"Bill, come in the dining room, it's time to eat," Linda yelled to her husband.
"In a minute, honey, it's a tie score," he answered. Actually, Bill wasn't very interested in the traditional holiday football game between Detroit and Washington.
Ever since the government passed the Civility in Sports Statute of 2017, outlawing tackle football for its "unseemly violence" and the "bad" example it sets for the rest of the world," Bill was far less of a football fan than he used to be. Two-hand touch wasn't very exciting.
Yet it wasn't the game that had Bill uninterested. It was Tofu Turkey. Even though it was the best Veggie Meat available after the government revised the American Anti-Obesity Act of 2018, adding fowl to the list of federally-forbidden foods, (which already included potatoes, cranberry sauce, and mincemeat pie), it wasn't anything like real turkey.
Since the government officially changed the name of "Thanksgiving Day" to "A National Day of Atonement" in 2020, to officially acknowledge the Pilgrims' historically brutal treatment of Native Americans, the holiday had lost a lot of its luster.
The dining room was also a bit daunting. The unearthly gleam of government-mandated fluorescent light bulbs made Tofu Turkey look even weirder, and the room was always cold. The Power Conservation Act of 2016 forced all thermostats - which were monitored and controlled by the electric company - to be kept at 68 degrees. Every room on the north side of the house was barely tolerable throughout the entire winter.
Still, it was good getting together with family. Or at least most of them. Bill missed his mother, who passed on in October, when she had used up her legal allotment of life-saving medical treatment. He had many heated conversations with the Regional Health Consortium, spawned when the private insurance market finally went bankrupt, and everyone was forced into the government health care program.
Though he demanded she be kept on her treatment, it was a futile effort. "The RHC's resources are limited," explained the government bureaucrat. "Your mother received all the benefits to which she was entitled. I'm sorry for your loss."
Ed couldn't make it either. He had forgotten to plug in his electric car last night. The Anti-Fossil Fuel Bill of 2021 outlawed the use of the combustion engines - for everyone but government officials. The fifty mile round trip was too far, and Ed didn't want to spend a frosty night stranded on the road.
Thankfully, Bill's brother John, and his wife were flying in. Bill made sure that the dining room chairs had extra cushions. No one complained more than John about sitting down too soon after government-mandated cavity searches at airports, which severely aggravated his hemorrhoids. Since a terrorist successfully smuggled a cavity bomb onto a jetliner, the TSA told Americans the added "inconvenience" was an "absolute necessity" in order to stay "one step ahead of the terrorists."
Bill had grown accustomed to such probing ever since the government expanded their scope to wherever a crowd gathered, via Anti-Profiling Act of 2022. That law made it a crime to single out any group or individual for "unequal scrutiny," even for probable cause. Thus, cavity searches at malls, train stations, bus depots, etc. had become almost routine. Almost.
The Supreme Court is reviewing the statute, but most Americans expect a Court of six progressives and three conservatives would leave the law intact. "A living Constitution is extremely flexible," said the Court's eldest member, Elena Kagan. "Europe has had laws like this one for years. We should learn from their example," she added.
Bill's thoughts turned to his children. He got along fairly well with his 12-year-old daughter, Brittany, mostly because she ignored him. He had long ago surrendered to the idea that she could text anyone at any time, even during Atonement Dinner. Their only real confrontation happened when he limited her to 50,000 texts a month; it was all he could afford. She whined for a week.
Jason, 16, was another matter altogether. Perhaps it was the constant bombarding in public school that global warming, bird flu, terrorism, or any of a number of other calamities were "just around the corner," but Jason had developed an attitude that ranged between simmering surliness and outright hostility. Jason had even reported his father to the police for smoking in the house, an act made criminal by the Smoking Control Statute of 2018, which outlawed smoking anywhere within 500 feet of another human being. Bill paid the $5,000 fine, which might have been considered excessive before the American dollar became virtually worthless as a result of QE13.
The latest round of quantitative easing the federal government initiated was, once again, to "spur economic growth." This time, they promised to push unemployment below its years-long rate of 18%, but Bill was not particularly hopeful.
Even so, Bill thought his family had a lot for which to be thankful, before he remembered it was a Day of Atonement.: he wasn't supposed to be thankful. At least he had his memories... He felt a twinge of sadness when he realized his children would never know what life was like in the Good Old Days, before government promised to make life "fair for everyone."
Bill, & many other Americans, never realized how much things would change if changes didn't come about all at once, but little by little. He wondered what might have happened if the Public had stood up while there was still time, back in 2012, when America lost its way and all the real nonsense began.
"Maybe we wouldn't be where we are today if we'd just said 'enough is enough' when we had the chance," he thought.
Maybe so, Bill. Maybe so.
“Its easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”