Airports, you said. Do you mean to cut us off from the rest of the world?
What about the army, navy and air force bases—you won’t touch them, will you?
Anne and Richard shared the podium and Richard scribbled three words and placed it on the desk, NOT MAJOR MONUMENTS, STAINED GLASS, ART. Anne nodded gratefully to wait out the angry tumult.
She said, “There are exceptions, you will be pleased to note. We will not destroy major monuments like the Statue of Liberty, the Lincoln Memorial. We will also preserve important stained-glass windows and religious art.”
Following the applause, she went on. “We realize this is a shock.”
“It was a shock to us when we first saw its necessity,” admitted Richard. “First, most of you are aware, especially our government, and more know first hand that America’s infrastructure—the roads and bridges that were laid out years ago—is in serious need of repair or replacement. Some estimates are in the billions. That financial burden will not now exist. Ground transportation will consist of over-head lines that will carry fast solar powered trams between communities and their satellite communes. Transatlantic travel will return to sail.”
A lovely older woman, her hair expensively coiffed, who just happened to be seated next to the southern senator, stood and asked in a similar drawl. What do you intend to do with the thousands of cemeteries where our forbears and loved ones lie, and the soldiers who gave their lives for this country?
Anne responded kindly, “Not one grave will be touched, only the stones and vaults removed. As the graves of elephants who’ve lived a hundred years are not marked, neither should ours be, although we carry their memories with us always.”
Richard had added two words to his scribble: MUSEUMS, THEATERS? Anne nodded enthusiastically. “We shall preserve our culture, our heritage and our genius. Therefore, the museums devoted to art or nature, like the Smithsonian, will remain, as will theatres, opera houses, symphony halls.”
“About the Pentagon and the military bases around the country. General May, our chief of Security, will deal with them. It was one of his predecessors who said that a nation armed is a nation preparing for war, and that is not the society we seek to build.”
Eyes turned to the tall old soldier seated with his willowy chief of staff, both smiling, but could not see the tight grasp between their hands, testifying to Clark’s nerves.
A small mild-looking man stood. What about golf courses? It’s all us old timers live for, a game anyone can enjoy. It employs lots of people, and best of all it gives the wives a whole day off.
This induced a welcome laugh and Richard said, “I like golf, too, but one of our greatest challenges will be clean drinking water. Just one golf course uses as much water as 80 homes use in a year, and most of it evaporates. Golf courses require gas and oil and machinery and fertilizers and alien plants. We shall replant the forests that golf courses have eradicated.
“We realize that some of you will not or cannot abide by these drastic changes to your lives. On the short term, you may emigrate to another country. If you are willing to wait, Richard has spoken with Dr. Edgar Mitchell, the astronaut, and other NASA scientists. They assure us that we can produce space vehicles capable of carrying hundreds and then thousands to temporary shelters on our moon. They are already searching the galaxies for planets which can sustain life as we know it. When one is found, you will be transported there and begin colonizing.”
Richard again. “Most of the structures we shall remove rest on concrete. Under each square inch—not square mile, square foot, but square inch of that concrete—once lived hundreds of species; worms, grubs, insects, micro-organisms, each struggling to exist. And we killed them. Not in anger, not even intentionally, just carelessly. Me first. No longer. Now it’s earth first.”
An elder lady stood. Our beautiful parks and gardens . . . what harm are they?
Richard wailed. “Oh, ma’am, you’ve just spoiled our punch-line!” Scattered laughter from the stands. “We will not touch one square inch of our glorious parks. In fact, we will restore them to their original designs and remove only the buildings, monuments, sports fields and roadways that were added later. The parks are some of man’s finest and most welcome artistic contribution to the planet.”
Anne jumped up with Richard’s parks as a springboard. “Article Two, the natural world. Who’s for restoring it?”
The mob in the stands cheered and, watching tables being noisily set for lunch inside the dome, the delegates raised their hands, some slowly, and Anne banged the gavel.
“Thank you. Now before moving on, we’ll break for lunch.”
Predictably, the male delegates shot up and shoved toward the doors of the dome.
Something bothered Richard and he brought it up with Anne. “Golf courses,” he said. There are so many of them. I’m wondering.”
“You said absolutely not. What?”
“How much harm could, say, one of them outside each city—community? And we could make the fairways smaller, like the ones in Scotland. They wouldn’t take much water that way. Make a lot of golfers happy.”
“Plus a lot of wives.”
“Article Three!’ called Anne for the third time to get attention from the talking, laughing, swaying delegates standing by their chairs. She leaned closer to the mikes and they reluctantly—that woman is so rude—resumed their seats.
“Thank you. Article Three. Occupations. How will the members of the new American Society spend their time? Before the Industrial Revolution most people lived on farms and villages. Today it’s a paltry few. Losing touch with the earth has produced weak, bloated, sick bodies and minds, in turn producing a huge drug industry. You’ve visited the Amwell commune. Every member, every day, spends time outdoors; working in the gardens, planting trees, making paths, exploring the natural world.” She turned from the podium and sat beside Richard as a tall, bronze man shambled awkwardly to the rostrum and spoke slowly.
A famous man whose verse was revered
And whose fist was most feared.