Some people would argue that high-stress, high-reward jobs require lose morals. Charles Giffin would be their example. Giffin was the highest-rated newscaster on America’s #1 news network. He believed he could convince anyone of anything, regardless of the truth.
When a Congressman he disagreed with slipped down a flight of stairs, Giffin called it “an unfortunate result of alcoholism.” There was no evidence to support this claim, but there were images of the congressman drinking a beer on the White House lawn, and that was enough for Giffin. The false testimony spread to other shows, and other networks, and the Congressman did not get re-elected.
There were other situations similar to that one. A pundit who believed in global warming was discredited because he was gay, and a unionized teacher was told that a “half-wit” could do her job. There was no one of prominence that Giffin was above attacking.
Then one day, February 2nd to be exact, his reign of terror came to an end. Susan Miller, a girl scout from rural New Hampshire, appeared on his program. Her interview was merely a “puff piece.” Susan looked adorable in her pristine uniform. The sash across her chest was decorated with badges representing everything from bravery to whistle blowing. Her brown hair was in braided pigtails, and her wide smile held dark gaps of missing teeth. Giffin introduced her as “the leader of the group that sold the nation’s record number of holiday cookies.”
“So, what’s your group going to do with all that money?” he asked her. “Buy some new uniforms? Decorate the den?”
“We donated the money to a local food kitchen. A lot of people are out of work, and the kitchen can’t afford to feed everybody.” Said Susan absolute sincerity. Giffin found this laughable.
“Do you know what socialism is, Susan?” he asked.
“Is that when you make friends with people?” said Susan.
“Not quite,” said Giffin, “Socialism is when one person is forced to give their money to someone else who didn’t earn it.”
“Oh. Well, nobody forced us,” said Susan.
“Sometimes society makes people feel like they need to give their money to other people. But that’s not what our country is based on. ‘Every man for himself.’ That’s my motto.”
“My friend Tiffany’s dad got fired, and he’s home all the time, but he can’t play with Tiffany, because he’s always on the computer looking for job. She comes over to my house for dinner a lot.”
“But you don’t know why he got fired,” said Giffin, “maybe he was bad.”
“Oh, no. He’s the nicest person I’ve met.” said Susan. “In fact, he’s much nicer than you, and you have a job.”
“I have a great job.” said Giffin, smiling at the camera.
“How much money do you make?” Susan asked.
“What?” Giffin said.
“4.8 million dollars a year? Somewhere around there?” Susan said, resting her elbows on the news desk.
“Who put you up to this?” Giffin looked menacingly into the tech room. His eyes said “Cut to commercial.”
“It’s alright. I’m just here to warn you,” she said. “You know what you’ve done, and you have exactly one year to stop doing it.” And before anyone could stop her, Susan leapt off her chair and fled the studio. Security tried going after her, but she was nowhere to be found. The words “one year” echoed through Giffin’s skull, but instead of making him feel guilty, he felt more determined to hold on to his beliefs. In his eyes, he was merely the victim of another “un-American” rant. Over the next twelve months Giffin stood up for oil lobbyists, and hounded environmentalists. He compared the President to a fascist dictator, and then a communist dictator.
When February 2 rolled around again, Giffin was more popular than ever. His audience worshiped him more than ever, and one of his Top 5 People of the Year, was going to be on the night’s program. The person’s name was Harley McVater. She was a thin blonde woman with scrutinizing eyes. She had become famous practically over-night for defending oil drilling in national parks. As far as he was concerned, that alone earned her a spot on the show.
“Can you believe the state of our nation right now,” she said on-air, “Our president is trying to suck more taxes out of job creators at a time when unemployment is sky-rocketing. Then, on top of that, he wants universalize the healthcare industry, raising taxes for everyone else. The public cannot afford this.”
“I could not agree more.” said Giffin.
“I thought so,” she said. But I would have thought that in recent months you might have changed your mind.
“Never.” Giffin said.
“So you’ve never thought of the other side of that argument then.”
“Never.” Giffin repeated. Harley looked him directly in the eyes.
“One could say that raising taxes would help support government jobs in our communities, like teachers, firefighters, and law enforcement agencies which keep us safe both mentally and physically.”
“What?” Giffin said, suddenly feeling a pain in his chest.
“Nationalized healthcare would ensure that every American had a right to see a doctor.” Harley continued. Her voice was rising, and her words were picking up speed. “The government is already footing the bill for uninsured Americans. Healthcare reform would actually ease that burden on American Taxpayers. They would be paying two bills in one, and save money.” Giffin’s arm was starting to go numb, and a shooting pain knocked him from his seat.
“He’s having a heart attack” Harley screamed, rushing to his aid behind the desk. She held him in her lap, and leaned in close.
“Don’t worry,” she whispered. “Your going to a place where everyone gets only what they deserve.”
This story was written by Alex Schattner (7/17/12)