September 15

International Day of Democracy


“I know many of you were worried after the cities fell, after governments collapsed.  Disaster and sickness claimed so many of our best people.

“A huge responsibility fell to us as survivors.  There aren’t enough of us left.  We have to work together — it’s the only way.

“I’m pleased to announce that I’ve been elected as your new leader.  The democratic process is always the best, because it gives each of you a say about how we move forward in these difficult times.

“I’ve heard you loud and clear.  Your unanimous support has made me very proud.”

Unanimous?  But you know you hadn’t voted for him.

Looking around the auditorium, you suspect a good number of others in the small crowd hadn’t voted for him either.

His competitors, at least, would have cast a vote for themselves — so the election outcome would never be completely unanimous.  And where are the other candidates?  Now that the town’s population has dwindled to less than a hundred survivors, it’s always obvious when people go missing.

You try to recall the conditions on election day.  The whole process had been improvised, taking place in this same middle school auditorium.  People wrote their choices on slips of paper and put them in a slotted cardboard box.  Everything seemed legitimate at the time.  Now you can’t remember if you’d written your name on the slip of paper.  You wonder if there was anything distinctive about your handwriting that could identify your ballot.

You recall the  volunteer who watched carefully as you pressed your vote into the cardboard box.  He offered a knowing smile, and a wink that didn’t seem to have an air of menace in it.

That volunteer now stands on the raised platform, to the left of your newly elected leader.  A matching guard, similarly armed with a semi-automatic weapon, stands to the right.

The guards pat their weapons — a signal to the auditorium crowd as the leader concludes his self-inauguration speech.

Everyone applauds.  You join them.