no longer let the rich rest in their peaceful slumber to conjure up ways to keep the participants working too hard for so little. He could no longer let the poor toil in their nightly fits of exhaustion to hope of becoming a citizen. They must be awakened.
He stood tall so the citizen in the blue suit would be looking in his eyes. The man on the corner said, “Please, sir. You must listen to me.”
The citizen reacted quickly. The participant was starting toward him and he had to defend himself. He pulled the knife from his overcoat. He thrust the knife underhanded at the attacker and caught him in the stomach. Blood covered his hand and the man fell to the ground. The man in the blue suit stood over the dying man even as the police arrive.
Traffic was heavy and only the ambulance and the police on motorcycles could get through. The EMT’s loaded the participant into the ambulance. The police didn’t want to keep the citizen waiting. They knew that the faster they got him to a judge the quicker that he would be released to go about his business. They loaded him into the ambulance since a police car could not get through. The EMT stabilized the participant and the citizen was followed into the ambulance by a police officer.
The stop and go traffic was hell. The lights and sirens were useless. At this point nobody could get through. The EMT worked on the wounded man and police officer talked on his radio. The citizen stared out the window at the traffic. They would move a few yards and then stop. A few more yards and then stop.
“Why…” whispered the man on the gurney.
“Shut up! Stop bothering the citizen,” said the police officer, who quickly returned to his conversation on his radio.
“Why did you stab me?” asked the man from the corner.
The man in the blue suit only stared out the rear of the ambulance. Everything inside seemed to sway in step with the ambulance as it lurched forward. The IV swayed with the tempo of the traffic. The citizen did not care to answer and only stared at the stopped traffic.
The man on the gurney would not relent. “I only wanted to awaken the girl,” he said.
The citizen could not hold back anymore. He must say something to shut this scoundrel up. He did not turn around to face the man from the corner. “You only wanted to hurt her because she would not give you money,” he said.
The traffic lightened a little bit. The ambulance began to pick up some speed driving at a steady ten or fifteen miles per hour. The IV stopped swaying and the officer kept his ear to his radio and the EMT studied the road ahead.
“Why would I want to steal from her. She is a participant just as I am. We do fine on our own,” said the man from the corner.”
“You participants always want more. Just last election period you wanted us citizens to vote to give you participants more money,” said the man in the blue suit.
“If people like me could have voted, we could have gotten that money. People like me could have something to eat or afford to get some decent clothes to work in.”
“If people like you could vote you wouldn’t be pitiful participants.”
“If you hadn’t stolen our right to vote then nobody would be participants. We would all be citizens.”
“Well then you should have voted once in the four year period. Just once and you would be a citizen as I am now. I have voted every year that I was eligible. And because of it my children will have the chance to vote when they become of age.”
“I would have voted but nothing would have changed. I voted for five years when I became of age. Nothing ever changed. The rich became richer and the poor became the poorer. What chance do the poor have to defeat the political war chests of the rich.”
“But are there not more poor than there are rich. If the poor really had it that badly they could have voted to change the laws so that the poor had a chance to become the rich. But the poor never voted. The less money someone had the less they voted.”
“Don’t blame the wretched. They never could figure out who to vote for or what propositions to pass. No matter which way you voted someone was there to tell you that it was the wrong decision. I bet that brothers voted opposite each other and effectively nullified their own votes.”
“Is that the fault of the citizens? Many of us were schooled at the same high schools. But some of us did not turn a deaf ear to the teachers. We did not follow the path of apathy that did not lead anywhere. How many times have you heard a news report and said ‘I don’t care’. I bet if you ask your friends who the vice president of the United States is they would say, ‘I don’t care.’ Even now I bet that they would not care.”
“It’s not our fault. We are protected by the Constitution of the United States. We don’t have to vote. We have the right not to vote. Nobody told us that we could lose our right to vote.”
“What do you mean nobody told you. It was carried on every news station that every citizen must vote in the next four years to remain a citizen. Didn’t you ever read a newspaper?”
“I never liked to read the newspaper. I did buy it to read the sports page. And the television news always depressed me. Why should I have to care who is starving in Africa? Why should I care if a policeman got shot? Why should I care if the IMF gives money to the Koreans? Why should I care that the President lied under oath? Why should I care?”
“Why should I care that you are poor?”
“Because it is your responsibility as the haves to take care of the have nots!”
“Why should I care if you can vote or not?”
“Because you have money and it is my right to vote only when I want to!”
“It was your right to vote but it was also your responsibility to actually read about the candidates and read the proposition for yourself and vote which ever way you felt was right. But this is your fate now that you have decided to ignore your duty to your country to vote.”
The ambulance was now clipping along at an even sixty miles per hour and heading toward the hospital. The policeman looked out the rear of the ambulance listening with indifference to the citizen and participant banter about the social ills of the day. The EMT checked on the participant but checked on the rate of traffic more frequently. The lightposts blurred by the window and the cars seemed distant to the conversation in the ambulance.
“I don’t want to care about everyone else. I deserve my right to vote! I went to college. Why should I not have the right to vote?” asked the man on the stretcher.
“I didn’t matter how much money you had or how much schooling you had. All that was required for you to remain a citizen was to vote within four years. Just one ballot,” said the man in the suit.
“But my vote didn’t matter. It would not have changed anything.”
“You would still be citizen wouldn’t you.’
“But I was doing fine. I had enough money and enough education to get me by. What could I have gained by voting? I wasn’t in debt then. I had a car and a home that I could easily pay for. Voting had nothing to do with my lifestyle.”
“That is why you lost your right to vote. That is why you ‘have it bad’ now. You have been trying to awaken people to the fact that they cannot vote. You also need to awaken them to the fact that voting does matter. For proof they can just look in the mirror.”
The ambulance slowed down as it approached its destination. The lightposts stopped blurring by the window. The ambulance stopped at the front of the county hospital. No participants were allowed in the citizen hospitals.
The participant was taken inside the hospital only to wait for a first-year med. student to evaluate that he would need an operation. The citizen awaited to be released so that he could go back to work.
“Good thing there was someone who cared to help that girl. Who knows what someone like that will do to their own,” said the policeman. The driver nodded his head slowly.
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