By Bill Mosley
“Here we are. On Hallowed ground!”
Damian Brooks set down his megaphone and examined the scene around him. There were few pedestrians about on this gray, uncomfortably chilly January afternoon, only the occasional heavily bundled passerby on Constitution Avenue to the south shuffling along as the electric buses whooshed past. To the north rose the alabaster colonnade of the White House’s south portico. Brooks and his companion had the entire sprawling expanse of mostly brown winter grass upon which they stood to themselves.
“Hallowed ground?” his companion, Carlton Vandergraft, asked. “I wouldn’t exactly call it hallowed. Do you think the insurrection was some sort of holy crusade?”
“A figure of speech,” Brook said dismissively. “It was an outpouring of justified anger that — well — maybe got a little out of hand …”
“Listen, is anybody else going to show up?” Vandergraft cut in impatiently, thrusting his bare hands into his armpits for warmth. “It’s freezing out here.”
“It’s not that bad,” Brooks sniffed. “You should have worn gloves like I did. Anyhow, Borenstein, O’Reilly, and Grady promised to show up, and we got some RSVPs to our ad on Freedombook.”
“How many RSVPs? Three or four, wasn’t it?”
“A lot of people don’t RSVP, they just show up,” Brooks replied with a scowl.
“Well, they haven’t shown up yet,” Vandergraft said. “It’s just the two of us.”
“It’s early,” Brooks replied. “We said one o’clock, and it’s a quarter till.”
Just as he said this, a huddled figure came shuffling from the north. As he drew closer, the two men could see it was Lou Borenstein.
“Hey, Lou!” Brooks called out. “Over here!”
“I see ya,” Borenstein shouted grumpily, lighting a cigarette. When he drew closer, he added, “I hope this doesn’t take long. It’s freezing, and I need to get to happy hour.”
“You and Vandergraft, weather cowards both,” Brooks grumbled. “Think of the heroes of twenty years ago. They came out in cold weather and didn’t complain.”
“Not even the guy with the bare chest and buffalo horns,” Vandergraft said with a smirk.
“How’d you get here?” Brooks asked. “Drive?”
“Nah, Metro,” Borenstein replied. “I still have my car, but you can’t park within a mile of here.”
“We did, too,” said Vandergraft. “Good thing they beefed up Metro, or you couldn’t move around this city. Damian and I got here from Van Ness in fifteen minutes.”
“Yeah, yeah, they killed driving. Too much freedom for AOC and her minions,” Brooks said, launching into one of his patented diatribes. “They closed streets, eliminated parking, sent the last few gas vehicles to the graveyard, taxed drivers to death, and dumped all the money into commie transportation. Now, if you try to drive — well, you just have to turn around and go home. Can’t get there from here. Pretty soon, they’ll ban cars entirely, and that will be that.”
“And these pedestrian malls,” groused Borenstein. “What’s with shutting down all the streets? You can walk all day, but you can’t drive three blocks.”
“At least Metro runs well,” Vandergraft said. “I remember twenty years ago when it was a mess. Now you show up at a station, a train is always pulling up.”
“Not everyone wants to ride on a train packed with riff-raff,” Brooks snarled. “In your car, you’re the master of your domain.” He paused briefly when Vandergraft giggled at the unintended reference. “But speaking of twenty years ago, we need to get this program started.”
“With just three of us?” Borenstein said. “I move we blow this scene and retire to Maria’s.”
“We can hit the bar afterward,” said Brooks in his domineering manner. “Besides, here come more freedom fighters.”
And indeed, across the grass strolled two more men, one tall, trim and athletic despite his middle-aged face, the other short and in need of losing more than a few pounds.
“Larry! Mike! Over here!” Brooks called out.
The two joined the previous trio, and the taller man said, “When is this thing going to start? I have to go to work.”
“Oh, that’s right, you have a job, don’t you, Larry?” Vandergraft asked.
“Yep. I used to work in landscaping, but now I work with Mike here,” he replied. “Installing solar panels.”
“Larry O’Reilly and Mike Grady, Sun Gods? That’s what you should call your company,” Borenstein quipped.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” Grady, the plump one, replied somberly. “Who can start a company these days? It’s government work.”
“I was kidding,” Borenstein said with an unhappy grin.
“Why are you guys working for the state, anyway?” Brooks asked in an inquisitorial tone. “You can’t live off your universal basic income? You guys are just propping up the oppressive socialist economy.”
“I needed the extra money,” Grady moped. “Alimony. You know what that’s like, Lou.”
“Don’t I ever,” Borenstein groaned. “Child support leaves me hardly any money left over for drinking.”
“If AOC wanted to do something useful, she’d forget about renewable energy and ban alimony,” Vanderdraft cut in.
“Well, as for me,” O’Reilly said, “I just wanted something to do. The extra money was nice, but I got tired of sitting around on my can. I’m not a revolutionary like Damian, or a barfly like Lou, or …” He glanced at Vandergraft. “Or whatever it is that you do, Carlton.”
Vandergraft looked as if he wanted to retort, but he remained silent and just blushed.
“Look, if no one else is coming …” Borenstein started in, but he paused when he saw a gaggle of men strolling across the lawn toward them.
“Here come the ground troops!” Brooks said, beaming, although once he counted, the force numbered merely five men. He greeted them and learned they’d all seen the Freedombook posting. In a few minutes of chatting, he learned they were a diverse lot, but all had grievances of one sort or another against the government and longed for a restoration of the days before the socialist takeover of Washington and most of the statehouses.
“Now we can start,” Brooks said, picking up the megaphone.
“Yeah, with our mighty army,” quipped Borenstein. “Do you really need that bullhorn? We can hear you without it.”
“I want the whole world to hear,” Brooks snapped back. He was about to switch the device on when he looked up past his companions with an expression of defiance.
“Just as I expected,” Brooks snarled. “Here comes the oppressive state.”
Strolling toward the group were a man and a woman, both wearing blue uniforms and orange reflector vests bearing the legend PARK ATTENDANT.
“Hello, officers,” Brooks called to them with a sneer. “Coming to arrest us? AOC can’t bear to hear the message we have for her?”
“Good afternoon,” the woman said. “Just here to provide assistance. You’re going to march to the Capitol, right?”
“You’re damned right!” said one of the latecomers, cutting off Brooks. “Just like twenty years ago. And you’re not going to stop us!”
“We’re not out to stop you, sir,” the male attendant replied. “We’re here to stop traffic and make sure you’re safely able to fully exercise your First Amendment rights.”
Brooks looked as if he was pumped up for a retort but was deflated by the attendant’s words. So he merely said, “Okay, let’s get the program started! Form a circle, everyone.”
All but the attendants formed a loose circle around Brooks. Then Vandergraft cut in, “Better make it a bigger circle. That bullhorn is pretty loud.” And so the circle became even looser, with the participants separated from each other by several feet. The attendants observed from a short distance.
“Hey, Carlton, you got the flags?” Brooks said to Vandergraft.
“Oh, right,” he answered and pulled a bundle of tiny fifty-one-star flags out of this back pocket. He handed one to every participant and had plenty left over.
“Friends,” Brooks began, shouting through the megaphone, “we are the Oldboys, the remnant of the free America of the pre-socialist era and the vanguard of a new movement for individual liberty, free enterprise, and traditional values! We will begin with the Oldboys Chant. For those of you new to our group, the chant goes: ‘To us, the Oldboys! May the future belong to us! And forever after.’”
“What the hell does that mean?” the mouthy newcomer asked, but Brooks ignored him.
“Now, all together!” Brooks exhorted. The entire group repeated the words, although only half mouthed them with uncertainty.
“Friends,” Brooks continued through the megaphone, “twenty years ago today, our spiritual forefathers gathered upon this spot to protest a horrible injustice in which the America we knew and loved was snatched away from us!” Borenstein rolled his eyes, but Brooks continued. Several others backed away a few steps against the roar of Brooks’ amplified voice.
“That dark day marked the slow slide of America from free enterprise and all-American values into socialism and all the evils that came with it. The corrupted vote of 2020 was only the start. The final crushing of real America came with the election of AOC to the White House.” He gestured in the direction of that building. “And her minions to Congress and state legislatures, in another election stolen through the expanded use of mail and online voting, drop boxes, more polling places and hours, and other corruptions of the system that encouraged hacking by foreign governments and the casting of ballots by illegal aliens, convicts, and lunatics! Now we live in a country that has turned its back on individual initiative, the free market, and traditional values in favor of a government takeover of businesses, socialized transportation, and state intrusion into every aspect of our lives. And today we begin the taking back of America …”
“Wait a minute,” one of the latecomers piped in. “What do you mean by ‘traditional values?’ Are you saying you’re opposed to LGBTQ rights?”
Brooks stammered in search of an answer, but then the man replied, “Because Kevin and I here are married. Is that a problem for you?”
“Listen, we don’t have anything against you, but …” Brooks started but then stopped, unsure of how to continue.
“Let’s get out of here,” Kevin’s companion said, and the two men stalked off.
“Didn’t think that one through ahead of time, did you?” Borenstein said with a smirk.
“And speaking of ‘traditional values,’ what are those exactly?” another of the newcomers asked.
“You know, the old Judeo-Christian ethics,” Brooks answered. “The Bible, both Old, and New Testaments.”
“Well, I’m Baha’i, so it looks like you don’t include me,” the man replied.
“Maybe we could call it Judeo-Christian-Baha’i,” Vandergraft offered helpfully, but the man was already walking away.
“Well, I’m in all the way!” said the man who had earlier popped off to the park attendants. “I’m for Jesus, guns, traditional marriage, and free enterprise all the way! America was stronger when it was run by Trump, the church and Wall Street! And I don’t care how many or few of us there are, I’m ready to storm the Capitol and take it to those commies running the government! Who’s with me?”
“Uh, we’re only doing a symbolic storming of the Capitol,” Brooks said, casting an eye toward the attendants. “Not actual — uh — breaking things.”
“Really?” the man said unbelievingly. “They didn’t wimp out in 2021!”
“There were a lot more of them then,” Vandergraft replied, but the man was unmollified.
“Cowards! Sellouts!” he shouted as he stormed away, with only the five Oldboys — Brooks, Borenstein, Vandergraft, O’Reilly, and Grady — plus one newbie still present.
“I appreciate our friend’s exuberance,” Brook said as the man walked away, “but actions like storming the Capitol are premature until we build a bigger movement.” He glanced again to the park attendants, who didn’t react.
“You’re tellin’ me,” Borenstein muttered.
“But we need to start somewhere, and here we are,” Brooks continued. “So — what do you say, boys? To the Capitol!”
“With just the six of us?” Vandergraft asked.
“Actually, four,” O’Reilly said. “Mike and I have to be at work in less than an hour. But we’re behind you, all the way. See ya.”
The final remaining newcomer also spoke up. “Listen, I’m evangelical and with you all the way on traditional values. But are you for or against universal basic income?”
“UBI was another socialist plot to destroy individual initiative!” Brooks shouted, although not this time through the megaphone. “When people had to work to live, they not only made the economy work better, their jobs gave them pride.” He paused. “What’s your name again, anyway?”
“Raoul,” the man said. “But pride? My father worked in a textile factory. He barely kept food on the table. He got brown lung, and then when he tried to help start a union, he got fired. You call that pride? And besides, you guys all draw UBI, am I right?”
“Yes, because nearly all the jobs today are government or in the so-called ‘cooperative’ enterprises,” Brooks replied. “I draw UBI, so I don’t have to work in the socialist sector and dance to AOC’s tune. It’s a temporary compromise until we restore the old economy.” He looked around at his friends. “Help me out here, guys.”
“You’re doin’ fine,” Borenstein replied with a malicious grin.
“I dunno, I’ve got to think about this,” Raoul said. “It seems to me that most people are living better lives today than ten or twenty years ago. If people were only more — you know — moral, we’d be better off. I’m going to have to think about this,” he said, turning around and walking away.
“Another candidate for the dustheap of history,” Borenstein said with an ironic smirk.
Now down to three, Brooks dropped the megaphone at his feet. “Okay, just us again,” he muttered with a frown. “What will it take to get this movement started? When will the people wake up?”
“They just aren’t as angry as they should be,” Vandergraft said sadly. “The socialists have bought off the masses, that’s it. They’re fat and happy.”
“As opposed to fat and unhappy, like you,” Borenstein said. “But hey, Damian, it’s not a total loss. We can march to the Capitol with a stopover at Maria’s. Recharge our spirits with a pitcher of margaritas.”
“You and your margaritas,” Brooks said with a sneer. “Still, a shot of booze is what I need right now.”
“I’m with you guys,” Vandergraft said as they started off. “To the Capitol — eventually!”
“Have a nice day!” the attendants said cheerily in unison as the Oldboys shuffled away.