The moderator indicated that there was only 10 minutes left in the debate and Emerson hadn’t made his much anticipated announcement yet.
“I will now cede the floor to each candidate for 5 minutes for closing remarks,” said the man sitting at the centre podium with his back to the audience. “Mr. Cates, as the challenger, you can go first.”
“Thank you mister moderator. As we have already demonstrated over the course of the debate, we are looking forward to a bright, new, inclusive future. A future we are uniquely equipped to forge. We stand for all entities, not only “people” as Mr. Emerson indicated, for we are aware that many of our entities identify as many other things: our dogs, our trees, our ethereal spirits. There is a place for all of you with us, not like in the speciest party of my counterpart.
We also are not solely for the citizen, the discriminatory language of which you have already been battered with this evening. We are for those who consider themselves sovereign citizens, those who are non-government conformers, you who call yourself “the free”, and those who are non-bodily at all, whom the strictness of the law obviously cannot apply to.
Furthermore, I invite you to examine the racist underbelly of Mr. Emerson’s so called People’s Party, demonstrated in their logo. 8 multicoloured strands intertwined into a single cord. Seemingly a symbol of inclusivity, but when examined we see the seed of racism that considers race a product of our skin colour. Black and brown and yellow and white. We’ve known since the 20th century that you are more than your colour, but here we see the People’s Party lagging sadly and hatefully behind!
In the Every Party we reject the very segregating notion of race all together. You are what you want to be, and you are accepted and affirmed by us. You have a home with us. As long as you reject intolerance and embrace the ideals of love, inclusion, and freedom, whatever those words mean to you. You are included! Welcome to Every!”
Mr. Cates delivered his final thundering word just as the clock ticked down to zero and the crowd erupted into applause. The new man on the scene had positioned himself and his party brilliantly at the leading cusp of the tolerance movement sweeping the country. He knew he had nailed Emerson on several points of seeming intolerance – a list of offences that widened every day – so he smugly leaned his left forearm across his podium and waited for his opponent’s rebuttal. He examined the man’s body language and couldn’t quite make it out. What was the big announcement?
The moderator now redirected the crowd’s attention back to the conclusion of the final debate of the season. “Mr. Emerson, you will now have your 5 minutes.”
“I would like to commend my opponent on his apparent commitment to tolerance and inclusion. That is a value we can all agree we are trying to work towards.” A smile spread across the face of Jack Emerson, a smile Cates didn’t like.
“And we are going to put that commitment to these ideals to the test.” He now smiled directly in Cates’ direction.
“You see Mr. Cates, I sense in you, an air of hypocrisy. You talk a good game, but I wonder what you inner thoughts might reveal… And now we have the ability to find out. I want to present to you the Inclusivity Delineator.”
A man walked on stage in a white lab coat to give an air of scientific legitimacy. He held a platter of sorts with a metal device upon it. A second man rushed out behind him and set up a single-leg, round, wooden table just beside Mr. Emerson’s podium. The scientist put the platter on the table and remained standing nearby while the other man left.
“The Inclusivity Delineator, or ID, is a relatively new device to the public, however I can assure you that it has undergone intensive study for accuracy for several years. So what does it do you ask? This device attaches to the subject’s medial prefrontal cortex through sensors that are attached to the temples.”
Mr. Emerson fit the device, for demonstration sake, on the scientist. The whole audience sat forward in their chairs, completely rapt with the spectacle. “It reads the judgement centre of the brain; when shown images of people of different ethnic backgrounds, sexual identities, levels of mental faculty, and dozens of other categories, which people have learned to deftly harbour hate towards in secret, it produces a detailed report of the judgements which occur in the mind.” He grinned and put his hand on the scientist’s should, “But of course we would never test you publicly like this.”
“No longer will people be able to speak of tolerance in the open and hold on to their secret hate in private. Further to that end, we have commissioned a group to begin testing effective immediately: the Clear Conscience Task Force. As the election is drawing near, they will begin with those who are running to become elected officials, the most vital segment of society who will lead us towards a less hateful future. Then as more units are developed, we will widen our scope to include all public servants, teachers, and religious leaders. Perhaps one day all of our hidden prejudices will be laid bare.”
The crowd, which had been conditioned to react positively to anything that claimed to promote tolerance, was in a total stunned hush. They, like Cates, were totally blindsided by the announcement, never having even heard rumours of a technology that could do anything of the sort. Mr. Emerson had blown past the 5 minute mark on the clock, but even the moderator had not noticed.
“We will press forward together towards a society founded on true love and tolerance, not only in our words, but in the details of our every thought, and the People’s Party will lead the way. Thank you.” The crowd began to clap, though more out of stunned obligation than enthusiasm.
As the room became silent the moderator closed the event, “I would like to thank both of our participants as well as the audience for…”
Cates stormed off the stage, visibly fuming, before he even heard the end of the moderator’s address. He stomped through the halls of the event centre towards his party’s private room and slammed the door behind him as he stepped inside. Several people were waiting for him, most with clipboards in hand. They all waited quietly as he paced the room and sorted out his thoughts.
“Somebody get me a coffee,” Cates yelled. An earnest young man stepped forward,
“How do you take it sir?” he asked.
“How do I take it? Who the hell are you that you don’t know how I take my coffee?” He looked the young man up and down and realized that he genuinely didn’t know him. “Who are you?”
“I’m Mark, Mr. Cates,” he said with a gulp. “I’m your new employee. I believe I am replacing Helen.”
“I don’t know you. Check him for wires,” he said motioning to his security. A large man ran an electronic wand across Mark’s body. The security guard nodded to indicate there was no problem.
“What kind of stupid title is employee anyways, what do you do around here other than get me coffee?” Cates asked.
“I’ve come to understand that assistant is a historically sexualized term used in the patriarchal repression of women. In fact, many of the traditional labels have been found to be problematic so I was told to use only the term employee, sir.”
Cates let out a long frustrated huff, “Maybe I should just call you servant boy, is that any better?”
“Actually the term servant has racial connotations that I am not comfortable with. Also, boy is a binary term that I prefer not to…”
Cates grabbed the young man by the collar as he spoke and pulled him closely to his face, “What are you retarded?!” he hollered, spit flying from his mouth and spattering across Mark.
Mark and some of those from outside of Cate’s inner circle stood mouth agape in tremendous shock. The “R-word” was so universally known to be offensive that it had become totally stricken from use, even by the most foul. In fact, Mark, though aware of the word, was sure that he had never even heard anyone actually say it.
“The fate of the entire nation and my 35 year political career hangs in the balance because of this overreaching idiot who wants to get inside our heads and pull out his own skewed sense of hyper-morality – only for his own selfish gain by the way – and you want to call me on the carpet for assuming your gender!” Cates said seething.
His closest staff and advisors weren’t totally shocked to hear him speak this way. Despite his public persona, they knew what he was like when he got hot under the collar, but he must have been feeling particularly under threat to get that worked up that quickly. They watched him walk the room, wheels spinning in his head, and they knew better than to talk to him before he was ready. Mark came back to the centre of the large room with the coffee in hand. He guessed that Cates was a milk and sugar guy. Cates snatched it from his hand, spilling more than half of it down the side of the cup and over his fingers.
“Ok, I want to know what this thing does. I want to know what it can’t do. I want to know every category it tests for. I want to know how many they have, who they’ve used it on already, and who they’re going to use it on next – of course it’s damn well me. I want to know how the hell we didn’t know about this before now, and I want 3 independent reports on my desk by tomorrow saying that it doesn’t work.”
Within the week all the reports came back. The news wasn’t good. This thing did work. The double-blind clinical trials had been conducted for years, just as Emerson boasted: they were airtight.
Cates sat in his private war room back at the official headquarters across from his chief-of-staff, Jennifer. It was very important nowadays to elevate a woman to as high a position as possible. Cates had even occasionally lamented how much being a man hurt his bid.
“What’s the biggest worry?” Jennifer said.
“That he goes routing around in there and trumps up some sort of crap about me being a bigot,” Cates said, obviously agitated.
“I’m not making any judgements obviously, but you have been leading the charge on tolerance and pure, non-hateful thought for years. Have you ever considered it could come back clean?”
“Oh don’t be a child, of course it wouldn’t come back clean.”
“Isn’t that it’s own problem? If you have hate floating around in your head, how are you supposed to lead the way forward?”
“Look, there is a difference between the means of election and the means of government. The people have to choose someone who is tolerant, absurdly tolerant. That’s who’ll they’ll vote for, but the truth is, they don’t want some pansy running the country. Tolerance and commerce are not connected. I won’t let some moron run this great nation into the ground because he has a fancier, stupid, metal contraption. I will give in to the will of the people on social policy if that means I can save them with a sensible fiscal policy.” Cates was huffing and puffing, exasperated from having to explain himself.
“The truth is, no one’s would come back clean. You can’t control what goes on in your head to that extreme. It’s impossible. I’ve always controlled what I could. Since I was a child, I kept anything that could be even remotely critiqued off the internet. No secret recordings, no drunken videos, not even a picture with a known intolerant. I saw all this coming and planned for it my whole life. And now that I’m 20 points ahead, he pulls this, and we had no idea it was coming… What’s the word on what will happen to the ‘guilty’?” Cates said, now more sarcastic than angry.
“Looks like anyone found guilty is going to have to go to tolerance-rehab for 6 months. You won’t be able to stand for election,” Jennifer said.
“How the hell did this happen? This can’t be legal.”
“It passed through congress in less than 15 minutes.”
“It’s outrageous!” Cates scratched at the top of his head. “Well that’s it then, we have to go to Plan B. I’ll leave the state, keep on the move with surprise speaking engagements, and dodge the test until after the election. They’ll never get their hands on me and I’ll bury it my first day in office.”
“Actually that might be worse. Anyone who doesn’t make themselves available for the test will be ineligible for public service for a minimum of 10 years and then you still have to pass the test after that to get back on the ballot. It’s like the whole bill was written just to get you.”
“Ughhh!” Cates clenched his fists and kicked his large walnut desk, sending it crashing to the ground towards the wall away from where Jennifer was seated. Papers and sundry office items scattered across the floor.
“Then there’s no other way. The nuclear option… call the guy.”
“That’s not the only way…”
“I don’t hear any other suggestions,” Cates said staring blankly at his confidant. “Call him.”
Within the hour there was a knock at the door. Jennifer answered, expecting their “guy”. Instead two men in blue, almost military style uniforms stood in front of her. Their white armbands said CCTF in large black letters: the Clear Conscience Task Force. They handed her a single white piece of paper folded in thirds. They didn’t wait for her to open it before walking away briskly.
Cates was feeling prophetic by this point. “How long do we have?”
“They want to test you at 4 p.m.,” Jennifer said.
“Today?! You know what, it doesn’t matter, it should only take 10 minutes anyway. Where the hell is he?” Much the prophet again, there was another knock at the door. This time it was their “guy”. He wasn’t wearing a lab coat, but he was definitely a scientist of sorts.
He came in and set a large case on the desk. “Are you ready Mr. Cates?” the man asked, opening the clasps. The device he took out actually looked remarkably like the Emerson’s Inclusivity Delineator.
“Yes, I guess. I mean, what exactly is it going to do to me,” Cates said backtracking.
“This device uses pulse electrical current to disable minor parts of the cerebral cortex, specifically those involved in making moral judgments. We target the posterior cingulate, the angular gyrus…”
“I don’t care about any of that. Is it going to turn me into a Teletubbie? Like I’ll only be able to feel nice happy thoughts about people?”
“Not at all Mr. Cates. I don’t suspect you will feel anything towards people at all. You will look at someone from Cambodia, for instance, and think neither well nor foul of them,” the scientist said.
“Perfect,” Cates replied.
“There are other implications, the extent of which are hard to say. You may watch someone kill a puppy and feel nothing at all, perhaps not even be able to distinguish that this was wrong. You may yourself kill a puppy and see no issue. We haven’t had a human subject yet to fully examine the consequences.”
“What if it fries his brain?” Jennifer said with some indignance.
“We believe it to be totally safe, medically that is,” the scientist assured.
“You don’t have to do this,” Jennifer said to Cates.
“Of course I have to. The only way to be innocent is not to be tested. No one will ever have that level of purity of thought unless they turn it off right at the source.”
Cates turned to the scientist and nodded, then he closed his eyes.