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Rheta Johnson: Confederacy of dunces

 

Rheta Grimsley Johnson

 

SOMEWHERE IN THE FREE STATE OF TEXAS -- It was Cormac McCarthy cold, the wind rushing through deserted and dark buildings, whipping at loose trash that increasingly piled up on the rutted streets. 

 

So the man threw another book on his fire. A big, fat book that should last a while. He let out a big Rebel yell that echoed through the urban canyons. The sound pleased him. 

 

In the days following the riots, he had camped just across from the city's former library, so there was plenty of fuel. The library windows had been broken the first day after secession succeeded. What a glorious and confusing day of celebration with others who had had enough. 

 

A citizens' group objecting to Mark Twain and other vile writers -- John Steinbeck and Shakespeare and other strange idea bed-wetters -- had swept the shelves of offensive literature. They had missed a few books, thank goodness. The better now to keep warm. 

 

Other rebels had claimed the nearby park, and he knew it now was dangerous to walk there. People were justifiably skittish these days, and everyone was packing. There wasn't a gun left on Texas shelves. They were in the hands of citizens, the way God intended. 

 

The park had been a federal one, so now no pesky rangers told people what they could and could not do. Nobody could figure whose responsibility it was to empty the trash or clean the toilets, so the buildings were padlocked. You could pick off a squirrel or two if you were hungry. 

 

But, even so, he preferred this spot. Nobody much came to the library, he figured, even when there had been lights and librarians. This was Texas, after all. Books were sissy stuff. 

 

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. A Texan wrote that. 

 

The man longed for news of the fight. Had Kansas broken loose? Was Alabama part of the confederacy? You could depend on some states always to be on the right side of history. Now the debate was whether the states that had seceded should band together or remain on their own. 

 

The man didn't know what his leaders were thinking. The government-controlled airwaves now were blocked in the Free State of Texas, even if one had a television or radio. He did not. Those had been lost to enthusiastic looters the state police couldn't stop. 

 

Texas was smart to go first, he reasoned. No more federal taxes. No more federal intervention into state affairs. No more regulatory agencies. No more Social Security and Medicare. Who needed those things, anyhow? 

 

He still was surprised at how quickly the feds had agreed to the secession idea. Washington mainly insisted on keeping Willie Nelson, but pretty much said, "Hey, take the rest of it. Maybe leave us Austin." 

 

And so, quite suddenly, things were upside down and inside out. That would teach 'em to mess with Texas. That would teach 'em to impose radical ideas like health insurance for the masses. 

 

The man reached into his pile of books, picked out one called "Atlas Shrugged" and threw it on the fire. Freedom, he thought to himself. Freedom.

 

 

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