An Inflammatory Issue: Abortion

Words have the power to kill.  You are responsible for what you say, and also how you say it.  I say this now, to make clear something that I hope you already recognize; I choose my words thoughtfully.  So when I choose to write on an issue such as this, I hope you will trust me to present it without malice or self-righteousness.  With that being said, let’s proceed.

Abortion is an inflammatory issue.  For those strictly opposed, it is government sanctioned murder.  For those who support it as a policy, it meets a tragic need for women in tragic circumstances, and to support it is to have compassion for their plight and to defend their freedom as individuals with reproductive rights.  People on both sides will show their fangs when challenged.  They will speak so passionately that they spit on your face.  Their conviction for the cause is undeniable.  To challenge them takes a good deal of courage or a good deal of ignorance.  Maybe this is why I don’t hear it discussed very often.  And when it is discussed, it explodes into a momentary firestorm leaving the room charred and the people gasping for air.  Maybe we should think about why that is.

My challenge today is not for the legal system.  It is not aimed at politicians.  It is not even aimed at a group of people.  My challenge is for you.  I challenge you to consider the reasons for your position.  And I challenge your moral foundations.

(Most of my information comes from the Guttmacher Institute website, which one could safely label as pro-choice.  I have also compared these statistics with other seemingly reliable internet sources.  I’m not trying to fool anyone with faulty statistics.  If anything, these numbers are conservative since most come from 2005 or before.)

“The number of legal abortions performed between 1973 and 2005 is over 45,000,000”

“In 2005,  1, 210,000 abortions were performed.”

“Women in their twenties account for more than half of all abortions; women aged 20–24 obtain 33% of all abortions, and women aged 25-29 obtain 24%”

“Thirty-seven percent of women obtaining abortions identify as Protestant and 28% as Catholic.”

“About 61% of abortions are obtained by women who have one or more children.”

“The reasons women give for having an abortion underscore their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life. Three-fourths of women cite concern for or responsibility to other individuals; three-fourths say they cannot afford a child; three-fourths say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents; and half say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner.”

Let me now state the obvious.  I’m a twenty-four year old man who will never give birth.  I don’t face the same challenges as pregnant women in undesirable situations.  But, and oh boy is there a lot riding on this, I am a citizen of this country, and the human race.  This means that it matters to me and to the rest of society where I stand on this issue.  In case you disagree, or don’t see where I’m coming from, let me elaborate in my defense.  The decisions each of us make affect those close to us.  Our choices influence others.  When you expand this to encompass an entire society, you have to see that each individual plays a role in shaping how that society functions.   So, because my life influences the people I care about, and because all of our lives influence society as a whole, it really does matter what we base our morality on.  Each individual shares in this.  It matters where I stand on the issue of abortion.  It matters where you stand.  Our moral decisions directly affect us as individuals, and they also impact the larger body.  Remember, people were the reason abortion was once illegal in this country.  And people are the reason it is now legal.  It matters what the people think.  Your moral foundation matters. (But what if you believe in the ultimate freedom of the individual and stand firmly against any kind of imposed morality?   My answer is, you are ultimately responsible for yourself, but you are fooling yourself if you think that you can exist alongside other people without being influenced by them.  My point is that your moral foundation matters because it shapes you, and since society is made up of moral individuals, each individual must recognize their own shaping influence within the larger body.)    This is the connection between the issue of abortion and you and me.

When I take a stand on this issue, it really does matter.  When I look at the statistics that show nearly fifty million abortions in three decades, I can’t help but get emotional.  Before I consider the reasons, I consider the massive loss of life.  Wherever you stand on the start of life issue, you must at least accept that the thing that is aborted, if left untouched, would have been born a human.  It would have had a chance at life.  It’s interesting that so many who are passionately pro- choice are also passionately against the death penalty.  And so many who are passionately pro-life are also passionately for the death penalty.  They must be standing on different moral foundations.

A chance at life.  How far does society go to give people a chance at life?  How precious is this life that we share?  Look at how nuts everyone went over this health care issue.  People want to live, and they want to live long and well.  So when I read that a significant percentage of abortions occur due to inconvenient circumstances, I have to ask if you believe it to be justified?  If you are taking the potential life of another human being, you absolutely need to have a good reason.  If two climbers were hanging by one rope, and it suddenly became clear that it could not support both of them, it would be an impossibly difficult, yet entirely justified decision to sacrifice one so that the other could live.  What percentage of abortions come as a result of the mother’s health needs?  What percentage do you think is high enough to justify the country’s current policy which provides for abortions in less noble situations?

I have heard it said more than once that if abortions were made illegal, women would still have them, and in those circumstances it would be much less safe.  Undoubtedly, both points are true.  And this presents a problem for the one who is against the policy.  Do you remain true to your pro-life position even in the face of this harsh reality?  Honestly, yes.  Let me explain.  If you believe that abortion is killing in the first place, you have difficulties supporting it under any circumstances.  Supporting a policy that makes it more culturally acceptable and more readily available is condoning the spilling of innocent blood.  When the cost is weighed, it is more desirable to preserve the lives of the unborn by opposing the policy, than sacrifice them for the benefits of its preservation.

Abortion results in deep trauma for many women.  It follows them the rest of their lives.  The choice, no matter how apparently justified, was theirs.  They live with that choice.  I don’t understand this reality of pain.  How could I?  So please, don’t turn aside from what I’m saying because I don’t understand.  I admit it, I don’t understand.  But I do understand the value of life.  And I do understand my own heart.  And I understand my moral foundation.  I do not support this right to abort because I view the choice as morally untenable.  That demands an explanation.

The decision in Roe V Wade found that the Constitution allowed for the right to privacy in the case of women choosing to have an abortion.   The court decided that a fetus was not a person under the Constitution.   This made it legal nationwide for women to have abortions.  The court decided that unborn children did not have the same right to life as protected in the fourteenth amendment.  This means, women have the right to choose because unborn children do not have the rights of those who are born.  If fetuses were recognized as living people, women would not have this right because it would infringe upon the other’s right to life.  So, you can see why I oppose this decision, and why I believe the basis of this free choice is false.  The unborn child has a right to life.  Perhaps you could boil it all down to this.  The unborn human has a right to life.

What I will leave you with is this thought.  If you are a supporter of this nation’s abortion policy, I hope you believe in your position wholeheartedly.  The population of Boston is about 650,000.  Even if you multiply it 60 times, it still falls short of the number of legal abortions performed in the last three decades.  That is a very high number.  It would take a strong foundation of reason and morality to support such a number.

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The Door Holder’s Inner Conflict

There is much to consider when holding a door open for someone.  Do I wait a few seconds until they get here?  Do I walk faster as to avoid the awkward waiting period?  Do I treat a woman any differently than a man?  So many questions, and so many doors to walk through.  But don’t worry, I have some solid advice.

1) Err on the side of consideration.

If you have to choose between the awkward waiting period and closing the door in someone’s face, go with the awkwardness. In most cases the person will appreciate the gesture.  Even if they don’t seem to care, you can still feel good about making a small sacrifice in the name of helping a fellow human.

2) In general, treat men and women equally.  But go the extra distance if you’re a man holding the door for a woman.

Usually, you can treat the door holding as an equal opportunity event.  Admittedly, I feel a little funny waiting for a guy more than three seconds.  For this reason, I say wait longer for a lady.  How long?  Probably between three and six seconds in most cases.  If you’re really trying to score some points, you may hold out a full ten.  But that’s pretty desperate if you ask me.

3) Hold the door differently for different people.

Someone in a wheelchair?  Hold the door from the back as to leave the path clear.  This also applies to the elderly and younger children;  anyone who might have trouble supporting the weight of a swinging door.

A man?  Hold the door open until they have a hand on it.  You can either stand in front of the door and walk through when they get there, or you can hold the door after you have walked through.  Either way, there is no need to stand behind the door.

A woman?  You can treat her the same as a man, but it is also acceptable to stand behind the door, clearing a path.  This does indicate a higher level of consideration, and also a level of special treatment.  It is possible for a woman to be offended by this act of consideration.  I know one of my friends was torn out by a girl for treating her in such a fashion.  How awful!  But, as the first rule states, err on the side of consideration.  Even if she might be a raging feminist.

4) Rejoice over the smallest forms of appreciation.

As Mike Antonellis puts it, I don’t need a “thank you” or a “thanks”; I would be happy with a “ksss”.  That’s the right kind of attitude.  Many people aren’t going to respond to your door holding with a full blown “Thanks for holding the door for me!”.  Some will give you the nod.  Some with give you a second of eye contact.  Some will act as if you don’t exist.  That’s fine.  Remember, you’re holding a door.  You’re not saving them from a burning building.

5) Treat others the way you’d like to be treated.

The Golden Rule also applies here.  You like it when someone holds the door for you (probably).  Don’t you want to give them the same treatment?  We live in a society.  Good manners and consideration for the needs of others is a critical part of everyday life.

Now get out there!  Do some good.

A Common Heart: Part Six + Conclusion

Six


Sam led Ben to the cherry tree. They stood beneath its leafless branches while a frigid breeze stole warmth from their skin. There was silence for many minutes. Ben stared at the tree, but his focus was elsewhere.

“What is it you wish to reveal to me, Mr. Franklin?” Sam finally asked. This was followed by another awful silence. “Are you well, sir?”

“Do you believe in God?” Ben asked. Sam was caught off guard.

“I believe in God.”

“Do you believe in his son?” Ben asked, coldly.

“Yes, I do.” Sam replied.

“And who can blame you? I do not. I envy simple people like you. And it is the simplicity of it all that prevents me from accepting any of it.”

“But, why should something so important be difficult to understand?” Sam asked. Ben removed his left hand from his pocket.

“When they ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, God made every effort to keep them from the Tree of Life. He feared what they would become. Why would God fear a man?”

“It was not fear, but compassion. It was love. If they had obtained eternal life in such a fallen and corrupt state…”

The void denied him any more words. It denied him any more breath. It denied him any more warmth. Ben’s hand smothered Sam’s mouth, which almost instantly caused it to become devoid of any moisture. This effect spread throughout Sam’s body. Ben closed his eyes to avoid the terror, and instead focused on the incredible life energy that flowed into his being. Clearly, this young man had much to live for.

When the flow of energy ceased, Ben opened his eyes to see the gray corpse of Sam Joy fall to the ground. He held up his newly strengthened hands. The dark mark on his left hand was gone. The void had its fill.

Ben rolled up his sleeves and felt his revitalized skin and muscles. He then ran his fingers through his hair, which had become thicker. After that, he jumped into the air, which he had not been able to do for many years. Finally, he felt his pulse. His heart beat slow and strong. He felt no guilt. He was far beyond guilt.

From a distance, Ben heard George Washington’s cry. He had hoped to make an escape, but neglected to notice that George could see everything from the window in his office.

“What did you do? This is an abomination!” George raged. He did not need to check for Sam’s vital signs. He knew death.

“I did what all men want to do.” Ben said with conviction. “It’s deep in the race to desire life.”

“You killed a boy! He was going to be married tomorrow. This is a monstrosity. No form of vengeance would satisfy the cry for justice here. You deserve more than death.” George pulled out a dagger.

“I would not do that General. He was surely a decent man, but only decent. You and I make up the Minority of the Gifted. We must take more because we give more.”

“His wife…how could this be allowed to happen? Damn you! This man was greater than you.” George took a step closer. Ben smiled.

“Perhaps, you are not as great as they say, Mr. President!”

Ben sprinted at George, who did not have the reaction speed to make a timely thrust. Ben simultaneously gained possession of the dagger and knocked the wind out of George with his elbow. Unable to breathe, George could not regain his composure before Ben grabbed both of his arms to drag him near the cherry tree.

The dagger pierced George’s hand, and the full width of the tree. George cried out in agony.

“I did not expect it to go all the way through. I cannot imagine the pain, but I want to say some things before I kill you.” Ben began to pace. “First of all, know that I did not want anyone to die today. Death is merely a consequence of a simple desire to live. Oh, do not try to remove that. You could not possibly tear it from there. You may be wondering how I was able to accomplish any of this. An old friend came to me and offered some secret knowledge regarding the nature of life and death. Only a fool would turn from the path of life and knowledge. You see, I am getting quite old, or was, I should say. What accomplishments can a dead man achieve? What influence does a dead man have?”

A soul melting shriek stabbed Ben’s ears. Turning to the source of the sound, he caught the image of a woman running toward Sam’s body. Although he had never laid eyes on her, Ben knew that this woman was named Rose. He felt his heart through his chest.

“Sam…Sam…Sam.” Rose collapsed over his body. She did not consider the two other men.

Ben began a slow march in her direction. His pulse intensified with every step.

George pulled at the dagger with his free hand, but to no avail. He considered the horror of witnessing the murder of his friend’s love, and it overrode the tremendous physical pain he felt. At all costs, he had to stop him. Pulling again, with all of his strength, he slid his wounded hand down the blade until it stopped at the base. With the effort of both hands, he tore the dagger from the tree.

Ben was now standing over the woman and her fallen love. His entire body pulsated with every heartbeat. He knew this woman had to die.

George held the dagger in a striking position.

Rose looked up into Ben’s eyes. At that moment, he fell to his knees, dead from within.

George dropped the dagger. The woman gazed into his eyes, and neither of them said a word as the sun set on the horizon.

 

Seven

 

George climbed into bed, long after Martha. He spent most evenings sitting alone in quiet reflection. Martha often tried to speak with him regarding the events of that day, but he always turned her away. She understood that time can sometimes be the only cure for matters of the heart, but she also understood that it can help the process by opening up to someone else.

“George, I want you to know that I love you. We do not say it often, but I wanted to tell you.” George turned to his wife.

“I love you too, Martha. I wish…I want to tell you what happened.”

“It is time, I think.” Martha said. George sat up.

“I have already told you about Ben’s dark arts, so there is no need to discuss that awful matter further. What I have not told you is what caused Ben’s death. When I held that poor woman in my arms, she told me that Ben died the instant their eyes met. I have not been able to make sense of this.” George said. Martha sat up with him.

“You told me once that Ben somehow stole the boy’s life force. Imagine that, George. Ben had that boy’s life inside of him. That boy’s heart lived in Ben’s heart, if Ben even had a heart left at that time. He must have been crying out to her from in there. Seeing her eyes must have been too much. I am no authority, but I want to believe that God let that boy go free because the pain was too much to bear.”

“I loved him as a son, Martha.” Rare tears streamed down his face.

“And you have witnessed the power of love. You have seen love conquer death. It must be a comfort to know that the spirit is real, and does in fact live on. There is much we do not understand George, but there is much that we know.”

“Someone once told me that my heart shines with a greater light than my own. Martha, what do you think he meant?”

“Who told you that?” Martha asked.

“An old friend, I believe.”

 

 

 

A Common Heart: Part Five

Five

George ended the day’s business early as a birthday gift for Sam. His wedding would take place the following morning. Before sending the young man home, George sat him down to share a few words on the subject of marriage. As they talked, neither of them expected a visitor.

“It is common for a man to be so distracted by his own nerves and expectations that he passes through his wedding day without any appreciation or reflection. The day will take care of itself. You would do well to focus on your wife,” George told Sam.

“Thank you George, but I cannot make any promises when it comes to my nerves. I have always been a nervous man when it matters.”

“I understand my boy. I remember the excitement and terror of my wedding day as well. A man cannot help but feel that he is dying to himself when he binds himself to his wife. You no longer live for yourself. But, take comfort in your wife tomorrow, Sam.”

A series of knocks came at the door of George’s office. George motioned for Sam to remain seated.

“Most likely Adams with some extra business, I suppose. That man knows only how to work.” The moment he turned the knob, Ben shoved himself through the door, as if he were trying to escape a pack of wolves. Sam immediately stood up out of an impulse to be courteous. “Ben, what trouble are you living through in these days? No one has been able to reach you since you abruptly left the meeting.”

Sam noticed that Ben was breathing heavily. He also noted that Ben’s gaze remained fixed on the floor, even during conversation.

“I have become a different sort of creature. I feel condemned and cursed, but with no hope for redemption.” Ben said.

“How can you be in such a state? Have you committed some unspeakable act against humanity?” George asked. Ben made sure his left hand remained out of sight.

“I am an old man. I do not claim that my life was exemplary before, but I have allowed something powerful to take hold of me. I do not know if you can help me George, but I feel that you are my last hope.” Ben paced around the room.

“Sam, perhaps you should make the trip home now. We will have an opportunity to speak tomorrow, before the occasion.” George said. Ben turned from the ground to Sam.

“Oh, what is the occasion? What does this boy have to look toward?” Ben asked.

“It is my wedding day, sir. We are going to be married at Heaven’s Light Church, down the street.” George put a hand on Sam’s shoulder.

Ben licked his lips. He was hungry.

“That is good for an old man to hear. Why not tell me about this young lady. I need to be reminded of certain things.” Ben said. He took a seat.

“Ben, why not let Sam go on his way, and we can try to work out your problem together?” George asked.

“I feel better already. Sam will cheer me up with his happy story. Please son, tell me why you are going to be married.”

Sam told Ben the story of how he met Rose on the bridge. George stood at the corner of the room with his arms folded. He watched Ben intently, noticing his eyes widen when Sam’s emotions poured out through his words. He could not pinpoint anything, but something was amiss. Ben had changed his entire demeanor over the course of a few months, but the cause of such a shift remained a mystery.

“What a wonderful story! I feel lighter just having heard you now. Tell me, would it be intrusive of me to attend tomorrow’s ceremony?” Ben asked.

“Ben, it is their day. Your celebrity may distract others from the real focus.” George said. But that was not his chief reason for raising an objection.

“Oh, it is not a problem. Mr. Franklin, we would be honored to have you as our guest. Besides, our president is going to be in attendance anyway.” Sam said.

“George, you have revealed yourself to be somewhat of a hypocrite. Thank you Sam, I am honored by your kindness. You have done more for me than you know. Say, would you be interested in learning about something I have only recently discovered?”

“Are you saying that I will be the first to know about one of your discoveries?” Sam asked.

“Yes, the very first my lad. Mr. President, you will not be offended if I exclude you from this lesson?” Ben asked. George took a seat in the chair behind his desk.

“He must get home soon, but if this is your idea of a wedding present, how can I object? But, we never addressed the reason you came here. Ben, are you sure you are alright?”

“Good company and conversation has always served to heal me. Sam, come with me. Before the sun sets, we will take a look at a tree.” Ben said while rising from the seat. George felt uneasy seeing them exit the room together. Feeling an impulse, George called out to Sam.

“Sam! Please come here a moment.” Sam came back into the room. “Sam, please…I feel something is wrong. Your wedding is tomorrow. You can tell him, no.”

Sam smiled. These past months, he had had the privilege of not only working with one of the greatest men in America, but also sharing a meaningful friendship with him. This great man would undoubtedly claim a place of honor in the books of history. He would become more than a man, and with good cause. Seeing how much George Washington cared for him, filled Sam’s heart to the brim with gladness.

“I see this emptiness in his eyes, and my heart goes out to him. It is our duty to help the poor in spirit.” Sam said.

“I will see you tomorrow?” George asked.

“Only if you show up.”

A Common Heart: Part Four

Four

 

 

“This meeting will now come to order! We, the Freemasons, have gathered as brothers to discuss many important matters. We have with us tonight, President Washington and Ben Franklin, who continue to be at the forefront of this important process. Please help me to welcome them both to the podium!” The Freemasons erupted with applause as their most famous members made their way to the front of the hall. Ben kept his left hand deep within the pocket of his vest.

Once the applause wore down, the men exchanged some quick words.

“You should speak first Mr. President. They will be expecting it.” Ben said.

“If you would like to go first Ben, I have no objection.”

“It is an honor simply to share the stage.” With that, Ben took a seat.

“I would like to first ask that you join me in recognizing Benjamin Franklin for his past diplomatic works in France, and for the way he has embodied every good and right aspect of this enlightened American ideal.” Everyone stood up from their chairs and clapped. “He is a true American and an example for us all.” George waited for silence before continuing. “In my first two months in office I have witnessed firsthand the promise that our new government has to offer. Countless difficulties have threatened our young nation, but we have had strength to meet every challenge. I acknowledge that this new government has been created on a foundation of reason. I also acknowledge that this system is not perfect because men are not perfect beings. That being said, it is not the government that will carry this country into a future of prosperity, but the citizens who work and live in this land. The common man and his family are the only hope for this nation. If the government forgets this vital truth, America will fall, just as great nations of the past. We must have faith that the heart of the common man can support the weight of our society.”

The hall broke out in deafening applause. Ben remained still. When George offered him the stage, Ben smiled exposing all of his teeth. Only after Ben stood at the podium did the Freemasons in attendance begin to settle.

“Well spoken Mr. President. He is absolutely correct to view the common man as the life blood of this society. The common man lives, works, and dies for the greater good of his country.” A man in the front row loosened his collar. “That being said, this country also depends on men of greatness. America must continue to be a land that allows the few outstanding individuals to rise above the rest in order to lead us through times of trial. I see before me great men of promise and purpose. I see men destined to rise higher than their common brethren. This is a truth that will ensure the safety of all. The strong are meant to carry the weak. The young are meant to care for the old. If this country prevents the brightest lights among us from shining through the darkness of common ignorance, we will be blinded from within. Consider for a moment the witch hunts of our past. Blind faith of the masses is dangerous when the reasonable and the strong do nothing. We must lift up those with superior sight so that the individuals walking below will know the right path to travel. Fellow Freemasons, we have been gifted with sight!”

This speech was followed with the standard applause, but not all in attendance joined in approval. George put his hands together in the name of etiquette. He watched Ben press his hand to his chest and take a few deep breaths.

The Master of Ceremonies returned to the podium.

“Great words from great men. Our country is in good hands. Thank you both for the honor. Now, I would like to propose a small challenge to President Washington and Mr. Franklin.” Shouts of approval rang around the hall. “We have gathered three true stories from this region. I will tell you most of the story, but you must complete it. How well do you know your countrymen? Do you both accept?”

“I accept this challenge, good man.” Ben said.

“An honest effort is all I can offer.” George said.

“Good. Please stand on either side of the podium. I ask that all of you remain silent as to ensure the validity of the game. Good. Let us begin. A young man of sixteen stole his father’s only pen to write a love letter to a much older woman of thirty-four. Before the letter was sent, the boy’s mother found it. Finish the story gentlemen. Mr. President, please answer first.”

“Perhaps the mother found the letter and suspected her husband guilty, but eventually the boy admitted his actions, redeeming his father.” Ben struggled to hold back laughter. “What do you think Mr. Franklin?”

“Sixteen from thirty-four is eighteen. The mother was a good age for giving birth. Her son wrote the letter to her. I would say we have a young Oedipus.”

“Impressive. Mr. Franklin is absolutely correct. And, from what I hear, the boy has very good taste.” George did not join in on the laughter between Ben and the Master of Ceremonies. “On to the next story, gentlemen. A widower had twin sons. When he realized that his health was slipping away, he decided to turn his property over to one of them. They both had large families of their own and had an equal claim to the inheritance. Adam Jr. wrote a formal letter to his father, but Daniel made no effort to obtain his father’s property. Mr. Franklin, what do you think?”

“Well, I must say this is more difficult than the first. The formal letter may indicate that he does not share a close bond with his father. On the other hand, no effort may mean that the other son has an even more severed connection. I will say that the father wished to offer his inheritance to Daniel, but before it could be finalized, Adam took it for himself.”

“I am sorry Mr. Franklin, but that is not quite how it happened. You have missed a key point. Mr. President, would you please attempt an answer?” asked the Master of Ceremonies.

“Perhaps there is something about the names. Adam has his father’s name. I will say that he gave his property to Daniel, but only because his wife named and favored him.”

“Excellent, Mr. President, that is correct. His wife had hoped for a girl, and she had planned to name her Danielle. This is quite a game, gentlemen. Now, for the final story. There were two young lovers. The young man proposed to the young woman and she accepted. Days before the wedding, the woman nearly died in a fire. Her face and much of her body were burned to the degree of deep scaring. The young man could barely recognize her.”

“He left her.” Ben said.

“He married her.” George said.

“You’re both wrong. This woman was known by many to be the most beautiful they had ever laid eyes on. When the young man saw what she had become, he was filled with despair. They found him on the day of his wedding, dead, with a recently fired musket at his side. Such a sad story but let us not dwell on it long. Tonight is for good company and good food.” The Master of Ceremonies waved toward the back of the room and over a dozen servants came forward with sparkling silver platters. They marched around the long tables, placing the elements of the feast on top of the white table cloth. “May your conversations be as well seasoned as the food.”

The Freemasons seated themselves at the long tables. Before Ben could take his seat, the Master of Ceremonies put a hand on his shoulder and spoke to the assembly once again.

“Mr. Franklin, before we eat would you please say a prayer over the food?”

Ben, forgetting himself, grabbed the man with his left hand, and for a moment the Master of Ceremonies felt his life force diminish in the form of an intense chill. After releasing the man, Ben turned to his shocked brothers.

“What? What is it?” Ben took a few steps away from them. “This is a free country, is it not? I will not do it!”

George stood up from his seat.

“Ben, what is wrong? We are your brothers.”

Ben’s wild hair now covered most of his face. Without a response, he stormed out of the hall. George rushed over to the Master of Ceremonies, who still felt the chill of death.

“What happened?” George asked.

“I have not the heart.”

 

 

A Common Heart: Part Three

 

Three

 

Martha had assured him that he looked perfectly admirable in his presidential clothing, but George felt naked as he rode through Philadelphia, toward the new capitol. Citizens cheered, “President Washington”, from their windows. Not one voice of dissent caught his ears, but he could not help but believe that a good number of Americans disliked him and the position, which could surely be compared to that of a king. His father had always told him that, “if you stand for anything worth any value, always expect people to stand against you.”

Standing on the steps of the capitol, John Adams and the rest of the men holding office prepared to welcome their president. Some of them clapped while George dismounted, but Adams, always reserved, simply smiled with his armed crossed. They took turns shaking hands with their leader, who made it a personal goal to come to know each of them by name and character.

“Hello, young gentleman. I do not believe we have met,” George said.

“Oh no sir, I would have remembered such a meeting. My name is Sam Joy, and I will be serving as your personal assistant while you work here in the capitol.” The young man did not notice that he had been shaking George’s hand for nearly half of a minute.

“You have a firm grip my lad. It is a pleasure to meet you, Sam.” George towered over his young assistant, but Sam felt like he was standing eye to eye with the man who had obtained near mythical status after the Revolution. He understood at that moment that George Washington may be the rare kind of man that lives up to his own image.

Throughout the course of the day, George spoke with his staff about how they envisioned their positions. Each man was more than qualified to meet the necessary responsibilities of his post, but they demanded a clear vision for the job. George assured them that their new system would develop over time as fresh needs demanded attention. Toward the final minutes of this first day, George brought Sam into his office to discuss some very important matters.

“Sit down Sam. I tried out that chair earlier and I think you will find it quite comfortable.” George did not sit in his large, prestigious desk chair, but instead chose to sit next to his assistant. “How did you find this first day?”

“I…I found it to be quite satisfactory Mr. President.”

“Sam, I am honored by your respect, but for this time outside of the world of politics and titles, let us talk as the men that we are.” Sam smiled and nodded his head.

“I feel blessed to be here…George?” George winked to Sam’s relief. “To be at this place and at this time is hard to put into words. I have the privilege of working next to men of greatness. We are at the cusp of forming a new nation with such promise…such promise. And you are more than they said you were.”

“Ah, well they say much about me. But, I see this spark in you Sam. A man with such excitement for the promise of tomorrow must have something of promise in his own life.” George said.

“For most of my, well, short life, I had no hope for a female companion because they never took an interest in me. I am aware that my looks and status are not desirable to most women, and this truth followed me as a curse for quite some time.”

“Nonsense, you are a sharp and handsome lad!” George said with vigor.

“Thank you for your kindness. The reason I sit before you with this “spark” as you say is that Heaven saw fit to introduce me to a woman who somehow saw me and understood me immediately. We met on a morning last May. I often rise early to walk during the early hours of the day because I feel as if I am home at that time. The softness of the light and the calm as the world slowly wakes into life again is something of a comfort to my soul. Fortunately for me, another found the same source of comfort.” Sam’s eyes drifted around the room as he envisioned the scene of that first meeting. George listened with an ever increasing interest.

“I stood alone on the same wooden bridge that I had stood on for years, following the leaves pass by in the stream. I remember closing my eyes,” Sam closed his eyes, “and praying the same prayer I had prayed for years. Father, please guide my steps as I walk through this day. I see the good things that you have made, and I am thankful to know that they come from your hands. From the bottom of my heart I ask that you find me a match, a companion, to share this world with, in all of its beauty.” Sam opened his eyes to see George leaning forward in his chair.

“And your prayer was immediately answered.” George said.

“You see, I was not alone when I said that prayer. She had walked up behind me and looked out at the stream from the other side of the bridge. When I turned to go, I saw her standing there.” At that moment one of the staff members walked into the room.

“Mr. President, I would like to ask you something if you have a moment,” the man said. George sighed.

“I am talking about some important business with Sam here. Is it something of great importance you wish to ask me, Paul?”

“No sir. We, the staff, would simply like to know if you need us for anything before day’s end.”

“Oh, I do not believe we have anything further to accomplish today. You and the men worked very well today.” George said.

“Thank you, Mr. President. I look forward to tomorrow.” Paul exited the room and the men were once again free to speak openly.

“Sam, please continue. What is her name? Is she pretty?”

“Her name is Rose, and very much so. We walked together that morning for two hours. By the time we reached her house, I felt as if I had known her as long as I had known myself. And, the following morning we met on the same bridge once again. Now, we are set to be married next month.”

“What a blessing indeed this is. I would love to meet the woman someday.” George said.

“I am confident you will. She will be coming here for the wedding since we will be married in the church just down the street.”

“Wonderful. I am glad to know that your heart is well nourished, Sam. Lord knows we need men of your kind if this country is going to survive its infancy.” George arose from his seat to stand next to the large window behind his desk.

“What is it like, this responsibility of being President George Washington?” Sam asked with a hint of caution.

“I think we will find out together.”

George looked out at a broad field with a solitary cherry tree growing out of the center. Hopelessly standing against the fading light of the setting sun, its long shadow spread across the grass, reaching toward the capitol.

 

 

A Common Heart: Part Two

Two

 

The old man fed off of passion and youth. His eyes digested the curvaceous bodies, feasting with futility to satisfy an endless hunger. A dozen hands moved over him with the singular purpose of pleasing a fragile body, which had long passed its days intended for such fleshly delights. Each girl found herself hopelessly attracted to the man who had made himself into the very image of success in this world.

In the midst of this unnatural scene, Benjamin Franklin felt his ancient heart beating within his chest. He began to consider the days, months, and years that it had maintained this rhythm without ever stopping in need of rest. All of his organs were the victims of time, but he believed, had always believed, that his heart would let out first.

“You’re tense Ben,” said one of the girls.

“What’s wrong?” asked another.

“How I wish I could retain the spark of youth. Look at you ladies. All fruits, ripe for the picking and you’re being mixed with an old rotten apple with one too many bruises,” Ben said.

“Some things improve with age, Ben.”

“You don’t think we’re here because we can’t have a younger man I hope. We’ve had them and they’re not worth the effort. You’re Ben Franklin, a man in a world of boys.”

He squeezed the woman who said these last words, and she let out a playful cry for help. The other girls joined in on the excitement. In this way, Ben Franklin passed the next three hours. When the young girls collapsed from exhaustion, he remained awake, just outside of the mound of humanity.

“Ben,” whispered a nameless voice. “Ben. Benjamin Franklin. America’s son. America’s hero. America’s hope.”

He forced himself off of the floor with some difficulty. His clothes were scattered, so he wrapped a white sheet around his body and began to search for the source of the voice.

“Who’s there? I demand you reveal yourself,” Ben said.

“Why, don’t you recognize my voice? I’ve spoken to you many times before tonight.” By the end of this statement, the specter materialized into the form of Franklin’s greatest acquaintance, Voltaire.

“How can this be? How can I deny the evidence before my eyes?” Ben readjusted his bifocals.

“You must not deny me Benjamin.” Voltaire hovered toward the open door which Ben had entered through. “Oh my, what lovely girls I see. If only I could smell their sweetness or feel their warmth a single time. If only I still had life in me.” He spoke, as if to himself. “If only sight could satisfy.”

“Are you who you appear to be, specter?” Ben asked. Voltaire looked away from the girls with much pain, and began a slow approach.

“I lived a life of reason and peace. What justice is there in this existence? This living death is beyond the comprehension of your mind. Believe in what I was because I am nothing.”

“Why have you come?” Voltaire was now close enough for Ben to see that his eyes were those of a corpse, with no light to govern their actions.

“I have uncovered many secrets of this world. I have found paths that mortal men cannot walk and cannot find. Recently, I discovered something of so great a power that it challenges the very laws of creation.” Voltaire lifted his right palm.

“What is this devilry? Tell me, why does that mark steal the warmth from me?”

“It is the gateway to immortality, and I have come to offer it freely.”