But what about free-speech?
One dark and moonless night in July, a black-ops helicopter landed in my back yard. Huge and sinister, the noise of its rotors was incredibly loud and it scared the living bejesus out me.
So. They’ve finally come for me, I realized. My tweets and blog comments about the American president had not gone unnoticed, and as several heavily-armed men in very dark navy-blue suits emerged from the unmarked chopper, I bade farewell to my wife and dog and rushed to open the back door before they could kick it in. No sense in giving myself (or my marital successor) unnecessary repair jobs on top of everything else.
I quickly realized that opening the door might have been both a big mistake and a little premature, as the chopper’s searchlight instantly frazzled my retina into a hopefully temporary state of blindness and I heard the unmistakable sounds of automatic weapons being cocked and readied to fire. “Oh my Lord! Is this how it all ends?” It’s all coming true from that last prophetic entry in my high school yearbook: ‘Kevin E. Buckley, the student voted most likely to die in a hail of machine-gun fire while caught criticizing — from the comfort of his armchair, mind you — another country’s deplorable and vindictive leader.’ Why didn’t I just keep my big mouth shut and allow the Americans to carry on along the dark toll-road of their dubious destiny, spiralling ever downwards like a doomed submarine towards the inevitable point of no return, that terrible implosion event that the Russians had planned out since the rigging of the last US election?
I shouted out defiantly to the very dark navy-blue suited figures.
“For pity’s sake! Are you going to shoot an unarmed scribbler just because he said a few perceptive, but possibly unkind, words about your commander-in-chief? And furthermore, do you guys even have jurisdiction in Canada? If you don’t, then you’ll never take me alive! If you do, then please don’t clamp those zip-ties on too tightly because they’ve been known to cut off the circulation in my wrists and play havoc with the arthritis of my two typing fingers.”
Thoughts of the Osama bin Laden raid came rushing through my head (which, as an aside and in my humble opinion, was Obama’s very worst moment in office) and I remembered that the SEAL team didn’t mess around on that occasion as they had purportedly dumped the terrorist leader’s hopefully lifeless body into the dark depths of the Indian Ocean. Fortunately, I live a long, long ways from any ocean, but this observation did little to console me in my hour of need.
It’s then I noticed, that in the panic of the moment and the glare of the searchlight, I had mistakenly and somewhat sexistly, if not misogynistically, assumed that the dark-clad figures were male (and, before I get the usual death-threats and hate-mail, I extend my heartfelt apologies to all of the women of the world — past, present and future — and to all of the females of the five inner planets of the Solar System, if such females truly exist, so help me God and hope to die, amen). That foolish gender assumption may have turned out to be a mortal mistake on my part as I finally put two and two together and realized exactly who it was I was dealing with.
“Slash and Burn Reviews, I presume?”
‘You better believe it, English boy!” came the terse response from the loudspeaker attached to the underside of the chopper. “We prefer to call it SLANBUREV . . . or SABR is pretty cool without making too much of a giant fuss about it all. But Slash and Burn Reviews is our officially registered business name.”
“If you don’t mind, I’m gonna run with SABR,” I provided, in a vain attempt to ingratiate myself and postpone the inevitable moment of reckoning. “Anyway, I hope you ladies are aware that there are no oceans around here, whatsoever.”
“Perhaps not, you jackass Brit! But we have to cross one of the USA’s five fresh-water-wonders-of-the-world to get back to our US base of operations. Now don’t you give us any trouble, Blighty-writer-boy, and get in the helicopter. We’re all going for a little joy-ride over Lake Michigan.”
“Is this about my UK spelling? If so, I solemnly promise I will change the language settings on my Microsoft Word™ program this very second and instantly adopt the foolishly infantile and wholly incorrect phonetic spellings that you Americans continue to use on a daily basis, simply because Teddy Roosevelt — while simultaneously shooting a Cape buffalo — thought it was a good idea to Americanize the Queen’s English.”
The darkly-clothed women advanced with weapons drawn and I knew that at that very moment I had better pull something out of the bag pretty quickly if I was to survive this encounter with the SABR Einsatzgruppen.
“If it’s not the spelling thing then this has to be about that ‘gratuitous felinophobic slur’ that you ladies brought up in the book-review?”
“You better believe it, you Limey Schweinehund!”
“But I had that phrase taken out of the book . . . at great expense, I might add. Nobody loves kitties more than me. It was a slip of the pen. I just thought that ‘fat cat of the ginger variety’ was a perfectly appropriate descriptive term to portray the present White House incumbent.”
“It doesn’t matter,” said the one woman, whom I assumed was the book-commandos’ leader. “The very fact that you thought it, is plenty enough reason for you to go for a nice, long, refreshing swim.”
It was all getting terribly out of control and, as a wave of raw fear enveloped my trembling body, I seriously regretted my feline faux pas.
“So you’re condemning me for my thoughts now?” I fired out in a last-ditch attempt at redemption.
“Did you use some form of abstract symbolism to think those thoughts? Did you use multi-dimensional holographic emojis to think those thoughts? Did you use indecipherable memories of a Hiawasca-induced psychedelic diversion to think those thoughts? Did you apply a mutated form of alpha-numeric communication to think those thoughts?” asked the leader, as one of her subordinates, with well-practised ease, slipped a pair of pre-coupled zip-ties over my wrists.
“I’m not exactly sure what you mean by that . . . .”
“No! You used words to think those thoughts,” screamed the leader, cutting me off in mid-stream as I struggled to comprehend the thrust of her disturbingly eloquent interrogation. “Well guess what. We are the Word Police, buster! And you . . . well you are in big, big trouble.”
“But what about free-speech?” I implored her, trying to appeal to that much-vaunted American sense of fair-play. “The right to say whatever I like in an allegedly free and democratic society?”
As my eyesight slowly returned to some semblance of normality, it was a stirring spectacle to see so many darkly-clad warrior women in the middle of my backyard on a dark and moonless night in July, in the stark glare of a helicopter searchlight, laughing loudly and in unison at the same absurdly naïve joke.