When I was a kid I saw the movie JFK. It fascinated me because of the intrigue. Something about the movie made me want to go into politics. I thought I could do some good and carry on the legacy of Kennedy. His tragic death cut short a lot of good that he was trying to do, and brought our country under the influence of very powerful corporate interests. I was idealistic and gung ho for change. I ran for Congress and surprisingly I won. I was elated, for myself, but also to be a part of change, to bring a different approach to politics. I thought I could change the world. I was wrong.
Washington, D.C. is a cesspool of corruption. It’s a city of strange bedfellows. People from all over the world gather there to persuade, bribe and deceive their way to the top, or to get advantages from political cronies who are always ready to bend rules and break laws to make a quick buck. My idealism was sorely tested in that environment. It was like being in a swamp full of alligators, all chomping on each other. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the idealism of youth has no place in Washington. I could’ve changed careers and gone into something more pleasant, but I stuck with it. I changed myself to meet the demands of the political scene. I became like everyone else, corrupt and deceitful.
One afternoon, I was in my office in the capital, sitting at my desk, reading a report on the financial crisis. It was dismal. A bill was being pushed through Congress that would stimulate the economy, but only by spending billions of dollars bailing out big business. I knew my political handlers, the powers that be in the party, would expect me, and everyone else, to vote for the bill. I intended to do just that, not wanting to rock the boat and jeopardize my chances of winning in the upcoming election. It wasn’t a good idea to go against the flow. A young Congressman like me can’t afford to be on the outside of the party.
One of my aides came into my office and placed a large pile of mail on my desk. They were letters from my constituents. I hated reading the mail from my voters. It was always the same dreary story. Someone had lost a house, a job or knew someone who did. They wanted me to do something about it. But what could I do? It’s not like Congressmen actually have the power to change things. We’re tied down like everyone else, bound to the whims of the corporate system that controls our country. I perused a few of the letters, out of a mechanical sense of duty and then put the rest in the trash. I sat back in my seat and sighed.
I was getting hungry and I wondered where my lunch was. My aide usually brought my food at the same time every day, and that time had come and gone. Curious, I went to my office door and peered out into the reception area. I rarely came out of my office unless I had to go to vote. I didn’t like talking to anyone. But when I looked out where my aide should have been, she wasn’t there. No one was, in fact. I was all alone. That was strange. It was lunch time, but usually someone was around to handle phones and such. I ventured out into the waiting area and looked around. There were no signs of anyone. I risked the hallway, where any number of lobbyists might be waiting to catch a moment of my time, but even here there was no one. I was concerned. Maybe there was an evacuation drill I wasn’t aware, but there had been no alarm. I walked down the hallway and then I caught a glimpse of someone.
The person was large. I couldn’t tell who it was, but he was wearing an odd outfit. He had on black and red striped pants and black shirt with red polka dots. I caught the whiff of smoke, which was strange, since all federal buildings are supposed to be smoke free. The man was moving rather quickly down the halls, turning this way and that, and I had a hard time keeping up with him. It was as if he knew I was following him and he was trying to lose me, or lead me somewhere.
Finally I came upon a part of the building I rarely visited. It was a long hallway ending in one door. The door was strange looking. It was painted black with red polka dots. Someone was playing a practical joke on me, no doubt. But I was bored, so I figured I’d play along for a laugh. I approached the door and opened it. It was dark on the other side, but I was in too deep to turn back now, so I stepped through the door. Something miraculous happened.
I was no longer where I was. I wasn’t in a room. I was in a vast empty space, surrounded by tiny points of light. I thought I might be outside, but it was too dark. It was only lunch time. I hadn’t left the building by that strange door. It wasn’t marked as an exit. But somehow I knew I wasn’t where I was supposed to be.
If this was a joke, I wasn’t laughing. Scared I decided to return through the door, but I couldn’t find it. I was trapped.
Welcome Congressman. Came a deep and accented voice. I couldn’t place the accent. It sounded British, but not quite.
Who are you? I demanded. You’re endangering an elected official. There are serious consequences for that.
You’re in no danger baboon. The voice said irreverently. And trust me, there’s no consequence you could impose that worries me.
Let me go and I’ll forget you did this.
Forget. I don’t want you to forget, Congressman Pea Brain. I want you to remember every minute of this little meeting of ours.
Show yourself. I commanded.
I don’t take orders from superstitious apes. The voice said.
Why are you doing this? I was turning all around trying to get a glimpse of someone. I ended up backing into something big and solid. I turned around and had the fright of my life. A towering figure with a cat’s head loomed over me. I fell back on my behind and squealed like a school girl.
How inspiring Congressman Monkey-Boy. I think I might cry.
What are you?
I’m not a WHAT. I’m a WHO. And I’d think a politician like you would know better than to make such a glaring diplomatic faux pas.
Who are you? I said, returning to my feet. What are you doing here?
Which question would you like me to answer first? The creature was chomping on a cigar. It puffed some smoke in my face.
Kaff. Stop that.
No. It did it again.
Have you no respect for my office at least, if not for the man?
None whatsoever lame brain. The creature stood confidently staring at me. You really are a nincompoop aren’t you?
No. I’m a Congressman.
Yes, you’ve made that perfectly clear. You’re Congressman Nincompoop.
That’s not my name. I’m Congressman…
Listen old boy, I know who you are. Why else would I lure you into my trap? And stop with the Congressman thing. Here you’re just a mote of dust.
Who are you? I said.
I am Shamus, at your service. He said bowing and doffing his hat.
Service? So far all you have done is kidnap and insult me.
Yes. And there’s no extra charge for the insults.
What do you want from me? You know we don’t pay ransoms to terrorists.
I want nothing from you or your government, and I’m no terrorist.
Then what do you want?
I want nothing. I’m here to help you sunshine.
That’s what I like, short and to the point. Shamus removed his hat and removed a book that was resting on his head. He looked through the book and then he snapped it shut. You’re in big trouble chum.
What? What sort of trouble?
That’s not my department. My job is to make sure you handle your trouble properly.
Is this some sort of joke? Do you expect me to believe any of this?
Which question would you like me to answer first? He asked chomping on his cigar.
I’m leaving. You can’t hold me here against my will.
You’re not leaving, and I most certainly can.
I demand you let me out of here.
Or what? Shamus said eyeing me like a predator eyeing its next meal.
Or nothing. All you monkeys are the same. You’re all bluster and no action. You’re scared out of your wits.
I am not.
Sure you are, look at you. Quivering like a lost puppy caught in a snowstorm. You’ve been afraid for a long time now.
What’s that supposed to mean?
Oh I don’t know? Maybe it has something to do with the way you completely abandoned your ideals to fit in with the Washington crowd. Maybe it has something to do with the way you betrayed your voters to keep your cushy office. Does any of that ring a bell?
I’m no different than any other elected official.
Exactly, and that’s the problem. You’re all the same, pathetic, corrupt, and scared.
Well what am I supposed to do? It’s the ruless of the game.
I don’t care what you do. It’s not my world that suffers. You apes are always deceiving each other, exploiting each other. It’s like you get your jollies from stomping on each other’s scrawny little necks. You’re all a bunch of diseased orangutans if you ask me. I don’t know why we bother with you.
Never mind that chum. We’ve got business to conduct.
What sort of business?
Life’s business. Your life to be exact.
I don’t understand.
Of course you don’t. Why would you? You’re just a pea brain after all. That’s why you need a fellow like me, to make sure you get back on the right track.
The right track? What are you saying?
Gee. I thought I was clear. You used to have high ideals old boy. Then you gave them up because you were too afraid to go toe to toe with the political machine.
Well that’s dangerous.
So. What’s a little danger if you’re doing the right thing?
I don’t want to be hung out to dry, or worse.
You mean you’re a wimp and don’t have the balls to face a real challenge.
I wouldn’t say that.
I would, which is why I said it. You can’t hide behind a false face. You’re exposed. You’re a wimp. Accept it.
Why should I put myself at risk for all those people? They’re just self-indulgent, ungrateful bastards.
Wow! I didn’t expect that, but I’m impressed. You sound like me. And that’s got to be a good sign. I’m on board with you my boy. All those monkeys you represent are fools. They don’t deserve anything. They’re just cannon fodder. Right?
No. I wouldn’t say that.
Why not? It’s true isn’t it? You voted just last year for more of those self-indulgent, ungrateful bastards to go off to war.
I know. But…
I didn’t want to.
So, then why did you?
I had no choice.
Let me stop you right their pudding head. You always have a choice.
My party would’ve abandoned me.
So what? If you did the right thing, what does it matter what happens to you?
No buts butthead. Either you do things because they are the right thing to do, or you do things in order to get something in return. Which is it?
I want to do the right thing.
So what stops you?
Finally, light dawns on Marblehead. Fear is the enemy. You gave in to the enemy.
They kill people.
So what? You can’t live your life in fear and expect to do any good. Ever read the Bhagavad Gita?
I thought as much. You monkeys really need to start reading the classics.
What’s the Bagafa Geeda?
Oi ve. Say it with me, Bha-ga-vad Gi-ta. It’s an ancient text that instructs people on how to live their lives effectively.
So what does it have to do with me?
Everything knucklehead. It’s the story of Arjuna, a warrior prince. He’s told by his assistant Krishna, who is a manifestation of the Godhead, that there’s no reason to fear physical consequences, because they are fleeting. Only the spiritual consequences of our actions matter. Our action or Karma is what dictates our fate.
I’ve heard of Karma. Isn’t that when you come back as an animal if you were bad in this life?
Not exactly. Karma means action. If you take no action in life, out of fear, then you’re condemning yourself to a life of satisfying the appetites. But if you take action, despite your fear, then you experience spiritual growth. The more you hide behind your fear the more you become like a monkey.
I don’t want to be ridiculed or die at the hands of the corrupt people in our government.
Then you don’t deserve to be there. Your world suffers not because too many corrupt people are in government, but because too many decent people are afraid to stand up to them. There’s a difference between pacifism and passivity. You’re passive. Gandhi was a pacifist, but he stood up to the entire British Empire, without using a single weapon. He freed India with spirit. Are you no better than Gandhi?
He was a great man.
He didn’t start off that way. He was a lawyer, living the high life, participating in the system that was enslaving his people. It was only later that he saw how he was culpable in the oppression of the Indian people.
You ask a lot of me.
I’m asking nothing of you. But, are you asking enough of yourself?
I was silent. What could I say? Shamus was right. I had abandoned and betrayed my beliefs. My inspiration as a kid to do some good had faded. I was just like the rest of the corrupt politicians, feeding out of the trough of the public treasury. I was not the man I was meant to be.
What do I do Shamus?
That’s not my department? All I can do is point out the path. You’ve got to walk it.
Well then, my work is done. You’re free to go. Shamus snapped his fingers. Suddenly the darkness faded and I found myself in a broom closet by myself. I opened the door and saw two security guards staring at me. Apparently they heard me talking to myself in the closet and were concerned. I smiled and told them I was practicing for a debate. That seemed to satisfy them enough to leave me alone. I walked back to my office and sat at my desk. My lunch was there waiting for me. I started to eat, and then I noticed the letters I had thrown in the waste basket. I pulled them out and read them carefully. I called my aide into my office and told her that I’d be voting against the bill. I told her it’d be rough going but it was the right thing to do. I was sure of it.