Back in July 2108, Senator Alfred de Vera invited Phil Bernardo to lunch at a Waterfront Street restaurant in National Harbor overlooking Alexandria, Virginia across the Wilson Bridge. It was almost equidistant from one's location in the Capitol Hill and the other's Bureau office in Suitland, Maryland. So there was no haggling on either part regarding the place for a noon repast between old friends going back some twenty-eight years. Also, de Vera insisted that the location across the Potomac ought to be far enough from any potential eavesdropper for something he wanted to talk about. Something confidential and needed to be kept highly secret 'between friends'.
Phil Bernardo was then fifty-four years old with nineteen years of service in the executive branch, three years teaching math and statistics in a Northern Virginia college and ten years before that on the Hill as a legislative assistant in the office of now retired 72-year old California U.S. Congressman Steven Fukuda. It was in those ten years starting with the first term of the then 37-year old Congressman representing the 24th Congressional District of California (Santa Barbara and Ventura counties) when he fully recognized what was happening to the country.
The year was 2076. A new administration had been sworn in following that of James Francis, only the second Catholic President, and the second one to be assassinated when six months to the end of his second term, a stinger missile blew up the VH-100Z Marine One helicopter transporting him and his entourage from the White House to Andrews Air Force Base.
To this day, thirty-five years later, after all the intensive investigations by every intelligence agency of the United States, not a single suspect claiming responsibility for the missile attack had been found credible enough to be held legally for more than a day or two for interrogation. Not one claiming to belong to either one of the usual suspect groups--Al Queda, the ever resurgent Neo-Nazis, the World Muslim Liberators, the hardcore Socialists, the Atheist-Communist Alliance and several other foreign and domestic activist organizations.
The new President and the first woman to hold the office, was elected six months later. She won primarily on the strength of the gender card along with her stand against extreme liberalism and equally against archaic conservative values, both of which had been fanning a nationwide fire of racial and ethnic segregation, and hatred. This, however, proved to be her own undoing while in power when, halfway through her term, it became apparent she did not have the strength with her moderate stance to reconcile both sides and unite the country.
As quick as she rose to power, thus, did she suffer a decline in popularity she and her party could not reverse. Come election in November 2080, it was a landslide victory never before seen in over a hundred and fifty years for the opposition ticket, a combination of a white Bible-belt Southern Baptist and his black Industrial-Midwest running mate. This new administration would last a second term, at the end of which the nation would become even more divided than ever. Another eight years of failed policies at every front.
A re-integration program that many believed might reverse the ongoing demographic fragmentation of the country, by virtue of an administration with a white President and a black Vice-President, resulted in further segregation of the races. The economy tanked after a two-trillion dollar stimulus made no difference in the double-digit unemployment, the housing foreclosures, bank failures and consumer confidence, exactly the same as what happened during the recession of 2008, a hundred years ago, except twice as bad. Nobody had any idea where all that money went, what it did and for whom. But everybody knew what it did to the country and the people. It raised the U.S. total debt to eighty-five trillion dollars. Every American citizen owed a total of $155,000 to China, Korea, Japan, England, Germany, Russia, Brazil, Singapore, Taiwan, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
Halfway through the second term of that administration, Phil Bernardo decided he no longer wanted to be a part of or even a close witness to how America was regressing through a succession of one self-serving set of public officials after another. After ten years on the Hill, he told Congressman Steven Fukuda he wanted to pursue a different direction in his work career. Fukuda couldn't immediately see his Rayburn House Offices without the man who had been a vital part of its operation right from the start, his first two-year term in the U.S. House of Representatives. After a decade of working closely together, their personal association had extended beyond employee-employer relationship into a loyal friendship.
But the Congressman understood how he was feeling. Over the years, some late evening in the office or during a meal at the cafeteria, they had conversations when each one openly spoke his mind.
"Hey, have a seat," said Congressman Steven Fukuda at the coffee counter, turning halfway around from the percolator to Phil Bernardo coming in through the office front door at a quarter past nine at night. "Coffee?"
"Cream and sugar please. Four lumps."
"I know, I know."
Sitting in the leather chairs in the lounge area a minute later sipping coffee, Phil Bernardo said to then 45-year old California's 24th District representative: "You look like shit, Steve,"
"So do you," returned Steve Fukuda. "But I got a good reason for looking like shit. What's yours?"
It took Steve a deep sigh and a long sip of coffee before he spoke a word. This was a night in March 2082. He was in his third term in office and was then a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies. It was one of those days when a hearing was held late in the day and had to be extended beyond its scheduled time period.
"You know where I was most of the afternoon and tonight," he said, sitting back, trying to relax.
"Yes. I wanted to be there but I had to guard the fort. A few of your friends from Santa Barbara were lined up at the door for hours." Phil rose to pick up a folder he had deposited on a nightstand and dropped it on the cocktail table before the Congressman. "My summary report for the day. There's a list of what they all came for. So how'd it go at the hearing?"
"That son-of-a-bitch Herb Taylor is trying to bully everybody in the subcommittee."
"So now we have a S.O.B. for a Vice President of the United States." remarked Phil.
"I don't care if he's the President himself or king of the world. And don't get me wrong: I don't care either if he's a white man or a black man which he happens to be. That hearing is his own idea he pushed through to his buddy the Committee chairman. Their contingents in the South and Midwest are bitching about not getting enough funds for the coming fiscal year."
"How did they know? The budget resolution is not out yet."
"Oh, they know. They got eyes and ears everywhere. They want some changes while it's under review by the House and the Senate before we submit the resolution April 1. A couple of weeks."
"There are some phone messages I wrote down in there too for you from the Texas and the New Mexico folks," said Phil, nodding at the folder on the table.
"Yes, I know who they are and what they want, too. They're the group from the Southwest, the Latinos, who couldn't make it to the hearing." Steve paused a moment, looking distressed. "It's the same shit every friggin' year. Everybody's got their paws out to you this time of the year for handouts. Wears you out."
"Wears me out just watching you get worn out," seconded Phil as he saw the Congressman slouch sideways in his armchair and rest his feet on the coffee table. At that moment, their eyes locked on each other and somehow found humor in the tired look on their faces and broke out laughing.
"What the fuck is happening to this country, Phil?" Steven Fukuda asked after regaining his breath. "Everybody's looking out only for himself. Nobody cares about anybody else. The entire nation is fragmented and this fucking administration doesn't even seem to notice."
"It does," said Phil. "As a matter if fact, just like its predecessors, it has accepted it. But it doesn't want the country to know it has. And the worst part of it is--"
"It's covering it up," Steven Fukuda interrupted. "In fact, I even think they want it to continue in that direction. To keep peace between the Blacks, the Hispanics, the Asians, the WASPs, the Catholics, the Jews, the Muslims. Keep each group separate from the others."
"The country's going to break up for real if this continues," Phil said dryly.
"Don't say that," the Congressman retorted. "America is not going to become another Yugoslavia or the Soviet Union of old. Something's got to be done one way or another."
Phil Bernardo would stay on the Hill through the Congressman's next two terms. During the fourth term which began in January 2083, one of Steven Fukuda's close allies on his side of the aisle, four-term Nevada Congressman Alfred de Vera, took the Oath of Office in the U.S. Senate after he was swept into office in the November election for one of the Nevada seats vacated by the former incumbent who retired.
The Senator, then 38 years old, was one of Fukuda's fellow House Appropriations Subcommittee members. They shared the same values, cherished the same vision of America and hope for the reversal of the direction the country had taken since the great migrations began soon after the big riots. Phil had heard them talk many times in the office. He learned quickly that the two legislators, in the company of friends and allies, didn't hold back much when something or somebody was giving them an itch that's hard to reach. Occasionally, they invited him to join in the conversations before and during de Vera's time in the Senate.
"She should have stayed home and looked after the kids and let her husband do the job she can't do in the White House,"Alfred de Vera said one day in his House office the year before he moved to the Senate. He was talking about the previous President, the first woman in the office in whom he had high hopes at first but who ended up making one bad move after another and becoming a do-nothing Executive. Under pressure from her supporters in the Southwest region, she granted amnesty to four million illegals, many of whom were known repeat lawbreakers. The People's Republic of China invaded and took possession of the Penghu Islands (formerly the Pescadores Islands long ago), a county under the administration of Taiwan, and she didn't do anything about it. South Korea had been dumping over-produced compressed-air cars and hydrogen cars in the country, causing havoc in the American automobile market, and she didn't do anything about it even with the bipartisan urging of Congress.
"And now we have this salt and pepper administration in the White House," Steven Fukuda threw in next, referring to the mixed-race occupants of the Pennsylvania Avenue mansion in their second year in office, drawing chuckles from Phil Bernardo and Mary Wagner, his equivalent from de Vera's office, then 29, with three years behind her on the Hill. "And already," Fukuda went on, "they're way ahead of their predecessors in messing up the country. The economy is screwed up, million upon million of workers jobless. And where the hell did all that stimulus money go? I fought like hell to prevent them from getting the two-thirds majority vote on it but I found out they managed to buy a few 'yeas' on our side of the aisle."
"I say honor is now in short supply up here on the Hill," said de Vera. "Talk about some of those sons of bitches being 'the Honorable member of Congress so-and-so'. Where's the honor in those assholes?"
The day he took office in the Senate, Alfred de Vera swore to continue to fight for what is right not just for their party or their constituents but for the country, the American people. Never mind that the country now appears to break up into several segregated regions. It hasn't happened yet. America is still one independent country, one people. Between him and Steven Fukuda, they managed to form alliances with several members of the House and the Senate from both sides of the aisle. There were five of them, two Senators and three Representatives, members of Congress, Americans who--regardless of party affiliation--they confirmed were true to the same cause and ideals they stood for. But outside of their voting on the floor of both houses, they kept their official contacts with each other low-keyed, their personal association certainly private, practically secret.
The next three years which took them through the fifth term of Steven Fukuda in the House, each member of the Alliance fought hard for what they believed: tearing down the race and ethnic barriers that continued to break the nation apart, re-invigorating the First Amendment and restoring the credibility of the press, exposing the charlatans and hypocrites in government who would stop at nothing to satisfy their self-serving interests, fighting corruption and buddy-politics that continued to undermine the nation's economy and national security.
But from Phil Bernardo's vantage point on the Hill between Fukuda's House office and de Vera's Senate office, it was a losing battle. In the beginning, he thought, and hoped, the Alliance [in Congress] might make a difference and slow down America's regression. They won a few with several legislation that sailed through both chambers and the White House, but at the same time failed to defeat many others they swore--with their lives, for the sake of the American people--to prevent from becoming law of the land. Early at the turn of the century, one member of the Alliance, a Filipino-American Congressman from Oregon named Mario Lapidario who was very vocal with his stand against several of them indeed lost his life, they believed, because of his pointed opposition. After he plunged to his death on a cliff in a northwest coast highway, investigations found that his car was 'maliciously impaired' to lose control.
Near the end of Steven Fukuda's fifth term, Phil Bernardo tendered his resignation to the Congressman. When Senator Alfred de Vera learned about this, he did his best along with Fukuda and the rest of the House office staff to talk him into staying. When he couldn't be persuaded, de Vera offered to take him in to his Senate office as a senior L.A but, again, to no avail.
The next three years away from the Hill was like a fresh breeze he didn't know he needed badly while at the same time resuming his academic specialty teaching math and statistical social science at a Northern Virginia college. Being within direct earshot of Washington bureaucracy and politics, however, he couldn't remove himself far enough from the realm that's within the Capital Beltway simply by being 'across the Potomac'. Through the remaining time of the 'salt-and-pepper' occupants of the White House, and later through the next three administrations, he saw the slow but steady process of the deterioration of America's oneness, her economy, homeland security and national identity. People visiting the country from anywhere in the world no longer held the concept of an 'American' as a person who spoke 'American English', born and raised in America in the American culture of many distinct traditions. Baseball and hot dogs, July 4th Parades and Fireworks, Thanksgiving Dinners, NCAA Tournaments, NFL and Super Bowl, Hollywood and Broadway.
English was no longer the dominant language of the entire nation. More than half of the population spoke only Spanish fluently and hardly any intelligible English, the rest any Asian, African and Eastern European languages and dialects.
Ironically, it appeared the nation--how ever a tourist from Denmark or Japan may now see it--didn't mind to look into itself, didn't pay attention to what the country has become, and apparently didn't care. With over forty million illegals from all corners of the world, America had clearly lost its national identity, let alone its sovereignty.
A U.S. resident, regardless of the person's status of residency--legal alien, illegal alien, naturalized citizen, native-born citizen, what not, was regarded simply as that. A U.S. resident. A resident traveling abroad would find it directly easier to refer to one's self in terms of one's race or origin, thus: I am a Guatemalan living in the U.S., a Chinese residing in the U.S., a Filipino living in Eugene, Oregon, United States, a Polish living in Chicago, U.S.A., a Punjabi resident of Baltimore, Maryland, United States. And no one was expected to speak English, let alone American English.
An American, in form and substance, was now a nulla persona.
Seeing this happen in full awareness of its slow but steady process through the years and from his vantage point as a statistician and trained demographer, it broke his heart. He grieved for what was America he saw of long ago, though briefly, as a young child back in the late 50's and early 60's before the big race riot, and the regression that followed. He felt sad, and angry. Angry at the goddamn politicians in Washington who sold out to their constituents and lobbyists one after the other, one government after another; sold out to the Latinos, the Blacks, the Asians, to the illegals, and--in trade and commerce--to the Koreans, the Japanese, the Chinese, the Indians, the Russians and the Europeans.
Following the black-and-white administration, another two-term ticket was elected. This time, it was an Hispanic President, the first ever, and an Anglo Vice-President. It became known quickly as the Spanglish administration. Its landmark significance--the big leap, finally, in the steady rise of the Latinos in mainstream politics. Many were saying: "They've arrived.", and most notably in the Hispanic quarters: 'Hemos llegado!'.
In the eight years it ran the Executive branch of government, from 2088 to 2096, it pretty much stayed the course with its feeble effort for change as far as matters previous administrations were unable to do anything about: the economy, immigration, the budget deficit, national debt, drug and human trafficking, homeland security. Where it made a great impact was in the federal personnel structure, both in the civilian (civil service) and military personnel.
As the end of the century approached, a wave of retirement hit the federal workforce. Career employees from the mid-level grades to senior executives mostly in their late sixties and mid-seventies quit in droves.
As fast as the retirees exited the service, the new hires took over, in some instances even before the old-timers were out the door with their boxes of personal belongings. The replacements were young, college educated, and mostly Hispanic whose primary language was Spanish and who spoke minimally intelligible English.
The same thing happened in the military service with the open encouragement of the administration in online and media ads encouraging minorities of every kind to 'serve and defend the country'. Except for a low percentage of young Asians and Blacks who had been jobless for months, years, the majority of new enlistees were Latinos, again many of whom spoke only Spanish and very little English. In the officer ranks, many new Generals also were Latinos, quickly confirmed by the now majority Hispanic Congress.
Phil Bernardo saw the trend that was occurring, not that he hadn't been acutely aware of it for several years, in the federal government as well as the whole nation. He expected that soon it would have not just a political backlash but a cultural and racial one. And it did.
It became clear even while the hiring frenzy was going on and the trend became apparent, that America had openly become a battleground between the two dominant cultures in it--the Anglo and the Latino culture. But at this point, there was no question--with at least fifty percent of the seats in Congress on both sides of the aisle they occupied and the first Latino President sitting in the White House--which one had the upper hand. And now--it's the same thing in the military and civilian workforce and leadership.
The backlash happened when, midway through the second term of the administration, Senator Alfred de Vera and Congressman Steven Fukuda banded together with a number of other members of Congress, most of them Anglos and Asians, sponsored a survey of the entire U.S. government human resources and released it to the media. The result triggered loud nationwide protests by the Anglos who were then joined by the Blacks and the Asians. This happened while the 5-year Economic Census in the spring of 2095 was about to come out. The government, both the Legislative and Executive Branches, had similar fears about the outcome of the Census survey reports concerning the disparity of the employment between the Latinos and everybody else in the country, not so much in earning power but in numbers of employed workers, so that--as they did with the decennial population and housing Census of 2090 to hide the continuing demographic fragmentation of the country--they soft-pedaled the release of the reports, allowed only limited publication, effectively covering up the disparity outright.
To pacify the nation, near the end of the Spanglish second term, the President and his party propped the Anglo Vice-President as the frontrunner in the coming election in November 2096. The candidate, five months before the election, announced his running mate--another Anglo, a WASP, to the dismay of the Latinos and the Blacks. The Asians couldn't care less. They would just as soon be left alone to themselves in their Northwest region of the country, maybe even as a separate, autonomous segment of the nation than take part in the national government in any way.
In spite of some stiff opposition from the Latinos and the Blacks, the WASPs won the election. Thus, for the first time in 40 years, since the 2056 election won by a liberal WASP ticket, people couldn't--least to some extent--refer to the United States government once again as--Uncle Sam.
The Anglos, energized after decades of inaction, reorganized with a non-partisan agenda based on their true desire to re-integrate the nation and restore unity of the country. They developed programs to this effect aimed to span through a two-term administration they were counting on. But it wasn't to be so.
During several bi-partisan caucuses pulled together by the White House and attended by everybody: the Latinos, the Blacks, the Asians, liberals, conservatives, moderates and some known extremists in Congress, and guest representatives from business and industry, it became clear what this WASP administration was up to. In its sincere desire to, indeed, re-unite the country, revive the Civil Rights Act and effect full enforcement of the First Amendment, it was also shoving down everybody's throat some conservative values that were hard for them to swallow.
For the sick economy, it proposed downright austerity: belt-tightening on social services and entitlement programs, budget cuts, downsizing, hiring freeze, salary freeze. At the same time, it created an interim job training and re-training agency to help millions of the unemployed--new jobseekers and formerly employed workers, instead of just extending their unemployment benefits and giving them handouts that would only sink them deeper in stagnation. For the fight against illegal immigration, it beefed up border security tenfold, at the same time issued an executive order requiring non-citizens to carry a legal-residence identity card. For the fight against drug and human trafficking, it deployed hordes of undercover agents at every port of entry into the country. To allow for more government transparency, it ordered strict enforcement of the FOIA and established funding for a far-reaching whistleblower program that sent corrupt officials in hiding. And to restore the freedom and credibility of the press and all media of mass communication, it ordered absolute enforcement of the First Amendment. Equal time, and space. Which meant not only freedom of speech, but freedom to be heard and read.
It reversed the liberal position previous administrations had taken on issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion, welfare, education, housing subsidies, socialized health-care and a long list of pork barrels that had been draining valuable resources from population areas where they were most needed.
The liberals in Congress on both sides of the aisle rebelled. After having had their say for decades in legislating a way of life for various segments of society--equal distribution of wealth, the strong helping the weak, the rich shoring up the poor, affirmative action--they were not about to revert to that of the old Anglo ways: survival of the fittest, level competition, individual power and success above family unity and community.
It was an uprising never before seen against an incumbent in the White House. By mid-term, in the year 2099, the WASPs knew theirs was a losing battle. They were swimming upstream against a turbulent current and there was no stopping it or slowing it down. Still, they persisted and fought on, pushing their agenda for change, discipline, order, accountability, efficiency and rule of law in government.
In the end, however, they had to face the inevitable. Even their last ditch effort to implement transparency in government with the upcoming decennial population and housing Census of 2100 which would reveal the true state of the union to the nation was drowned by the liberal outcry for the ouster of the Anglo administration in the November election.
Thus came into power Pablo Vergara, 54, the second Latino President of the United States--born to anchor babies of illegal aliens originally from Sinaloa, Mexico, raised in the bay area of San Mateo County, California, educated at Stanford University--with a landslide victory in the polls. The first thing he did right after he took office in January 2101 was undo what the Anglos did the last four years. Restore entitlement programs, increase food stamp vouchers, expand welfare programs, end the salary and hiring freeze. In Congress, the liberals clamored to sneak in line items in the budget request for pork barrel funding in their states before the budget resolution passed through both chambers in April. The Census report of the decade was made a non-event in an effort to disguise, hide the truth about the racial and ethnic breakup of the country that no administration had been able or willing enough to prevent or slow down. The nation was enveigled into thinking nothing of it and not being alarmed about it.
Through his eight years in office, Pablo Vergara virtually turned the clock back to the Spanglish administration that began twelve years before.
At this time, Congressman Steven Fukuda, nearing the end of his fifteenth term in the U.S. House of Representatives January 2107 and no longer able to stomach what the U.S. government had become, decided to retire from public office. Like his longtime friend Phil Bernardo, he grieved what had become of the country, America, the one he long remembered from childhood and history books when English, American English, was widely spoken. Translators and interpreters were not needed in the daily conduct of business in government, school and commerce, and countries the world over still looked up to Americans with respect and admiration.
Now it's a divided country and no one seemed to care. No one, because people had been led to think, and believe, it didn't matter. It's not important. It made no difference. But it did to him, to Phil Bernardo, Senator Alfred de Vera and their allies in Congress. And how many other people out there cared to see America again united, regardless of color or creed, they must find out, unite and wake up to what's been truly happening to the country.
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