A Risk Worth Taking

Dear Madam Governor,

I would like to open my letter today by thanking you for taking the time to review my correspondence. You are a busy woman with many events and formalities to oversee. As a fellow politician, allow me to extend my understanding at how demanding the job can be at times. Your work is done well and for that your constituents are thankful.

Alas, there is a matter that I must bring to your attention with the utmost urgency. Enclosed for your review are discipline records, proposals, and transcripts regarding an incident occurring within my school district. I have assured that the board members have taken action appropriately to fit the circumstances, though the concerned parents who demanded no punishment be distributed limited that action.

Thankfully, no media outlets have obtained this story yet. I cannot say confidently whether it will be brought to light publically. Our board members try very hard to resolve matters quickly and efficiently with as little attention from the masses as possible, but this is an issue that I do not foresee dissipating in a flattering manner.

It is my request that you address this matter forwardly. Reading the information available to me there is but one conclusion I can make: this principal must be terminated. The reputation of our schools will plummet both within my district and all those surrounding. Emphasis is heavily placed on the anti-bulling programs in effect and yet this has been allowed to escalate without any true reprimand exercised.

Dramatic action is required to remedy these events and it is one that will bring an unfavorable outcry if I make the announcement myself. My decision would be contested and dragged publically through the court system. Eventually this matter will command your attention.

Today I notify you for the benefit of all parties. This route will allow you more time to prepare statements, delicately call for termination, and start laying the groundwork for your inevitable re-election with your proactive stance. Thank you again for your time. I hope to hear back from you on this matter very soon.

Cordially,

 

Mayor Carlotta Santana

CS/rb 


 

Robert Barns was fully aware that tricking the mayor into signing this letter was fraudulent entirely by itself, and that actually sending it was even worse. For years he’d been Carlotta’s assistant. On some level they were friends; though not exactly best friends and not friendly without the comfort of friendship. Carlotta and Robert were as comfortable around one another as siblings, but as formal with one another as colleagues. Bringing someone from a political campaign advisor all the way to the governor’s office was a long road that didn’t exactly put distance between people. In some strange way, Robert knew Carlotta better than her own family.

 

That’s why he knew that she would not deny the claims he’s made in this letter. She is familiar enough with the information to feign the intrigue that Robert falsely detailed on her behalf. In all the years he’s worked with Carlotta there’s never been a time when she ignored a situation that desperately needed attention. Hot-button issues were as sweet as candy to her, and yet she shied away from this one almost deliberately. Robert knew that if he did not push her then she would not do what needed to be done.

 

The Governor, Elisa Ferguson, was someone who occasionally made positive comments about Carotta’s so called “antics.” They had many aligning points within their various campaigns and political track records. Carlotta aspired to someday take Elisa’s place as governor – convinced that nobody would ever take office until she retired, or opted for a higher position within the government.

 

Robert hoped that the few encounters justified the arguably casual tone of the serious letter. Worst-case scenario, nothing happens and the Governor overlooks the request. Best-case scenario, the Governor takes favorable and the right people are finally rewarded for their positive choices. However, in all scenarios Robert will likely be asked to resign.

 

Carlotta would never fire him, though his leaving would still be scandalous enough to get some attention. If nothing else, he would likely have a career awaiting him in journalism. Perhaps someone would invite him to be a political correspondent for a newscast, paper, or blog. Robert already conceded that he would be happy doing any of these potential jobs.

 

Work droned on as it usually does in the office. Several phone messages were received, and only about half of them were actually forwarded to the Mayor herself. The rest of them were divvied out to the respective department leads and program managers. Categorizing the daily calls was so second nature to Robert that he used this time to review more thoroughly his plan to get Carlotta’s signature.

 

Honestly, he had no idea if she truly looked at the letters. Sometimes she would just pick up the bottom corners of each page and throw a signature onto the pages. It is this truth that prompted Robert to put the letter in between some other letters to ensure minimal chances of her reviewing it in depth. He also made sure to put it into a stack of form letters to give him more peace of mind that she would not feel compelled to read the letters individually. Nothing he was doing here was moral but, like the board member who sent the original call for action, Robert could not simply let this incident go without further investigation.

 

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that his best friend in high school practiced Islam in private at home, for fear of these same repercussions. Perhaps it was the fact that being Jewish is a predominantly Catholic community left him feeling outcast. Perhaps it was simply due to the stupid remarks politicians were making these days about how some religions didn’t have a place in the country highly regarded for the number of freedoms extended to citizens. Robert couldn’t decide on just one motivator, so he silently cited them all as the cause of his insubordination.

 

Nervousness plagued Robert by the time Carlotta returned the signed letters. She asked him to brief her on what she’d just signed, to which Robert said, “The usual. Nothing you wouldn’t approve of I can assure you.” Together they chuckled briefly and then off she went for her scheduled outing with old college friends. Rarely did she take time to herself, which meant her watchful eye was trained on the press during her night on the town. Small-time politician or not, there was always reason to worry that one’s personal life would be used to tear apart a political career. For that, Robert was sure he deserved a pat on the back for the level of planning he put into this righteous scheme.

 

Once her car was officially out of the parking lot, Robert decided it would make the most sense to put his resignation letter into her mailbox tonight. Robert put together his letter quickly. Promptly afterwards he gathered all outgoing mail and took the box with him to his car. Nobody would question his kindness the following day when he arrived in the morning with the box. This was something that Robert did occasionally. Everything was working in Robert’s favor, partially due to his intimate knowledge and manipulation of that knowledge.

 

Regardless, in two weeks he would be packing his desk away and leaving this part of his life behind – hopefully with his lasting reputation as quiet defiance.

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The Darker Side of Politics

*Disclaimer: This work is controversial. It may include triggers for some readers. This fictional piece will discuss the actions of a politician which negatively affect a teenager. If you may find this content uncomfortable it is no recommended that you read it.


 

As a politician on his way out of office, I’ve found that I am less inhibited by the social norms of not only being in the spotlight but of being an “upper class” gentleman. When the voters started complaining about my frequent inability to pass laws, I fired at them that I would work harder. When there was a scandal involving my leading political ally, I assured my constituents that I was unaware of the wrongdoing and would disassociate myself with any politicians of the like. Unfortunately, the lies were easier than the job. I would never suggest that I made for a great governor. I wasn’t even a good governor. Regardless of my quality of work, however, I have found a way to ensure that I will never be forgotten. I will, at the very least, be an infamous governor.

“Good afternoon! My studio has demanded me to listen to your proposal. I am going to give you five minutes to tell me a story that will capture my attention. Consider this the first five minutes of your movie.” Henley Bridget has always been a brash sort of man, from what I’ve read, where his work ethic is concerned. Everyone is to work as long as hard as him. Not a single moment can be spent on meaningless things; “Your time starts now.”

And that damn man actually has a stopwatch.

Thankfully for him – and I do mean for him – I am a seasoned politician. I can speak on a whim about anything regardless of my level of knowledge. So with a smile on my face, I pick the story that I know has never been heard. I will share my own story – a scandal that will surely get me put in prison. Or at least put someone in prison.

“In one of my more recent elections I was becoming desperate. My republican counterpart was gaining a lot of momentum. Everyone on my campaign team was urging me to take action. They didn’t care how, but I needed to do it immediately. I was flustered because they needed me to do something big. Something that would completely defame my opponent!” I pause for a moment, drinking water to prove that I’m not intimidated by his time limit. There’s nothing about this that scares me anymore than the idea of future politicians continuing this sick game of cheating, lying, and blackmailing in order to achieve success.

Of course, there’s something even worse than simply cheating and lying and blackmailing… There’s full on sabotage. It is worse than cheating in the sense that you’re not just taking advantage of something and swaying the vote in your favor. Sabotage is the full and intentional wrongdoing that will absolutely end someone’s campaign dead in its tracks.

“The thing is – sabotage ruins a career for life. In the end, this is exactly what I would need to do to keep my career alive instead. Days passed and there was no questioning of my game plan or my intentions. I wasn’t even asked if I wanted assistance in finding a way to get the deed done. It was so hushed that I almost convinced myself that the conversation never happened!” Henley is scrolling through his phone now and lifting a Bluetooth piece to his ear. As passively as I present my idea for a documentary I want him to direct called “The Darker Side of Politics,” he is just as casual and disinterested as one might expect.

So that is my cue to drop my bomb, “After a night of seeing my polls drop almost ten percent, on a pharmacy television, luck fell upon me. I saw my opponent’s daughter dropping off a prescription. I pay close attention and realize that it’s birth control. This is scandalous information but not enough to derail a campaign. I decide in that moment, having known the pharmacist on duty for many years, that I have the power to ruin a career.”

Henley doesn’t seem to move but his eyes dart up and hone in on the topic. I’ve given him a reason to be listening now. After flashing a nervous smile, I realize that I’ve never admitted aloud to anyone ever about what I did to this girl. Guilt and self-loathing pump through my veins, but it motivates me to prove that politicians are disgusting; “So I waited for her to step over to her security guard and ask him to grab some snacks, preferably chocolate. He walks away but not far enough to lose sight of her. With both of them distracted, I sneak into the back – greeted hesitantly by my friend. No, I wasn’t supposed to go back there, but I pulled out my phone and drafted a message. On the screen it reads – ‘Switch her birth control out with a placebo.’ My friend shakes his head. He can’t, I know he’s trying to say that he just can’t do it. So beneath that message I type a number.” Henley is fully enthralled now. His earpiece is in his pocket along with his phone; and his feet are crossed and propped on a chair. This is a man that is ready to take on a project – I can see it in his face.

All I have to do is seal the deal.

“After he smiles, because affirming this deal verbally was too direct. We share a brief hug and he escorts me to a private bathroom. In there I review the best ways to get this money out without raising eyebrows. This is an intelligent man I’m working with, so I know he won’t expect a lump sump. Politicians have to be coy if they want to sabotage careers, after all. The act itself is risky enough, why make the finances suspicious too?” I break it up for another quick drink, but I don’t linger too long; “So he changes the birth control to a placebo. It is nearly identical to the pills she already gets so when he slides them into a blue plastic case, nobody is any wiser to the swap. And the placebo’s presence doesn’t prove fruitful right away, but in my greatest hour of need – the announcement comes. Headlines everywhere are calling out my opponent for being a hypocrite.”

Henley is laughing, probably predicting what is going to be said next. The story itself becomes obvious once birth control is mentioned. This horrifying story is predictable a best but no less horrifying. All that is left for me to finish saying it out loud to this director so that he can confirm that he’s interested in yet another groundbreaking documentary that will move the people to address issues in our country that are still left unnoticed.

“Churches and pro-life clinics had been financially carrying my opponent. All of his children wore purity rings. The girls even sometimes did advertisements discussing the value of abstinence. This was a politician campaigning for a local government, and a state government, that rallied for the families. When his middle daughter stepped down as a spokesperson and representative for abstinence, eyebrows were raised – but they screamed ‘S.A.T.s!’ and “FINALS!” as though school was becoming too stressful. Then there were whispers that she stopped teaching Sunday school, and that her purity ring was gone. The announcement finally had to be made that she was pregnant.”

There’s a moment of silence between us. I barely even notice him turning the stopwatch off. I have convinced him that this is a lucrative project. Not just now in revealing that the young girl was pregnant, but in general proving that attending this ‘mandatory’ meeting was valuable to him. If this is how low I was willing to stoop just to remain in office – what had other politicians done? Bigger politicians? There are nastier stories than this to be exposed.

Henley seems to know this so he pulls out a stenopad from a briefcase that I didn’t pay any attention to when he arrived. He starts scribbling in it, asking me only one question after focusing intention on his pages; “Did you remain in office after this act of sabotage, governor?”

A smile that must speak volumes about the things wrong with me curls my lips. Isn’t the answer obvious? I didn’t come here because I lost. I came here because I won and I didn’t deserve my seat leading my home state. I didn’t deserve any of the success I obtained.

But he needs to hear it from me. He needs to know that I’ll speak up and be the voice leading this project forward. Henley is requiring me to prove that I won’t shy away when this project takes a turn for the cringe-worthy. So I just keep grinning at him and drop my chin deep into my chest; “I wouldn’t be a proper politician if I didn’t, now would I? Of course I won. And I won because I was willing the pay the price with someone else’s head.”