Parry believes he is preaching a tough, gritty doctrine of “moral ambiguity.” What he is in fact advocating is the bleakest moral nihilism. To Parry, the structure of American power — the corrupt, corporatized, militarized system built and sustained by both major parties — cannot be challenged. Not even passively, not even internally, for Parry scorns those who simply refuse to vote almost as harshly as those who commit the unpardonable sin: voting for a third party. No, if you do not take an active role in supporting this brutal engine of war and injustice by voting for a Democrat, then it is you who are immoral.
You must support this system. It is the only moral choice. What’s more, to be truly moral, to acquit yourself of the charge of vanity and frivolity, to escape complicity in government crimes, you must support the Democrat. If the Democratic president orders the “extrajudicial” murder of American citizens, you must support him. If he chairs death squad meetings in the White House every week, checking off names of men to be murdered without charge or trial, you must support him. If he commits mass murder with robot drones on defenseless villages around the world, you must support him. If he imprisons and prosecutes whistleblowers and investigative journalists more than any other president in history, you must support him. If he cages and abuses and tortures a young soldier who sought only to stop atrocities and save the nation’s honor, you must support him. If he “surges” a pointless war of aggression and occupation in a ravaged land and expands that war into the territory of a supposed ally, you must support him. If he sends troops and special ops and drones and assassins into country after country, fomenting wars, bankrolling militias, and engineering coups, you must support him. If he throws open the nation’s coastal waters to rampant drilling by the profiteers who are devouring and despoiling the earth, you must support him. If he declares his eagerness to do what no Republican president has ever dared to do — slash Social Security and Medicare — you must support him.
For Robert Parry, blinded by the red mist of partisanship, there is literally nothing — nothing — that a Democratic candidate can do to forfeit the support of “the left.” He can even kill a 16-year-old American boy — kill him, rip him to shreds with a missile fired by a coddled coward thousands of miles away — and you must support him. And, again, if you do not support him, if you do not support all this, then you are the problem. You are enabling evil.
“So what made you aware of me in particular?”
“Well, you left lots on comments on lots of websites. And you expressed a lot of worries and concerns — about Social Security and Medicare, about the treatment of women, about the environment, about the Supreme Court. A lot of concern, and a lot of comments. And a lot of emails, too. Of course, we agree with all your worries about what the other party might do, but we were upset to see that you were so worried about what the President would do. And you expressed so much concern about the President and his plans that we thought you were almost asking to be noticed, asking to be reassured. That’s why I’ve come to talk to you.”
She listened very intently. As he spoke, she was thinking, well, that’s true. She had left lots of comments about those subjects, she had written lots of emails. She did want her concerns to be noticed, to be understood. And she had seen and heard all those stories about the government’s surveillance programs. If she were honest with herself, she realized, she couldn’t say she was surprised.
“Yes. Yes, I see,” she said after a few moments had passed. “I would like to believe the President will make sure the policies he says he believes in are followed and protected. I guess … I just didn’t expect to be reassured in such a personal way.”
“It’s a new day, Mrs. Hamilton. A new time. We have dangerous enemies. Sometimes they turn up in unexpected places. We have to be vigilant. The President has talked a lot about all of that, too. I’m sure you’re aware of what he’s said about how committed he is to protecting innocent Americans, aren’t you?”
“Yes … yes, I suppose you’re right. I just hadn’t thought it through all the way.”
“Almost no one does. I have to admit that I find that very disappointing. I mean, I’d like to think people understand the meaning of what they say they support. On the other hand, it makes our job easier in many ways.” Mrs. Hamilton began to look worried again, even frightened. Damn, he said to himself. You always say too much in these meetings. This isn’t the time to question the complexities of what you do, what you have to do.
“But look,” he quickly went on. “As I said, I’m here to reassure you. You don’t need to worry anymore about Social Security or Medicare, or Supreme Court appointments, or any of the other things you’ve written about so often. So often.” He smiled at her, and quietly laughed. She finally offered a small laugh in return. “The President is fully committed to the policies he’s talked about, the policies you support. Of course, we never know how obstructionist the other party will be, or what difficulties they’ll cause. So there are some elements that aren’t within the President’s control. Still, to the greatest extent possible, the President will make sure all those things you’re so strongly committed to will be protected. We want to make sure you know that.”
“All right. But … but, couldn’t someone have just sent me a letter?” She looked at him with an amused expression.
“Sure, I suppose we could have done it that way. But everyone complains about how impersonal government has become, the curse of bureaucracy and all that. You’ve written about that, too.”
“Yes, yes, I have.” She laughed again.
“So we thought a personal visit would be much better. We want to emphasize how strongly we’re committed to the policies we all want. Much better to hear it from someone in person, don’t you think?”
“It is much more convincing than a form letter.” She smiled. After a moment, she asked, “And that’s it? That’s what you wanted to tell me?”
He extended his arms, palms turned upwards, as if to say, That’s all I’ve got. He still wasn’t able to lie about it right to someone’s face, especially to a lovely woman like Mrs. Hamilton. Not that it mattered at this point. But still.
“We should be going. Say goodbye to the nice man, Joanna.” They had stood up. Joanna turned to Maddox and said, “Bye!,” smiling radiantly. God damn it, he thought. He had stood, too. He raised his hand and gave a little wave.
They had taken just a couple of steps when he spoke again.
“Mrs. Hamilton.” She stopped; she and Joanna turned to him. “Yes?” She didn’t look at all frightened any longer. It usually happened that way. It always surprised him.
“I’m afraid there is one more thing. After we’d become aware of you because of all those comments and emails, we did some further checking. Just routine stuff. But it turned up some donations you’ve been making regularly to a few charities. Two of those charities appear on the list of organizations we’ve designated as terrorist groups.”
“What are you talking about? I don’t give money to terrorist groups.”
“I realize that. You thought you were donating to charities. But the charities are fronts for terrorist organizations. And you’ve made donations to them regularly for years. And it wouldn’t matter so much, except that we recently received intelligence indicating that one of those terrorist organizations is planning a major attack right here in the city. It’s something big, so stopping the attack has been given the highest priority. We have to do everything possible to stop it, and to stop everyone who has any connection to it. Any connection at all. I’ve checked and rechecked all of this with the main office. We have no choice, not if we want to protect innocent American lives.”
He said all this with great calm and deliberation. He wanted to be sure she understood. Not that it mattered, he told himself again. But still. He saw the color drain from her face. She gripped Joanna’s hand with all her strength. He saw that, too. She understood.
“To stop everyone …” Her voice trailed into nothingness.
“But … but we’re in the park. Someone could come by at any moment.”
“No one ever comes here, except you. And Joanna. I can’t tell you how sorry I am that Joanna is with you. There wasn’t any other way to do it. But Joanna … well. Unavoidable collateral damage. Awful.”
He looked genuinely pained. She thought, He still has a kind face. How can he have a kind face? In the next moment, he took his hand out of his pocket and raised the gun.
In the same moment, she started to scream, “Run, Joanna, r—.” There were two soft sounds, pock-pock. A small hole opened in Joanna’s forehead, followed a split second later by a hole in Mrs. Hamilton’s forehead. For a moment, both bodies remained frozen in place. Then they both slowly crumpled to the ground, and the blood began to pool around their heads.
He put the gun back in his pocket. He looked around to make certain no one else could be seen. That wasn’t actually a problem. The drones that regularly swept over the park would pick up anyone who might have witnessed the murders. If there were witnesses, they could be dealt with easily enough. But it was better not to have any loose ends.
He began to walk out of the glen. When he reached the turn in the path, he turned back to take one last look. The pools of blood continued to spread on the ground beneath the bodies. There was nothing else to see in this quiet corner of the park.