We march across a broken nation. dum dum dum Our stomping like a drum's lament. dum dum dum We shout our slogans, always loud. dum dum dum The words are heard, always proud. dum dum dum We are unstoppable, with no opposition. dum dum dum We are legion, of one opinion.
I'm curious though, because … doesn't anyone else here think we sound a little … um, how do I say this … well:
dum dum dum
A few weeks ago I didn't know much about them. I was walking out of the doctor's office when I met them. I didn't see them at first, blinded as I was by impotent anger, which I hope helps explain my behavior in front of them. If I had seen them, I am certain I would have acted a bit more calm and collected, perhaps closed the door with a bit more refinement. Do you know what I mean? When you close the door so slow that all you hear is the sound of the bolt as it clicks back in to place. Even after harsh words are said, especially after in fact, one should leave with a little quiet dignity. Instead I … I shouted.
“I know it's dangerous doc!” I slammed the door shut, feeling a little satisfaction at the window pane's rattle. “That's why I - !” And that was exactly when I saw them, reflected in the window pane, carrying their signs. Men and women, mothers and fathers by a quick guess at their ages, the helicopter parent generation. Nervous in front of their focused stares I tried again, “That's why … .” I got even less of it out that time. When I turned to face them directly I went for a harmless smile, not really expecting any response, hoping to sidle away as quickly as my feet could carry me.
Their leader, a tiny old man carrying the largest signboard among them, beamed back at me, “Hullo!” His accent was bland and professional, not from around here. He stomped his extraordinarily large feet, one dum then the other dum as he turned to his fellows. “Everyone, cheer! We have happened across a comrade at our station, here outside the den of the beast itself, one like us who knows the truth. So cheer! Cheer!” Only a few did at first, short whoops of excitement, then more joined in with cries of jubilation, and the rest started clapping and hollering and making a ruckus. All I'm saying is that it wasn't the typical reaction one would expect after shouting like a fool and slamming a door shut.
Made a bit self-conscious by all this noise directed at me, I ran a hand through my thinning hair with a grin that had gotten bigger without my noticing, “I do? Yeah, I guess I know a thing or two, and it sure is something that you're right there with me, but just so we're on the exact same page here … to what truth are you referring?” Their leader only smiled warmly and flipped his thumb to the many signs above and behind him that I hadn't bothered to read, one or two held in the hands of each protester. Their message was a actually quite clear now that I did.
Tell The Truth! No More Lies! Protect Our Children! It's Our Choice! Stop The Hoax! Stop The Poison! Vaccines Poisoned My Children! Immunization Causes Sickness! Vaccines Cause Autism!
We stood there, the protesters and I silent as I read their many signs and they read me. I had to stand on my tiptoes and crane my neck a little to see a few in the back, but eventually there was none left to read. So we all continued to stand and stare at each other, me frozen in my spot and they starting to look bored, for what felt like an eternity.
Finally my savior from embarrassment arrived, their preferred target, a busy woman and her school-age child. The crowd turned from me in a wave and started shouting their slogans at her, surrounding her as she pushed her way through to the front door of the clinic I had just exited. All except the little old man, who took me aside.
“As you can see sir, we're doing the Lord's work here.”
“I'm not particularly religious.” I didn't want him to have any false ideas about me after all.
He laughed, “Neither are most of the bunch gathered here today, but we all serve the cause of truth so we all get along. So did you have any,” he looked positively hopeful as he said it, “children who died of their poison?”
“Also I don't have any children.”
He ribbed me hard in the gut, “Just like me then! Smelly little hellions the lot of them, men like us have better things to do. Ever been in a protest before? We could always use more strong believers.”
“Once, back in my younger days. We had a lot to protest back then.”
“Excellent, you've got more experience than some of us started with!” He whipped out a tiny flip-phone, “What's your number? We meet here and then walk to the Gardens at least once a week, more if possible, and occasionally we travel to one of the bigger protests being put on for the media circus. Coffee duty is rotated equally among us and - .”
“Excuse me but I actually don't - .”
He didn't give me a chance to finish, “Don't have a sign? Not a problem, we can whip one up for you.” He shifted closer and spoke under his breath, “If you wanna be on the TV we can make it something real inflammatory; we could really use the attention but none of this bunch are mad enough.” He moved back again and smacked my arm in a friendly manner, “But you, you've got passion! The way you walked out of that snake's den was inspirational!”
“Yeah! I only wish I had your fire! I mean, walking in to the lair of the beast and speaking the truth to the Dark One incarnate takes balls the size of grapefruit!”
“Well, but I had to. You see I'm going on this trip for work and I need to get an immunization for a passport stamp, no way out of it … but in the end, I couldn't go though with it.”
“Ooh, tough situation, stuck between government sheep and the dark Shepard, tricky tricky.” He sent a commiserating look my way and pulled me close again to whisper, “I've heard of a few guys that got passports stamped without giving in to the great hoax, but I didn't hear how. I'll call around for you.”
“Stamped without getting shots? Is that really possible?”
He nodded, “There is always a path to walk in the light.”
“That's exactly what I need! You would do that for me? Why help me?”
“The louder our voices, the more that will hear the truth. We need a fearless guy like you, someone who can shout in the face of evil like you did just now. We'd be proud to have you.”
“All you want me to do is come and hold a sign?”
“Hold it, shout it, preach it, teach it. Anything to get the message across.”
“I guess I could do that – once a week you said?”
“Ha! Once you've had a taste of it, you'll be begging for more.”
I couldn't tell him that he had made a mistake, I needed that passport stamp. But from there matters only escalated. Every time he called to give the time of the next protest I couldn't find it within myself to say no, or just not show up, until there I was shouting with the best of them with a sign that read God Hates Doctors. I didn't actually know, to tell you the truth, if God hated doctors or not, but by then those people were the only friends I had. Other friends deserted or shunned me, they didn't understand. They feared the truth I had learned to tell. My life became an endless cycle of sleep, eat and shout until I could shout no more. I became a warrior for the cause of truth.
And to think, it was all because I was afraid.
If you look back to that doctor's office, it all started simple enough. I came in for my immunizations appointment, the nurse took my information, and then the same doc I'd had for ten years came in and looked at me.
“Ready for this?”
“Ready or not doc, I have to get these.” My arm's shaking a little but I hold it still with the other. “Maybe I could get a muscle relaxant, or that stuff that puts you to sleep at the dentist's office, or you could – holy cow that's a big needle!”
He finishes filling the giant thing, I swear it's a caulk gun, then tries to grin like it's no big deal, “I need you awake, alert and completely still. And really, this is small compared to some of the needles I use. If you would only hold still I could start the first set.” He waits, but my arm is only shaking more now.
“I can't doc! Did you say the first set?!”
“You were informed there would be three sets.”
“Three!” I'm losing control completely of the shaking arm, it's twitching and writhing like a trapped snake. “Just put them all in one syringe and get it done with the first time!”
“We can't do that. Now please hold still and - .”
“Well I can't do that! Give me a pill to swallow, a patch to wear, eye drops even, as long as it isn't a needle!”
“You have to calm down!”
“No!” I stand, my arm shaking less for every step I take away from that massive gleaming needle. “I can't do this. I need to get outside. I need some air.” I leave his office and start walking blindly through the clinic, trying to find the exit. He walks out after me, menacing me with the needle from hell, the staff and waiting patients staring at us as we pass.
“Don't be a baby, it's only a needle. You have to tell yourself that, it's only a tiny needle, and it's far more dangerous to travel without getting your immunizations.”
“Yeah I know that!” I open the front door, my face red and my eyes burning, shouting now, “I know it's dangerous doc!” I slam the door, now talking to myself more than him, “That's why I - .” And I see them all, but in my head I'm thinking to myself, That's why I was able to come here at all, even with my trypanophobia. Knowing the danger was the only reason I could be brave enough to walk in the door. But in the end this fear always wins the day.