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April 15, 2024

The Last Sad Man in America

By Dan Mulhollen

On April 18th 2018, President Shannon Idle signed into law the Mental Health Act of 2018, making depression a crime. "We need America," the President chirped, "to be a happy place and not allow these doom-and-gloom," she paused to consider the right word, "pinkoes to ruin it for the rest of us."

The audience of hand-picked toadies applauded with enthusiasm. As usual, the President took no questions -- she never took questions. Even in the one Presidential debate she did agree to she had a collection of notecards with talking points printed on them. (She being allowed to use notecards, a condition demanded by her campaign manager, but her opponent having no such luxury.)

Excluded from the Act were major mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and psychosis. "Excuses for bad behavior created by liberal scientists," the President claimed. She refused to look at anxiety disorders, claiming they made her nervous, and saw absolutely nothing wrong with paranoia.

It is unclear whether Simon MacGee suffered actual clinical depression. True, every January, his thoughts ran far darker than usual. But this was usually followed by a summertime burst of activity that seemed to compensate his cold-weather blues.

In recent years, he was increasingly grumpy. Some friends blamed the tier system making the Internet, where he once spent most of his day, a luxury he could no longer afford to do for more than a few hours a week. Others blamed the ban on the interstate shipment of cigars, his favorite vice, and one a disability left dependent on mail-order.

Some, of a more romantic bent, blamed a woman for his depression. But those who knew him well realized his heart was broken on a fairly regular basis (although less frequently since the Internet became so expensive) and that no one woman would lead to more than a few months of his writing bitter poetry and all-too-obviously therapeutic fiction.

Yet somehow, the Department of Homeland Security, responsible for implementing the new law, became aware of MacGee's potential criminal offense and went into action.

On May 2nd, DHS agents burst into MacGee's home, shot him with a tranquilizer dart, and carted him off to a special camp set up for the criminally depressed. Here he would be tried and incarcerated for as long as a Federal magistrate deemed necessary.

"Mister MacGee," the magistrate said, at the start of the trial, "have you ever had thoughts of suicide?"

"Who hasn't?" MacGee grumbled, still groggy from the tranquilizer. "But I am also deeply thanatophobic."

The magistrate pulled out a dictionary and spent over a minute searching for the definition.

"I see," the magistrate said, putting away the dictionary. "Your blog often seems to be a tirade of someone having serious issues with people you disagree with. When the President was elected, you called the American people, and I quote, 'fucking idiots'".

"No," MacGee replied, "I called the President-Elect that, and I do not believe it was the first time she'd been called that, either. The American people, I believe, I referred to as 'easily-duped morons for falling for the fucking idiot's scare tactics.'"

"You were also critical of her predecessor, were you not?"

"Early on," MacGee said, the grogginess being replaced by a general weariness over these inane questions, "I truly believed in the man. And I still believe he would have been a great President if he hadn't been so driven by poll numbers and his Congress controlled by lobbyists."

"Are you a homosexual?" the magistrate asked, abruptly changing the subject.

One of the first things the new President did after her inauguration was to turn back decades of progress regarding gay rights. "No, I am not. I have great sympathy for their cause, but am not myself gay."

"Sympathy?" the magistrate asked, incredulously. "How would you feel if you were forced to shower with a homosexual? Would you feel sympathy then?"

"I do not feel the experience would be that much different than showering with a straight man."

There was a commotion, people growling and moaning in disbelief. The magistrate slammed the gavel several times. Then he looked at MacGee. "You are clearly sick," he said, angrily. "Therefore I must find you guilty."

Simon MacGee was taken through a large number of tents, the entire camp reminiscent of the old TV series MASH. He was led to a tent. "In there," the guard said, brusquely pushing his prisoner inside as a show of moral superiority over an obvious deviant.

Here he met his tent mates, all of whom wrote poetry. In fact, well over fifty percent of the camp's population wrote poetry, there seeming to be some correlation between poetry and perceived depression. It was not a totally uncomfortable existence. The convicts were fed and given medical attention. They were also given work for well-below minimum wages (and paid in government-issued scrip, worthless on the outside). Much of this went for stationery and art supplies (purchased at the government-run commissary).

As time went on, the prisoners were generally ignored by the guards and staff, allowed to live their lives with considerable freedom.

In some ways, they were allowed more freedom than the general public under the ban-happy Idle Administration. Walking around naked was simply considered a sign of their criminal insanity and ignored by the guards. Contraceptives were now far easier for the prisoners to get than for those on the outside -- and with a 2-to-1 female to male ratio most prisoners viewed the camp as a male sex fantasy come true.

During this time, Simon did something quite unlike him, he refused to become interested in one (or more) of the female prisoners (he also did not become interested in any of the male prisoners, but that was considerably easier for him). Instead, he used much of his free time working out, fulfilling the one goal that had eluded him over the years.

There were weekly poetry readings and monthly art competitions. Several of MacGee's poems won, as did a photograph showing his newly-trim body painted as a cobalt blue gargoyle sitting on a rock. (One particularly entrepreneurial prisoner raised enough scrip to buy a computer, color printer, and digital camera -- the latter he gladly rented to fellow prisoners for a modest fee.)

Simon's self-imposed celibacy ended at this time. A young woman was intrigued by his photograph. She convinced him to recreate that image, she herself painted as a red succubus. Together they made the most exquisite shade of purple.

Unfortunately their relationship was short-lived. One day the succubus was caught in a laughing jag caused by a remark Simon made over the magistrate's unfortunate problem with flatulence. Several guards saw her unbound laughter and reported that she was obviously cured of her depression. She was sent home the next day.

The sad truth sunk in, and Simon realized that despite everything else, he was still a prisoner. A few days after the succubus' departure Simon MacGee decided to escape. He was not the first; in fact escape was remarkably easy. Most of the guards were drunk and passed out by midnight, where a good many prisoners were nocturnal.

The camp itself was built by a construction firm with ties to the Idle Administration who did a slip-shod job of things. There were no guard towers, no razor wire, no dogs, no search lights. There was only a chain-link fence and an electronic security device, made by a subsidiary of the construction firm. The main control box had accidentally been assembled using corrosive acid-core solder, it was poorly programmed, and its 9-volt battery disappeared less than a month after installation (a guard needed it for his portable video game device).

As Simon walked out of the camp and towards freedom, his disability considerably improved by the experience, he wondered about his future on the outside. But he wasn't terribly concerned. He was clearly a Caucasian male, which was really all that mattered.

As for the President, she would be caught in a nasty sex scandal with a member of the "Patriotic Media," her name for those reporters and pundits who never questioned her IQ. The "Presidential Sex Tape" became a hit among those still able to afford 35 minutes of broadband.

President Shannon Idle resigned with a long, whiny, yet somehow chipper speech in which she thanked God for the opportunity to serve, closing with "it is just such a shame this whole freedom of speech thing was here to pour sugar into the gas tank of our great democracy. But, by golly, you all know I did my best to try to put an end to that nonsense."

As he took the Oath of Office, her Vice President, a radio talk show host, stopped abruptly after being proclaimed President. He smiled broadly for a few moments, his mind seeming to drift through the Cosmos. Then his head exploded.

Divine intervention, critics joked.

The opposition had won both houses of Congress in the 2018 midterm election, this despite (or perhaps because of) President Idle's attempts to turn the country into a One Party system. The Speaker of the House vowed that as President, he would reverse the damage done by the now-disgraced Idle Administration.

He was accompanied in his inaugural parade by his wife, a buxom, long-legged telecommunications industry lobbyist whose lobbying efforts resulted in hundreds of explicit videos. Yes, she knew she was committing professional suicide. But it would be worth it, getting a reformer out of the White House.

Article © Dan Mulhollen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2010-10-11
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