“Mr. Mitchell, I’m very glad you decided to join us this morning.” The Judge’s vocal tone and facial expression did not reflect gladness to John Mitchell, but then he was used to society’s collective sarcasm.
“It seems I ran out of choices, Your Honor.”
Mitchell stood in the center of a room. The room had few features. There was a platform in front of him, behind which sat the three Judges of the Tribunal. The room was only semi-illuminated, except for where he stood, which was brilliantly lit by a spotlight, where he stood alone. He knew this day would come, no matter how much he tried to put it off.
“I assume you know the charges against you Mr. Mitchell, but for the sake of the record, I will read them.” The judge sitting in the center looked down at her paperwork.
“Mr. John Quentin Mitchell, you stand accused of failing to comply with the life span progression initiative, whereby all male, white, het-cis-gender citizens will, on their 60th birthday, report to the progression center for processing and termination.”
The Judge looked back up at Mitchell. “This is the most serious charge against you, but certainly not the only one.”
“I understand, Your Honor.”
“You have repeatedly ignored multiple digital and hardcopy summons from the progression center and this court to report. You are eight months late, and this court has run out of patience.”
“It seems, Your Honor, that I have run out of time and, as I said before, choices.”
“Mr. Mitchell, it would not have been necessary to have law enforcement threaten to arrest your…” the Judge looked down at her notes for a moment, and then looked back at Mitchell. “…two sons, one daughter, and one daughter-in-law if you had obeyed the legal order of this court to report to the progression center for processing, now would it.”
“I did discuss all this with my family, Your Honor, and they were the ones who convinced me to stay home just a little while longer. I got to celebrate my granddaughter’s first birthday last week.”
All three Judges registered disdain by their facial expressions.
“Well.” The center Judge began. “I’m sure we are all glad your disobedience to the law enabled you to enjoy that event.”
“Do you have children, Your Honor?”
“Out of order!” The Judge quickly grabbed her gavel and smashed it down loudly. “Quite out of order!”
“I understand Your Honor.” The gleam in Mitchell’s eyes was defiant.
“We could summarily order you removed and taken to the progression center for immediate processing, Mr. Mitchell. But since this hearing is being videotaped for the elucidation of the citizenry, I thought I’d explain exactly why people like you are ordered terminated at their 60th year.”
Mitchell stood silent.
“Since the great awakening over 75 years ago, our nation has enacted laws to redistribute the level of privilege possessed by various groups in our society. For hundreds of years, old, white, religious, het-cis-gender males such as yourself have had a choke hold on privilege to the detriment of all others, including females, people of color, the indigenous population, and the LGBTQ community.”
There was no point in Mitchell objecting. This was information fed to every child in school from age four on up. Everyone was indoctrinated with this version of history.
“It was determined by scientific means and made law by Congress that different population groups would be assigned different life spans, to expand privilege for previously disadvantaged groups, and to limit privilege for those who have held it for far too long.”
“Being part of the latter group means the state orders me to surrender my life at age 60.”
“Exactly, Mr. Mitchell. Exactly. By flaunting that law and refusing to report to the progression center, you have proven that even now, you experience undue privilege in the face of our just society.”
“I just wanted to spend a little more time with my family. My grandchildren don’t understand why I am forced to…”
The Judge’s anger suddenly flared. “Your grandchildren are the product of privilege, just as you are, Mr. Mitchell! Don’t you think, because of your actions, that each and every member of your family will not be watched very carefully for any hint of disobedience and privilege? This matter will live far beyond your life’s resolution, Mr. Mitchell!”
“You mean my termination!”
“We will not bend the laws for one man, Mr. Mitchell, especially one who still attempts to exercise unjust and inappropriate white privilege. We must redistribute access to resources, educational and employment outcomes, number of children allowed, and yes, length of life spans across the different groups in our culture, in order to balance former inequities. You, Mr. Mitchell, are one of those inequities that needs to be corrected.”
Without realizing it, the Judge was half standing. The Judge on her left briefly touched her forearm to get her attention, and the center Judge once more took her seat.
“Since I am here, and since this is being recorded for posterity, are there any other charges you would like to bring against me, not that it will matter because you can only kill me once?”
“Out of order!” The judge once more brought her gavel into action. Mitchell found himself involuntarily wincing this time.
Her facial expression abruptly returned to one of calm and she looked down at her notes. The Judge on her right pointed out something in the papers in front of her.
“Ah, yes.” She was smiling malevolently at Mitchell now. “Religiosity, particularly Christianity.”
“Yes, Your Honor. I’m a Christian. I don’t believe I’ve tried to hide that fact.”
“But certainly you know all, or most religious institutions were banned more than 50 years ago, back when you were a child. There are no churches or synagogues, and mosques exist only because of the American-Islamic treaty of 2025 where Islam is recognized as the only religion representing peace and true resistance to the Zionist state infesting the middle east and our world.”
“I know all that, Your Honor. I was educated in your society, after all. But my parents raised me to be a person of faith, and I thank God…”
“Order! Order! Order!” The Judge was standing, banging her gavel repeatedly. “You shall not say that blasphemous name in a court of law, do you understand?”
The other two Judges quietly attempted to calm the center Judge down. As she returned to her seat, Mitchell continued to look at her, struggling to maintain his own composure.
“You were about to say, Mr. Mitchell?” She was a spider setting a well-oiled trap.
“Only that I’m thankful that my faith has not wavered over the years.”
“Do you know it’s a crime to not only hold Christian beliefs but to teach them to others?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Have you taught your Christian beliefs to others, say, to your family, Mr. Mitchell?”
“I cannot be responsible for the state of another person’s faith, Your Honor. That between them and…” He paused momentarily. “…their Creator.”
The Judge almost reached for her gavel again, but thought better of it.
“As a white, het-cis-gender religious male, you have no rights to silence, Mr. Mitchell, just as you have no rights to representation under the law.”
“I invoke no such right, Your Honor. I am merely stating the facts as I understand them.”
“Do you know why most religions are illegal, Mr. Mitchell?” Without waiting for an answer, the Judge continued talking. “Particularly Christianity has been a primary tool in colonialism and the subjugation of indigenous and slave populations. It has been used to marginalize and humiliate the LGBTQ population. For centuries, it has been used to support and enforce white male het-cis-gender privilege at the expense of all other people groups in our nation and the rest of the world. It has allowed white privileged males to eliminate all traces of the language and culture of other people groups, forcing them to adopt the values of the white majority while denying them full equality.”
Mitchell was well aware of how Christianity had performed poorly throughout history. But it wasn’t how men had misused the faith to build empires that interested him. That’s not what Christianity meant to him.
“I know some history, Your Honor. However, my faith does not include subjugating others. It includes charity to the poor, visiting the sick, kindness to the stranger…”
“But that’s how all conquerors begin, by saying ‘We are your friend.'”
“Have I subjugated anyone by my faith, Your Honor. Is there a record in your…”
“This in not just about your personal behavior, Mr. Mitchell. It’s about thought and action crimes that have created and maintained a societal and systemic racist, sexist, heterosexist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic oppression for hundreds of years. If you cannot admit that such an oppressive system has existed and that people such as you, by virtue of your very existence, have provided for that system, then you are a greater criminal than I thought. This is why Christianity has been banned, for the good of all!”
Mitchell took a deep breath. He stood alone as a man but not alone in Spirit.
“I don’t deny that many crimes have been committed in the name of Christianity, but that’s not the Savior…” He was careful not to say “Christ”. “…I know. I know a Savior who loves everyone, who does not desire that any should perish, one who accepts us all with ultimate equality regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or any other quality.”
“History and white privilege would seem to stand as witnesses against you, Mr. Mitchell.”
“If you have to blame anyone, blame flawed men like me for imperfectly living out my faith, Your Honor. Not the King I humbly serve.”
“Oh, I intend to blame you, Mr. Mitchell. In fact, I already have.”
Mitchell noticed the Judge’s two companions, one on either side, lean over and speak to her in whispers. After several minutes of debate, they resumed their seats and the center Judge once more spoke.
“My colleagues think I’m dealing with you much too harshly, Mr. Mitchell. They believe that it is possible, however unlikely, that you may be sincere in your…faith, using it to make yourself a better person rather than as a tool of oppression and privilege.”
“If only I could convince you of the former, Your Honor.”
“It hardly matters at this point, Mr. Mitchell. Your sentence was passed the day you turned 60 years old.”
Mitchell sighed in resignation. “Then if there is nothing else, Your Honor, I arrived here prepared to let the will of the state be carried out. I won’t offer any resistance.”
“Not that you ever really could, Mr. Mitchell.”
The Judge pressed a button on the countertop and a door opened at the rear of the chamber. Two guards emerged and stood at either side of Mitchell.
“These officers will accompany you to the progression center, Mr. Mitchell, where you will be processed and your final disposition will be finally enacted.”
“I don’t believe this is the end, Your Honor. I believe in another life, a life better than this one.”
“Even that may be considered a thought crime, Mr. Mitchell. But in this case, if it will render you more docile, so be it.”
The Judge nodded and the two guards took Mitchell, one by each arm, and escorted him out of the chamber.
“Farewell, Mr. Mitchell. Remember, justice will always be done.”
In his heart, Mitchell believed in justice as well.
After several moments, a voice from an overhead speaker said, “That’s a wrap. The recording’s in the can. It’ll be released in this evening’s six o’clock news on all channels.” There was an audible click as the recording technician, someone loyal to their cause, switched off his microphone.
All three Judges stood and began removing their robes as the lighting in the room came up. The door in the back opened, and Mitchell re-entered with his two guards. He was laughing.
“Those outbursts of temper were very convincing, Cecilia. I half believed you were going to leap up and bash me in the head with that gavel.”
Judge Cecilia Stone walked around the judge’s bench and embraced John, laughing along with him. “I wanted to make sure I put on a good show.”
“Just the right touch, I should say. Judge Ron William Taylor, the right-hand Judge, approached Cecilia from behind briefly touching her shoulder. “Not too cold but avoiding melodrama. Maybe you should have sought a career in theater.”
“I for one am glad it’s over.” Judge Julie Nakahara, the left-hand Judge, stood a bit apart from the rest of the group. “I’m always afraid I’ll blow my lines and start giggling or something.”
“A good trial attorney always majors in law and minors in drama.” Mitchell was relaxed and obviously a member of this group judges and officers.
“How many trials like this have been broadcast?” Ben Murphy, one of the guards, spoke up for the first time.
“I think this is the sixth this month.” Taylor considered his words for a moment. “fifteen this year so far.”
“I’ve been circling through some of the activist groups locally.” Antilles Ross, the other guard, spoke up. “They all generally agree with each other, that regardless of the underlying principles, a totalitarian government must not be supported.”
“But will they do more than just march in the streets and let themselves be beaten down by the National Police Force. Will they actually revolt?” John had sacrificed everything to be the victim in this little farce. He could never be seen again, never see family and friends, never hold his baby granddaughter in his arms. He was supposed to be dead.
“We can’t be absolutely certain how the populace will ultimately react. Cecilia touched John’s forearm to get his attention. “But this is the only avenue of action we can take to incite an armed revolt against the executive and legislative branches to overthrow the government that won’t expose the court’s involvement. We were coerced to pervert our interpretation of the Constitution. We have to fight back without exposing ourselves to the sentence of the progression center.”
“You mean the death center.” John was only a mock victim, but his resentment against forced execution of people at age 60 based on race, sexual orientation, and even political affiliation was almost tangible. Totalitarian control of any human life, regardless of the motivation, was insulting and even obscene.
Murphy handed John an envelope he’d taken from his inside jacket pocket. “Here are your papers, travel orders, airline tickets, and money vouchers. Everything you’ll need to establish a new life. as you’ll progressively be smuggled to Israel.”
The Jewish government gladly offered asylum to Christian refugees as righteous gentiles who stood against their own country in support of a Jewish national Israel.
“Where I’ll hopefully live out the rest of my days in the world’s only remaining democracy.”
“Someday.” Cecilia got his attention again and captured his gaze with soft brown eyes that so matched her complexion. “Someday, America will be a democracy again, better than it was before. We’ll find a way to rise from the ashes, a Phoenix from the flames of revolution. I promise your sacrifice and those of the others will not be in vain.”
John and Cecilia had been part of the underground for over a decade, but the necessity of keeping their roles absolutely secret prevented them from having any more of a relationship than shadow colleagues, though in their hearts, they were so much more to each other.
“It’s worth it. It has to be worth it. Together, we must make a new America, one where every man and woman, regardless of who they are, can be judged by the content of their character, and not the color of their skin, or an arbitrary social label.
“Amen.” Before taking John though the tunnels beneath the star chamber, his first step through the “underground railroad” leading to the Holy Land, everyone bowed their heads to pray.
This is my third dystopian tale and second short story based on recent conversations regarding racism, white privilege, and societal and government efforts to elicit change by manipulating the social and news media as well as public education. It isn’t entirely far-fetched. Any examination of the imperatives applied by the public school system in western nations reveals a strong bias toward what is considered politically correct values. Of course, education can always be considered to offer indoctrination. Saying the Pledge of Allegiance and organized school prayer, both of which I experienced as a child, certainly was meant to communicate positive values regarding nationalism and faith.
I know this story seems extreme. I seriously doubt a totalitarian American government could be based on the values I outlined here and how I showed them being implemented.
I originally was going to have this be a serious trial where, at its conclusion, John Mitchell would be led off to his death. I was going to have the last scene be of John being slowly gassed while reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
But the idea of this being a farce trial, for the sake of not only “confirming” the government’s correct interpretation of justice, but of convicting the populace that the government was anything but just, occurred to me halfway through the first draft. I invoked a small part of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” message as the goal for creating a new and more just America, where personal character would be the defining quality of any human being, not the social groups and constructs we currently experience.
We can forever wallow in the sins of the past and allow them to continue to cripple and victimize us all forever in the future, or we can dismantle what has come before and rebuild a new and better future on a completely different premise. In order to do that in real life as opposed to fiction, we will all have to set aside our differences and unite, even against the government, as Americans, and demand that we are represented by public servants, not ruled by Princes and Kings. We must stop allowing social and news media from turning us into sheep. We must rise up as wolves and take back the nation that was created to be by and for the people.