What good is power?
A plane lands on the tarmac stretching across fields of corn. A man steps out from the plane bold as the name emblazoned like train graffitie. Sponsors can go jump in a lake. Newscasters can stick it. Don’t like him? Tough! And the crowd erupts. Cheers for the man of power.
Before you think my nation has gone completely bonkers, consider the underlying fear most Americans harbor without really processing what it means to live fear-burdened — iconic city skyscrapers went down one day on every morning news station; children bring guns to school to battle teen angst; veterans are homeless; home-owners foreclosed; job markets changed and nobody bothered to re-train employees; healthcare sucks and is the law; our own government spies on us. The NSA is reading this post (thanks for the traffic boost, guys).
How did we go from a founding father with wooden teeth and a powdered wig to this man in the plane? How did we collect so many fears like Beanie Babies?
History reveals, should you peak through the dust motes of time, that fear drives people to want a powerful leader. Consider the Israelites of Old Testament. They had God. God led them out of Egypt, fed them mana and quail in the desert, poured water from rock. But after a while they pestered for a leader. You know, a guy with a wig or crown or whatever the other people had. They were scared. They wanted to see a powerful person to feel safe.
The burden of fear leads to suspicion. Fear makes citizens claim Mexican immigrants are taking jobs and adding words like taco to our pure English language. Speak English like the rest of us! Which ones of us? Um, who has the purist accent? Who hasn’t add colloquialisms to the lexicon? Fear makes us think that helping humanity in crisis will topple more skyscrapers. You look different from me! Don’t look at me! Fear makes us take privileges like hunting and target sports for granted. I have the right to arm bears! I mean bear an arm in my purse, a firearm. I’m armed! I’m scared!
Fear makes us think in unhealthy ways. God provided leaders for the Israelites, but the people still went astray. Powerful leaders, you see, don’t often ease the fear. They fan the fear-fire. Why? Because they are powerful and they know your fear already controls you so they use it to control you more. The more they control you, the more powerful they are. Do you understand why a man landed in a cornfield with his plane and people cheered?
North Carolina in the 1850s had fears remarkably similar to ones today in America. Cobb McCanles switch political party alignments like shampoo. One party was built upon the fear that immigrants were going to hurt the economy. Another party was in protest to the party it sprang from. Yet another feared freeing slaves. As the state took more and more control on its own it became powerful. By the fourth time Cobb was elected as Sheriff, North Carolina was powerful enough to dictate that academies be armed; that special taxes be paid to fund potential war; and every man of age was conscripted to muster in the militia.
I wonder what Cobb would make of that man in the plane?
Yet history claims Cobb was a bully. He left North Carolina when the state powers began to grow too large and controlling. Obviously he was not attracted to being a part of a powerful paradigm. But as a man he was confident, perhaps overbearing at times. He loved his family, although he had a mistress, too. He made right by that mistake, though, took accountability. He built, expanded, gathered and led. Why did the people of the prairie resent him after he was gone?
Maybe Cobb had power, but not the kind that the people wanted.
Was he empowered? Did he empower his children? Or did his personal power dim their abilities and opportunities? Such are the deep thoughts a writer has delving into character and motives. Writers push into fear, poke it like scientists looking for truth about matter. Writers create powerful villains, powerful heroes, clashes of power and the good ones make us think about the forces.
February 3, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that explores the question, “What good is power?” Is it a story of empowerment, or a story of a dictator? Poke around power and go where the force takes you this week.
Respond by February 9, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!
Temper and Threats by Charli MIlls
Cobb slammed his fist on the table. Dishes vibrated and the children grew silent. Mary narrowed her eyes. “Temper, Cobb, does not make the man.”
He rose and nodded, jaw locked, eyes smoldering. He stalked out of the house. Minutes later Mary heard the pounding of horse hooves. He’d go to her. Well, let her endure his black mood.
Sarah watched Cobb race toward her cabin. Twilight made his form shadowy as a night bandit on the prowl. He reined in his sweaty horse and began the tirade he’d been brewing.
“Tomorrow I’ll clean up on Rock Creek!”
Hang tight on this prompt! It’s an important issue to explore. I promise something cute an furry next week. Also, please spread the news of our expanded contest and prizes: