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EVERY VOTE SHOULD COUNT
by OPOVV, ©2014
(Mar. 31, 2014) — ACT I
The curtain rises on a chaotic scene of a 1870’s Mississippi river boat about to embark. Stage right is the boat; gangplank toward center stage; center stage has bales of cotton and luggage lined up as it is carted aboard; stage left are the passengers and those that are to see them off.
Fran, a young Southern Belle dressed appropriately, addresses Preston, her beau: “Oh, Preston, Darling, to think that you are going up there; why, you’d be surrounded by Yankees!”
Preston, a Southern Dandy who has clearly seen better days, his clothes expensive but threadbare and patched, replies: “Fret not, Dear Fran, I’ve heard that some of them are civilized enough to enjoy the soothing medicinal merits of a Tennessee whiskey.”
Fran: “Don’t kid. I hear these riverboats are dangerous places; why, just look at those women over there with their painted faces.”
Preston: “Where? Show me. Oh, I see. Well, we all can’t choose our traveling companions, now, can we?”
Enter from stage left, a lady dressed as the Statue of Liberty, followed by two Union soldiers guarding two shackled prisoners. The murmurs of the crowd dim as Miss Liberty stands atop a soap box and breaks out into song: “This land is your land, this land is my land.”
Enter from stage left an American Indian Chief, adorned with feathered headdress and buckskins glittering with sequins of silver and turquoise: “Stop! What a way to run a railroad. Why, this is my land, or used to be. Show some respect. You all kill the buffalo and then really do us in with the ’Pox. Thanks a lot. Thanks for nothin’.”
Preston: “Excuse me, Mr. Indian, or should I say ‘Chief?’”
Indian: “’Chief’ works.”
Preston: “There are ladies present. Please mind your manners.”
The boat’s whistle blows, signifying that it’s time for the passenger to board. By this time center stage is bare and the passengers, thirty in all, begin to cross over the gangplank.
Fran: “Goodbye, Preston!”
Preston: “Fear not. Goodbye, Fran.”
Chief, to Preston as they board the boat: “Why, you little whippersnapper, I’d scalp you if it wasn’t against the law.”
At this time the whole cast, waving to one another, breaks into the song “Up a Lazy River” as the curtain is lowered.
Curtain rises on the passengers seated around tables playing poker. Backstage is a long bar, the width of the stage, no stools. Ladies are seated at the various tables with some of the men, the rest of the men standing at the bar.
In walks the Chief from stage right, up to the bar: “Bartender, give me one of those here Tennessee whiskeys.”
Bartender, adorned with a huge handlebar mustache and garters on his shirtsleeves, replies: “How you get out of steerage? We don’t allow no Injuns up here. Get gone.”
As the Chief flips a Gold Eagle onto the bar, he loudly says: “Drinks on the house!”
Bartender: “Welcome aboard, Chief!”
It is a festive mood. Miss Liberty stands from one of the tables and address the patrons: “May I have your attention, if you will. Thank you. As you can see, we are transporting two prisoners to stand trial in Chicago. Had we had the trial in the South, these men would be set free, so we’re going to give them a fair trial up North. But I thought we could save the taxpayers some money and have the trial right here, right now, since we’re technically not in the South anymore; we’re on the river.”
One of the men at the bar: “Will the bar remain open?”
From one of the tables: “I’ve a full house, can we still play?”
Miss Liberty: “Yes, yes, of course. Just don’t talk until we’re concluded here. Now, will the prisoners please stand?”
From the far left table, the guards jerk the prisoners to their feet.
Miss Liberty: “Very well. Now to proceed. You have been charged with fixing the votes, of depriving Southerners from electing their representatives in an honest way. How do you plead?”
One of the prisoners speaks: “Well, Miss Liberty, Your Honor, we just wanted a fair shake, is all. We figure that with all this-here guilt, we wouldn’t get the right results, so we had to fudge, don’t you see?”
Miss Liberty: “No, I do not see. Let’s put it to the vote. Does anyone, I mean does anyone present in this-here room, agree that it is the right of someone, anyone, to deprive another of his right to have his free vote counted fairly?”
Choruses of “No! No, Never!”
Miss Liberty: “Is that unanimous?”
Choruses of “Yes, it is!”
Miss Liberty: “Very well. It is the findings of this court that you two have been found guilty of depriving your fellow citizens of their Constitutional rights, which was the whole blasted idea of the Civil War, or are you two just too dumb to have figured it out? I’m sorry, but hundreds of thousands of people have been needlessly killed, the most important piece of our Union has been lost: the young manhood that has been forever erased from our country’s gene pool. It’s people like you that make me sick. I hereby sentence you to death. Let’s take them up front to be hanged.”
Curtain rises on the front of the riverboat, which has been stopped. Everyone is there among the bales and luggage, plus some passengers from steerage, and some of the deckhands.
Miss Liberty addresses them all standing on a soapbox: “These two men have been found guilty for falsifying votes for which they will pay. Proceed with they hanging.”
Ropes are lowered from the crane on the front of the boat, and the nooses are placed around the necks of the convicted. And then all of the cast, except the two prisoners and the Chief, walk to various sinks around the stage and proceed to wash off skin dye, revealing that everyone is black.
Miss Liberty walks to the front of the stage and addresses the audience: “The Constitution was written for us all, and when one harms another’s right, they are harming us all. This is a great land, and thousands have given up their lives to make it so. It is, therefore, the least we can do to honor their memory that no one has the right to deprive any of us of our rights, and the most sacred right we have is to be free, free from corruption, and free to have our voice heard, our vote counted, EQUALLY as any other. Please join us in singing our National Anthem.”
The American flag replaces the stage backdrop as the cast, and audience sing the anthem. At the conclusion the actors walk off the stage, leaving the two condemned men and the Chief left.
The ones that did this deserve the same sentence.
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