Last week I covered three stories from Divided we Fall, an anthology published shortly before the 2020 election in which various conservative authors predict a dystopian America governed by Joe Biden. One detail that wasn’t immediately obvious from the first quarter of the book is that all of the stories in Divided we Fall share a single timeline: a specific event established by one writer, like Trump being torn apart by a mob of left-wingers in the very first story, may be referred to by other writers.
Whether this concept necessarily improves the project is open to debate – but if nothing else, it at least explains why the stories have already started to get rather repetitive. But anyway, here are the next three tales in the anthology…
“Delenda Est” by Leigh Smith
Here’s where the book’s shared setting comes into play. The previous story, William Dietrich’s “Dangerous Words”, was about a marine who found out that 1) conservative officers were being spirited away by the government so that the marines could be weaponised against Republicans, and 2) that his estranged father Ash McAlister was part of a resistance effort. With “Delenda Est” Leigh Smith goes over the same plot, this time from the perspective of the father.
The story introduces us to Ash and new family (we learn that even his 11-year-old son Bobby “knew things were bad and getting worse, and had been ever since Democrats had swept into office and begun dismantling the Bill of Rights almost immediately”) who receive a visit from a government agent. The man informs Ash that, although retired from the marines, he’s being reactivated and may see his family torn apart should he decline:
I…I wouldn’t recommend you challenge these orders. Beside the problem of a court martial for desertion, there might be…repercussions for your…wife and children. Issues requiring the intervention of, say, Child Protective Services, especially if you have…firearms or other weapons in the house…” His voice trailed off as Ash felt his face going to stone at the implied threat.
“[I]f I don’t report as ordered,” concludes Ash, “they’ll be back with Child Protective Services and court orders to take Bobbi and Bina away, probably to have them thoroughly indoctrinated in whatever bilgewater they’re teaching in the public schools these days.” The protagonist’s hatred of the school system, incidentally, allows the story to return to the pandemic-as-Democrat-hoax narrative from earlier in the volume: “Ash and his wife Nascha had elected to homeschool their children after several of their teachers had begun teaching ‘history’ that was anything but accurate. The debacle of the school year closed during the COVID ‘pandemic’ had only solidified their decision.”
“Delenda Est” develops the wider background narrative a little, establishing that militia groups are forming in the wake of police defunding, and also hits on the fairly interesting idea of making the local Native American reservation (Ash’s wife being Apache) a haven from the tentacles of the federal government. But by and large, it remains a retread of the previous story in the book, even using some of the same dialogue via a telephone conversation between the two stories’ protagonists.
“A Country Boy Can Survive” by Julian Thompson
Here we have an attempt at comic relief. The main characters, a Louisiana family, are overwhelmingly conservative and so dislike Joe Biden (“No one liked Biden”), Kamala Harris (“they liked the Ugandan Warrior even less”) and Bernie Sanders (“That asshole was dumber than Biden If anything, even crazier”). The family has a black sheep, however: Sandy, sister of narrator Wesley, has spent time in California and come back a Bernie-loving, gun-hating, vegan-food-chomping, BLM-supporting Democrat. This paragraph summarises the character interactions:
Talk turned to politics. The consensus was that our governor was a stupid SOB, the sheriff was busting some of the right people, and Trump was doing a good job. If he’d tell the Saudis to quit this oil shit, he’d be even better. Sandy came out of the house and joined the conversation, praising the governor and Biden. That led to laughs, and knee pad and pee pad jokes. Then she tried to talk about BLM to some of the old farm hands and oil field hands I worked with, which led to more laughter and the use of words that shocked her.
One morning, Wesley heads to his job at an oil company, only to learn that the incoming Biden administration is preparing executive orders to drastically limit new drilling for oil – here, at least, we see a story incorporating one of Biden’s actual campaign pledges into its vision of the near future.
Meanwhile, Sandy has been up to no good. She has friends in high (or low?) places, including her boyfriend Jon Riceman. During the course of the story, Wesley somehow manages to describe a telephone conversation between the two that neither he nor any of his relatives had heard:
“Sweet Jon, I miss you so much. These people are archaic. They don’t understand that we need to help everyone be safe. Take away their guns to prevent gun violence, give our Black brothers reparations, and stop teaching white superiority.” Jon told her not to worry, things were being done about the election. The best minds had determined how to handle voting problems. Thing were being done. That made her feel better; Jon knew important people. Of course, we didn’t hear it at the time.
Using her position as a social worker, Sandy then begins snooping around people’s houses and taking photos of their guns. Apparently, she’s also been sending surveys to parents “asking if the kids are attracted to other boys or girls… going down to second graders, even”. Then Joe Biden is inaugurated:
Finally, inauguration day rolled around. I’d been watching some of the coverage about riots by conservatives, except nothing was burning. They’d even cleaned up after themselves. Now that wasn’t what you saw on TV, but I had science fiction writer friends who were deep into sticking it to the man. The Democrats were the man now. So I’d get videos that showed the truth of what was going on—before it was ‘disappeared.’ I was told it looked like the Chinese were cleaning it off the internet. Whether that was official or unofficial was unknown, but the best Chinese hackers were always with the government.
The story runs through some of the occurrences established previously in the book: the gutting of police funding, bans on assault weapons, and Donald Trump being torn apart by a leftist mob (something not mentioned since the first story). Finally, the villain of the piece puts in an appearance:
Three days later, Jon Riceman showed up, with a group of twenty Hispanics from California. They spoke so little English, it was unreal. Black uniforms with a double S emblem on the side, for ‘Special Services.’ I heard they were going all over the country from the science fiction friends I could get in touch with.
Fortunately, Wesley and his family are prepared. As the family butchers a deer on their front porch, the visitoing antagonists – being Californian sissies – start vomiting so uncontrollably that they’re unable to take anyone’s guns. Slapstick hilarity ensues when Sandy arrives:
She attempted to enter the house, but Darlynne said, “You ain’t welcome, bitch,” and pushed her out the door, where she slipped in the deer blood and fell into the gut tub. She screamed and farted so big when she hit that it outstank the punctured guts.
Riceman points his (unloaded) gun at Darlynne, leading to more of the same:
Darlynne took her steel-toed rubber boot and kicked him in the crotch. He folded over, and she met his nose with her knee. He collapsed, bleeding profusely and clutching his groin. He then farted almost as loudly as Sandy had, and almost as bad.
Jon Riceman and company are set packing. There are still challenges ahead, however, and the story ends with the main characters mulling over their future:
Lane said, “Well, the shit has hit the fan in a lot of the south. They’re trying to roll over the citizens. I took an oath to the Constitution as a soldier, and that oath didn’t have an expiration date. The question is, what’s next?”
I clasped Lane on the shoulder and said, “Have you ever heard of weaponized autism?”
Contrary to what Goodreads says, I don’t believe that this story was written by a respected British military historian.
“The Standard” by Lea Valencia Noring
A number of stories in the anthology so far have mentioned the police being defunded, but this is the first to focus specifically on the boys in blue being hamstrung by the machinations of Joe Biden. It’s also another comedy piece, as this chunk of backstory makes clear:
…Witherington had been on CNN and Fox News for being the site of the Great Mime Protests in the summer of 2020. Several hundred mimes had gathered in Witherington in the Oak Square Mall parking lot—some conservative, some liberal—and faced off in total silence, gesturing wildly at each other for hours. Reporters had narrated the event in whispers, since no noise was allowed. The Empathy City Task Force had been so impressed with the spectacle that they quickly chose Witherington to represent Georgia and to set a statewide example for a culture of empathy.
Protagonist Luke is a police officer who has been forced to attend an empathy-training programme with the slogan “Get Vulnerable”. The antagonist of the story is, once again, a social worker: named Janet, she comes out with lines like “We don’t always like it when we are asked to evolve to a higher place, do we?” and “I actually have more empathy than you could ever imagine” and is tasked with ensuring that the police meet the National Empathy Standard.
This involves reciting an expanded version of the Miranda Rights when making an arrest, one including such passages as “I am here to enforce the law, but I am also here to feel your pain, to understand your experience, and to consider how things look through your eyes.” Unless this is recited with total accuracy, the arrest will not stand up in court. In enforcing this new rule, Janet is representing a chain of command that – needless to say – goes all the way up to President Biden:
“This is crazy,” Luke said. “Was she appointed directly by President Biden or something? Is she untouchable?”
“Well, that’s not far from the truth, Luke, if you really want to know. The Empathy City Force is a subgroup of the big NES Committee, and Biden and all his big guns are on it. Seven senators are on it. The Empathy City stuff came straight from them. The order to use social workers to get their work done came straight from them.”
Just to amplify its farcical premise, the story establishes that under the new rules, suspects will likewise be required to show empathy towards the officer arresting them. The climax has Luke struggling to remember the expanded Miranda Warning while trying to arrest a shoplifter; both cop and robber end up laughing at Janet, as she’s left “feeling the foundations of her secular religion cracking and disintegrating under her feet in Georgia’s Empathy City.”
Any honest attempt to satirise present debates over policing will need to confront the central accusations of racism and brutality. “The Standard” sidesteps these issues by inventing a setting where neither exists. Racism is unconvincingly hand-waved when the story establishes that Luke, whose father was from Lebanon, has experienced a degree of racial prejudice, “but as is the case in all Southern small towns, differences were eventually accepted and regarded as endearing eccentricities. And it helped that he didn’t necessarily look like an Arab”. As for excessive force, well, the Witherington police are as laid-back a band of coppers as you’d expect to find in a town where the only threats to the peace are protesting mimes and a single bungling shoplifter. The murder of George Floyd may as well have occurred on another planet.
Once social issues are eliminated from a fictional setting, any attempt to fix them will look at best foolish, at worst dystopian – particularly when carried out by an individual as heavily caricatured as Janet.
Oh, and apparently, “Between all the rumors about COVID-19 vaccines and the widespread concern about police racial bias, a police officer’s job had become, well…weird.”
I’m now halfway through Divided we Fall. Join me next time for still more predictions of Democrat-dominated dystopia…