Step Up to the Plate

I don’t know much about baseball, but I’m a big fan of suburban city council meetings.

Well folks, here we are in Anytown, USA. It’s a beautiful night for a city council meeting in this safe, friendly town, where probably no one will get followed to their car and threatened by people who disagree with them. I’m Mike the Mediocre Announcer, and I’m joined tonight by Antifa Pete, who will be offering Communist takes and color commentary.

Illustration by Dola Sun

Pete: Um, OK, no I won’t, and it’s just Pete. But let’s focus on the issue at hand, which is that suburban city council meetings are getting increasingly divisive, especially as towns focus more efforts on diversity and inclusion. It inspires both support and backlash, and…

Announcer: Sorry Pete, I know I said you’re offering color commentary, but I need to say that I don’t see color. I don’t care what color someone is, as long as men are men and ladies are ladies and nothing about my identity is threatened. OK, let’s kick this game, er, meeting, off with a prayer.

Pete: Like to God? Wait, isn’t this a government-sponsored event?

Announcer: Don’t worry, it’s just tradition. And tradition is always good, right?

[An awkward prayer is said, with half the citizens in attendance looking confused, followed by an even more awkward reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance. A woman in a “Notorious RBG” T-shirt stares ahead, arms folded across her chest, while a man in a denim jacket embroidered with a red, white, and blue eagle puts a hand on the gun under his jacket.]

Mayor: I call this meeting to order. Welcome, members of the community. We eight council members are going to pass several motions tonight that likely have more impact on your daily lives than anything the federal government does. Suddenly everyone is noticing this, which means I’m in way over my head. I’m here only because I run an insurance agency on Main Street and my friend whose family basically owns the town told me I should be on council. But that was four years ago, and now cities are banning abortion, so things have gotten real. With that, it’s time to hear from citizens about what’s on their minds. I’ll just be sitting here clutching my gavel, looking panicked. But nobody worry. Everything is fine, because later we’ll use a lot of convoluted language about ordinances and sound like we know what we’re doing.

Announcer: Quick preview, Pete, because this lineup of speakers tonight is really something. Anchoring for Team Freedom is Karen the School Board Candidate, who recently moved here after single-handedly tanking the school tax levy where she used to live. I hear she made sure that no white child in her old school would ever be forced to read a book that might help them develop empathy or learn about unpleasant history. I think we can agree those things have no place in education.

Pete: Well, if you look at the data…

Announcer: Tell it to your comrades, Pete. OK, it looks like we’re ready to start with the lead-off batter for Team Freedom.

Resident No. 1: My name is Bob Bigot, and I live at 100 Reactionary Run Road. I run a website called Anytown Liberty, where I use 12 different fonts and a lot of Capital Letters to indicate Problems. I have a Facebook page where I Tell the Truth and post all the e-mails I receive from the various Freedom of Information Requests I make every week, because everyone knows you can’t trust the Left-Wing Media to report the truth.

I think it’s clear I know exactly what I’m talking about and I’m not a homophobic conspiracy-theorist when I say that I have no problem with gay people as long as they aren’t in my town having a Pride picnic, where my grandchildren might accidentally wander into them and turn gay or get caught up in a pornography ring. It would also be better if women didn’t work, because divorce is causing school shootings. Now I’m going to ramble for five minutes about programs that aren’t Fiscally Responsible, which isn’t a secret code for racism. My confidence is completely unearned, yet I appreciate that no one ever tells me to sit down at these meetings and that I face few consequences for anything I say. Thank you.

Pete: What year is it? Did I hit my head?

Announcer: It’s 2022 in the Year of Our Lord, but I do love my 1776 flag, because the founding fathers understood the Bible and that’s really what is missing. OK, our first speaker hit a home run, but the Woke Mob is up now.

Resident No. 2: Hi, I’m Sally Signmaker and I live left of center. I think it’s good that our little town is finally focusing on diversity and inclusion. I’m from San Francisco [audible groans in the audience], but my husband is from here. Can’t we have it all? Do we have to let the narrow-minded people drag us back in time? I work at Biggest Employer in the Region with Progressive Ideals, and every week we make statements about DEI. I think we can do that here, too. Oh, and my “We Believe” signs are for sale on Etsy if anyone is interested.

Pete: Did you catch if she mentioned her Etsy seller name? I know my wife would love one of those signs.

Announcer: Just type in “Let’s Go Brandon” in your little Google bar, Pete, and you’ll find exactly what you need. OK, moving on because that was a clear strike out…oh, now this is a shame. Karen the School Board Candidate was going to be next, but she got unexpectedly called away to 1933 Germany for a book-burning event. Luckily the pinch hitter is solid, having had at least one at-bat every meeting for the past year.

Resident No. 3: I’m Carol Caustic, and everyone knows where I live because I’ve lived here for 35 years. I like to say “35 years” a lot, and when I say it my tone is always going to be aggravated, because I’m angry that things aren’t like they were 35 years ago when everything was so much better. It’s ridiculous to say that anyone is excluded in this town. Everyone is welcome here. And by everyone, I mean people just like me, preferably who have lived here 35 years.

Unfortunately, no one listens to older people like me. We raised a bunch of Gen Xers who, I guess, were irritated that no one paid them any attention, so they paid us back by raising a bunch of Millennials and snowflakes. Which brings me to my next point: Nobody wants to parent anymore. They just let the internet parent, and that isn’t what we did 35 years ago. I hate everyone and everything. Good night.

Pete: Everything she said was clearly a foul, except the fact that older people are often invisible. The problem of ageism…

Announcer: I’m going to stop you right there, Pete. We don’t do -isms, OK? That’s not what Jesus taught. He said you need a gun and you should never be forced to co-parent with the government. Alright, now it looks like the Woke Mob is next, which means it’s probably time for me to take a bathroom break since I’ve been all Rudy- Giuliani-on-election-night up here.

Resident No. 4: I’m Josh Justice-Seeker, and I live with my husband and our two kids. It’s actually none of your business how they were conceived, because no one here gives hetero people a quizzical look when they see them with their families—at least not white people with white children. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’m not even here to talk about how a few years ago I would have said I was a moderate because I came of age after Will & Grace.

Now, by nature of this political climate, my very existence is fodder for legislators. So here I am—along with anyone else in this town who doesn’t look like, love like, pray like, or move in the world like some of the other residents—to say that I’m going to meet all of your bigotry and make-believe science with facts. Of course, I know that will do little to change the mind of anyone who doesn’t believe in facts, like the recently elected council member who posted all over social media that our schools had litter boxes for kids who identified as cats and masks were a form of child abuse.

We’re like the frog in the pot of water who doesn’t notice it heating up, and now we’re seeing our civil rights being slowly boiled away and replaced with nonsense. Sure, we’re forming book clubs, starting committees, and doing various other performative things. But we have to do more. We have to show up and speak out!

Pete: Wow, that was inspiring! Am I the only one who heard The West Wing soundtrack playing in the background while he spoke?

Judi Ketteler: No, I heard it, too!

Announcer: Alright, I’m back from the whizz palace. Hey there, Little Miss Writer Up to No Good, where’d you come from?

Judi: Well, I was doomscrolling the town’s Facebook forum and then realized I should get off of social media and show up in person, because it turns out tedious local meetings like this are important. As Aaron Sorkin writing Jed Bartlet quoting Margaret Mead says in Season 4, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed people can change the world.” In other words, it’s time for the rest of us to get in the game. Let’s play ball, people!

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