Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"What Kind of Nation?" from 'For the Burnable Cities'

   Silas leaves dissent up to others who try their luck—unmarried workers who are willing to be cast out. Word is they think they can do more to help the Christian cause as outlaws, hiding by day and sneaking from place to place by night, preaching in places known only to Christians on the run. But those who left early in the revolt were never heard from again. Nobody knows what became of them. Word is they were captured and placed into the dormitories in the city. But word also is that the dormitories are being demolished; The Seat is shipping unpermitables to other parts of the country. But without the means to know what is happening elsewhere, word lapses into supposition—the guesses that are lies in the absence of truth. The feeling is one of despair.
“What kind of nation have we become?” Ralph Pearson asks one night over coffee and cake. “This didn’t happen overnight. People used to be able to discuss things in the open: politics, differences in religion, different approaches to running the country. Open your mouth now, and a liaison is sure to report you and get you dismissed from your job and kicked out of your home.”
Silas is sympathetic. “I wish the newspapers could do something. Once upon a time newspapers reported on politics, the use of tax money, government projects. Newspapers used to be critical of the misuse of power. They would fight for people who had no one to fight for them. They were the poor man’s lawyer. Now they speak for no one except the state and protect no one except the state.”

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