11 Days to the Summit. Chicago’s skyline, like architectural knights to some great and majestic roundtable, glittered in the clear cool night air. Those myriad diamond lights were reflected in the dark waters of Monroe Harbor. The murmur of traffic along Lake Shore Drive was all but lost to a northerly breeze where Congressman Rand stood with Tom Koffer. Rand was having serious misgivings about all of this. He felt trapped and wasn’t sure he could go through with it.
“There’ll be blood on our hands,” said Rand, nervously taking a long drag on a cigarette. He flipped it away and looked at Koffer, smarting as Koffer’s expression was almost disgusted. Rand pressed the issue nonetheless. “American blood, Tom, and I don’t know if I can live with that.”
They were alone beside Rand’s Jeep Cherokee, looking out at the lake and skyline. A black suburban was parked just up the deserted roadway. Two beefy security men from Koffer’s private detail made sure the meeting was uninterrupted.The dull metal dome of the Adler Planetarium was to their backs.
“Live with it?’ replied Koffer with notable disdain. “Like it or not you are into this up to her eyes, like the rest of us.”
“I don’t know, Tom,” Rand pursed his lips, unable to look at Koffer.
Koffer ran a hand along Rand’s shoulder, gripping the back of his neck. Rand leaned forward a bit. It was more intimidating than painful, which was just exactly as Tom Koffer wanted it to be.
“You think you’ve got better friends on the Left? Because I can guarantee you there won’t be a worse enemy.” Koffer leaned close and lowered his voice threateningly. “You’ll see this through, by god, or you won’t even be able to get a job as dog catcher. They’ll find child porn on your home computer or several former gay lovers will suddenly hold press conferences.”
Rand’s eyes snapped to Koffer and narrowed defiantly. “Who do you think you are to threaten me. I’m a goddamned United States Congressman.”
Koffer scoffed, mocking him. “A man of ideology who still believes governments mean shit anymore. The corporation, that’s where the real power is, Rand. We decide which wars you’ll fight and run them. We decide which candidates will make it into elections and who will win. The biggest economies are corporations, not nations.”
“If that’s the case, why do you need me?” It was a feeble protest, Rand knew. It was true, that so-called trans-national corporations had risen to levels that eclipsed the power of whole nations. The media, increasingly owned by a smaller and smaller number of corporations decided who was a viable candidate in elections-particularly presidential elections simply by manipulating their coverage. It was corporations that had promoted and prospered in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, devouring national wealth while the nation itself fell into near destitution.
“Legitimacy, police, infrastructure, and when we call, a mindless flag-waving army. Now be a good puppet, cash your checks and live a nice obedient life,” Koffer released Rand’s neck, his tone even and controlled, “ and one day they’ll name a school or park or a street after you. Can I count on you, or are you to become a liability?”
It was a moment in which a determined man who stand on principle, despite the cause to himself. It was a line. To one side he stood with patriots, and on the other despots. In the end it came down to moral courage, not in defending one’s own convictions, that was simple. Instead it was rising to champion the dignity of others. Deep down, Joe Rand knew he wasn’t that man. He hung his head and let out a draining breath.