Lit Up
Published in

Lit Up

4th of July

Gotfredson and Honeycutt sipped their lemonade. It was a real scorcher, and the lemonade was a perfect balance of sweet and sour and cool and crisp, biting and caressing the tongue just so. Gotfredson’s fiance had made the pitcher, and she had a gift for lemonade.

Gotfredson had invited Honeycutt over to sit on his porch and beat the summer heat with a glass of liquid sunshine and some wholesome American conversation. He was having a get-together the following Sunday to celebrate his recent engagement, and he’d wanted to invite his old friend Honeycutt personally. It was the 4th of July.

They sat in deck chairs and watched over the lake across the street. There would be fireworks later. The lake was crowded with party boats all blasting pop music.

The two men had their political differences, which you’ll see in a moment, but they agreed on many issues such as gun control (generally not a good thing, especially in an oligarchy), the bullshit distractions of identity politics, and limitation of government power. Still, Gotfredson was a MAGA-hat-wearing Trump supporter, and Honeycutt was a Bernie bro who’d held his nose and voted for Hillary. But as we’re about to see, a fiery debate will be sparked upon Gotfredson’s flippant remark about the recent retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

“Buh bye swing vote,” said Gotfredson. “My boy is going to get three SCOTUS picks in his term.”

“Yep, country is completely corporate owned now,” said Honeycutt without thinking. He took an awkward sip of his lemonade, immediately regretting his remark.

Gotfredson let out a sputtering of laughter that sprayed lemonade all over the banister in front of them. A fountain of lemonade emitted from between his puckered lips as he stifled a huge belly laugh.

“Jesus, dude, come on,” he said when he’d gathered himself, using the sleeve of his shirt to wipe his face.

He laughed some more. Honeycutt glared and decided to forage ahead anyway.

“Every decision is going to come down on business’s side now,” he said. “Workers, including you and I, are completely fucked in the long term. Just cause I agree with you on the idiocy of the left doesn’t mean I think the dipshit Republicans are any better.”

“We should avoid this discussion until you have some time to gather yourself,” said Gotfredson, trying to avoid the conversation entirely, but Honeycutt was miffed. He pressed on.

“The only difference is the Republicans are honest about selling us out,” Honeycutt declared, lemonade glass clenched in his fist. “Relatively honest. But I’m not even mad, man.”

Gotfredson laughed again. He loved arguing and winning and pissing off libtards. Not that Honeycutt was a libtard.

“This is what I’ve always thought,” Honeycutt said, raising his voice over Gotfredson’s guffawing. “I usually just keep it to myself.”

“Even if it were true, and it’s not,” Gotfredson said. “I trust a corporation a million times more than a bunch of fucking communists.”

“Agreed,” said Honeycutt. “But that’s like saying I’d rather be eaten by a tiger instead of a pack of wolves. I’d rather just not be eaten.”

“Somehow, I think it’ll be just fine,” said Gotfredson. “Your mind is still stuck in the ‘Democrats are the party of the workin’ man’ and that shit is dead and has been for 25 years, dude. I will gladly watch SCOTUS bust unions into dust.”

“No, I’m not,” countered Honeycutt. “No one’s on our side. There hasn’t been a cohesive labor movement in decades. But I hope you’re right about it being fine. I really do. I’d rather be wrong on this.”

“Why would there be a LABOR movement, dude?” said Gotfredson, getting a tad louder. “That movement won and there’s more laws protecting workers than ever in history. The Republican Party is essentially a populist party now, and that’s a fact. A few dozen old fucks dying and being primaried is all that’s left.”

“There were,” said Honeycutt, pretending he hadn’t heard his old friend refer to the Trump Republicans as ‘populist’. “They’re being taken away piece by piece which sucks because this whole country was founded on not letting some super-rich dude rule the working class from afar with no representation.”

Gotfredson shook his head and took a great interest in a blade of grass some fifty feet away. He didn’t speak.

“Again, I hope you’re right,” said Honeycutt. “Cause the left has absolutely lost it’s fucking mind and there’s no cavalry coming. I still love you, brother.”

“WHAT’S BEING TAKEN AWAY, MAN!?” Gotfredson exploded. “What rights have you lost? Seriously?”

“I want to freely move from job to job without having to worry about health care,” said Honeycutt, ticking the items off on his fingers. “I want work/life balance without having to beg for it. I want to be able to have actual freedom to do the things I want to do without having to depend on some titan of business who considers me a number on a data file. I want the average person to be able to support themselves working a full time job, regardless of what it is.”

Gotfredson shook his head, stared into his lemonade.

“You’re upset about something you’re not even certain of, man.”

“I’m not upset, dude,” protested Honeycutt. “I know you don’t just want me agreeing with you every time you say something. What fun is that?”

“All I see is a bunch of Obama-era horseshit making it easier to sue businesses being reversed as policy, not laws. Them’s the brakes of an overly powerful executive branch.”

“This has been going on since way before Obama, man,” said Honeycutt. “Obama actually did make it worse in some ways, but the left didn’t care cause ‘Woo hoo, black president’!”

“We live in the most worker-friendly country in the world,” maintained Gotfredson. “When judging by ACTUAL reality on the metric of ‘how badly can we sue’ and ‘how many extra taxes do we take away to pay for socialist horseshit?’ If people want better jobs they can go get them — “

“Not true at all,” said Honeycutt but Gotfredson bowled him over.

“This is the most litigious society that’s ever existed, people sue their employers for millions of dollars for shit they do themselves due to their own negligence, man. I think you’re overreacting to this.”

“I’m telling you, man, and you know I love you,” said Honeycutt. “But just like the country couldn’t go on half slave and half free, it can’t go on with .01 percent taking almost everything and 99.9 percent fighting over what’s left. It’ll either get fixed or it’ll turn into a dictatorship. It’ll swing one way or the other. And whatever party takes power from those cocksuckers is fine with me. I don’t care which side it comes from so long as it happens. That’s why I’ve supported both Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders in different elections. And I’m talking about the inequality of bargaining power between employers and employees. Not saying I want a bunch of fucking corrupt socialist unions running things either, but there’s gotta be a balance, man.”

“Ok, dude,” said Gotfredson, shutting his eyes against his friend’s ignorance. “What ‘bargaining power’ do they need? Like seriously, what mistreatment are you thinking exists? Because I don’t see it. Like at all. Anywhere. Ever. And I never have, even when I was at the bottom. I spent most of my life unskilled dragging the bottom and I was never treated like indentured or made to do unsafe shit because I made shit pay because I wasn’t worth any more and because I was unmotivated and unskilled. Like, this is not industrial revolution worker life here, man. Literally tell me what bargaining power you want. I’m honestly, really, REALLY confused about all that.”

He chuckled again, but it sounded more like a cough than a chuckle.

“I believe you about you being at the bottom,” said Honeycutt, who had heard his friend’s respect-inducing tribulations about his struggles in poverty many times before. “But that doesn’t change my point about society being this unequal and thinking it can go on indefinitely.”

“How unequal? For real, I get that there’s a wealthy elite that are really REALLY wealthy but dude as far as the world goes you’re in that group and I don’t see you volunteering to live on the street.”

“Oh, man, no,” said Honeycutt, nearly spilling his lemonade. “You’re saying Jeff Bezos and I have equal power? We’re in the same group? That statistic only emphasizes how bad it’s gotten. If a dude renting a one bedroom apartment is on the same technical level as the richest guy on the planet than it’s even worse than I thought.”

Gotfredson nodded grimly.

“Compared to the entirety of the world’s population, you’re in the same category, dude. The .01%”

“But then think about the difference between me and Bezos,” said Honeycutt. “It’s oceanic.”

“And? And what? So half his wealth. Makes no difference. Then you’ll be mad about THAT difference.”

“You don’t think it’s fucked up? From a democratic standpoint? That he can buy anyone or anything he wants regardless of ethics or justice?”

“So half it again,” said Gotfredson, quite sure of himself. “And again and again and again and again. Where do you stop? And ‘democratic standpoint’? Dude, I’ve been telling you for over a year: democracy is a joke. People aren’t equal.”

“All I’m saying is, wealth shouldn’t be able to buy the public square,” insisted Honeycutt, trying to appeal to Gotfredson’s logic. “Me and him SHOULD be equal before the law, but because he can pay for better lawyers or bribes or whatever, we wouldn’t be. Let alone comparing him to someone from Cambodia.”

“He can buy anything. So what? I’m going to live my life jealous of a yacht?”

“It’s not jealousy,” said Honeycutt, shaking his head. “That’s a cop out.”

“Until we turn the world over to robots, people will be running shit,” said Gotfredson. “People are vulnerable to wanting things. Your butt-buddy Bernie Sanders made a million plus dollars. There’s your principles laid bare. The biggest socialist in the country is rich as fuck. And he wants you to make the same amount of money as a gutter-dwelling sack of shit.”

“Compared to the actual corporate overloads, Sanders is worth pocket change,” deflected Honeycutt. “Besides, I almost believe he’s controlled opposition now, the way he rolled over for Clinton. And he’s worth maybe a couple million, tops. Irrelevant.”

Honeycutt wasn’t getting it. Gotfredson busted out the big guns.

“You know why Bezos and Musk and Gates are so wealthy? Because they’re more driven and dedicated to success than you or I could even imagine. In what way you would care to limit people’s success? And calling it jealousy isn’t a cop out. It’s literally what it sounds like from stem to stern.”

This tired old argument nearly sent Honeycutt into hysterics, but he squeezed his eyes shut and rubbed the bridge of his nose and kept his cool.

“My point is, it doesn’t matter how driven someone is. They don’t get to tell or force the rest of us to live a certain way for their convenience. Same way the government can’t.”

“Sure they can,” chuckled Gotfredson.

“You believe what you want, man,” said Honeycutt. “But I’ll never trust those fuckers, just like I’ll never trust a politician.”

“Wait, I forgot,” said Gotfredson, holding his hands out as if to ask a crowd for quiet. “We love democracy, apparently. So New York and California actually get to tell us what to do instead of a bunch of rich people.”

“Both sides are long gone,” said Honeycutt. “Picking one or the other isn’t the answer. And you know that’s not what I said.”

“I’ll take rich people over communists, again,” said Gotfredson, adamant. “You can’t actually avoid being told what to do, dude. Like, there’s not going to be a utopia where you get to steal things from anyone who hits a wealth plateau and ALSO let people act however they want to make them happy. The difference between the government telling me to do something and a rich guy telling me to do something is that I can quit my job. The government comes and kills me.”

“Unless the rich guy gets so rich he buys the government and changes the rules to where you have to work for him or starve,” said Honeycutt, quietly.

“Because that’s what’s happening,” snorted Gotfredson.

“Look at ISPs,” said Honeycutt, getting loud again. “Where’s the choice there? I get a fucking mail message from AT&T saying, ‘Thanks for choosing us’. It’s like, I didn’t fucking choose you. My apartment complex that I pay for said, ‘Take AT&T or don’t have Internet’, which is impossible today. And even if I did have a choice there’s only two real fucking choices anyway. That isn’t capitalism, it isn’t a free market.”

Gotfredson shook his head and sighed.

“Dude, you’re fantasizing scenarios of these tycoons conspiring and like, trying to kill people for fun.”

“It is happening, man,” said Honeycutt. “And there’s the divide. You think it’s a choice between a rich dude and a psycho communist government. I’m saying I’d rather find a way that doesn’t involve having to make that choice. Wouldn’t you rather have that?”

“No,” said Gotfredson flatly. “Because the world you’re theorizing is just communism.”

He threw his hands up and shrugged.

“You’re either free, and people will inevitably manage to get rich, or you’re not and you’re the property of the government.”

“I don’t think it is,” said Honeycutt. “Just because no one’s thought of it yet doesn’t mean they won’t.”

“It doesn’t mean they will, either,” said Gotfredson. “Human nature doesn’t change. It never has. The only thing that changes is us lying to ourselves about it.”

“Well, let’s just end it now, then,” said Honeycutt, glaring and staring out at the lake where pontoon boats and jet skiiers went about their holiday merriment, drifting and drinking and waiting for the sun to finish setting so the fireworks could start. “What are we waiting for?”

“End what?” said Gotfredson, gesturing at their surroundings. “Shit is good. There’s more worldwide wealth distributed amongst a greater number of people than at any time in history. Sure, that kind of wealth has generated hyper-rich people, but which ones have gone apeshit and started killing people?”

He paused.

“Other than the Clintons,” he said, and chuckled some more.

The two of them sat there.

“It’s hard for me to have this argument and not take it to the mud, man,” Gotfredson said after a second.

“I see that,” said Honeycutt, maybe harsher than he meant to. “But I think this mindset is just as flawed as someone thinking the Democrats will save them.”

Gotfredson looked at his friend incredulously.

“I’m not implying rich people are saving anyone,” he said. “I want to live in a world where I can take care of myself and people who don’t can fuck off into an early grave and not drag me down with them. If that world gives rise to hyper-wealthy elites then so be it.”

“You don’t seem to think those hyper-wealthy elites will do whatever it takes to hold onto their power, either, including ruin your life.”

“I’ll do whatever it takes to hold onto mine,” said Gotfredson. “Why wouldn’t they for theirs? You seem to think there’s only one option once you pass a certain wealth plateau, and that’s EVIL.”

“I do,” said Honeycutt. “And that’s what it is. It corrupts you. I’ve spent time around these people. It’s like they’re not even human.”

Gotfredson chuckled again. Honeycutt was in radio, and he had done a number of interviews over the years with a few regionally powerful CEOs. He didn’t really know anything about those people, but Gotfredson liked him too much to call him out on it.

Instead he just chuckled and said, “Ok.”

“They are cold, dude,” continued Honeycutt. “They would exterminate you and me and a Cambodian orphan if it ever came to it. Actually, they’d pay the government to do it for them and then laugh while everyone blames the government. As if the government just does shit on its own without outside influence.”

“Dude, you’re out to lunch on this,” said Gotfredson. “You actually chastise me for joking about wanting leftists dead and you just dehumanized an entire group of people based on arbitrary amounts of money and not actual ideology.”

“The amount of money IS the ideology,” insisted Honeycutt.

Gotfredson laughed really hard at that, which irritated Honeycutt to no end.

“And I didn’t say they deserved to die,” said Honeycutt. “Not once.”

“Yeah, they’re ‘not human’,” brayed Gotfredson, making air quotes. “They’ll ‘kill people for fun.’ Yeah, okay, man. Sounds like they deserve to live.”

“That’s not saying throw ’em out a helicopter,” exclaimed Honeycutt. “They’ll kill people if it ever appears they’ll lose their power.”

“Well, just being wealthy doesn’t make you any less human than being a scumbag poor person.”

“Yeah, but no one cares about the poor person.”

“Oh, I do,” said Gotfredson.

“They don’t have any broad influence.”

“Because Millennials would have me paying their fucking way until I’m one of them,” said Gotfredson, getting heated at the thought. “And they do have broad influence or the fucking Democratic Party wouldn’t exist. Without the promise of the ‘Gibs me dats’ on the backs of people with actual fucking motivation, a Democrat never would’ve been elected.”

He kept going, ramping up.

“You wanna talk about inhuman scum, how’s about people without the motivation to go get a fucking job who would bust into your home and take things you worked for just because they’re jealous as shit? Eerily similar to socialism, except you can’t actually defend yourself from the socialist policy that’s robbing you.”

Honeycutt shook his head.

“We’re not going to agree, man,” he said. “We agree on a lot, but not on this.”

Gotfredson kept ranting, finger in the air.

“Rhetoric like that — garbage ‘Muh late stage capitalism’ junk is exactly what gave rise to the radicalized right wing everyone is so panicked about now. You think people just randomly started wanting to kill communists? No. Listening to people talk that way pretty much led most people on the far right to say, ‘Fuck it, let’s start killing these cocks before they can poison our society any more with their filth.’ That kind of thinking is what led to the the Bolshevik revolution that ‘cleansed’ the privileged from society. Shit, I’d rather just kill thieves and degenerates than smart motivated people who accumulate wealth, but hey, I’m a bigot who doesn’t want dicks swinging around little girls in the bathroom.”

He finished, heaved a breath, and took a flask out of his pocket and dumped it into his lemonade. After a second, he dumped some in Honeycutt’s, too.

Honeycutt sighed and accepted the booze.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” said Gotfredson, noting his friend’s sigh. “Are the hyper-wealthy lazy or dumb or…?”

“That’s not the issue,” said Honeycutt. “The hyper-wealthy are greedy and ruthless.”

“I’m out, dude,” said Gotfredson, throwing his hands up in disbelief for the third or fourth time, managing to balance his beverage without spilling it while doing so. “I’m actually shocked at this conversation and your lack of common sense.”

“It is what it is, man,” said Honeycutt. He sipped his spiked lemonade, and he smiled as a thought occurred to him. “Although, wealthy people can totally be lazy and dumb.”

“Yeah, super common,” said Gotfredson, rolling his eyes so hard they almost popped out of his skull. “It’s the easiest way to succeed, being lazy and dumb.”

“Well, it tends to apply to heirs more often,” said Honeycutt. He sipped his vodka/lemonade. It was damn good. Quite the kick.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “We can always shit on feminism together.”

Gotfredson chuckled.

“I guess,” he said. “The mindset you’re locked into is directly responsible for it, though. Check this out.”

He opened his phone and showed Honeycutt a Tweet of a guy admitting to tears over the Kennedy retirement and the implications it could have for Roe V Wade and other issues.

“I just wanted to be honest with you instead of just agreeing,” said Honeycutt. “You seriously don’t consider me on the same level as him, do you?”

“I think you’re more similar to him than someone as smart as you should be,” said Gotfredson, putting his phone away. “Replace fascist and cis white man with rich guy and…” He trailed off and paused, a thought occuring to him.

“But then, replace it with Jew and you have the alt right.”

He shrugged. Above them was a teeth-rattling thunderclap of an explosion, followed by a puff of black smoke over the lake. The two friends could hear cheers from the opposite shore, people celebrating the start of the fireworks.

“Am I still invited Sunday?” Honeycutt wanted to know.

“Yes,” said Gotfredson without hesitation.

There were more thunderclaps in the twilight, some blooming explosive flowers of electric color as the fireworks show began.

Gotfredson’s fiance came out, having ascertained the argument was over. She quietly sat next to Gotfredson and took his hand and watched the sky.

“Happy fourth of july, fucker,” said Honeycutt.

“Happy Independence Day, commie,” said Gotfredson.

They clinked glasses.



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