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Winnowing Time

23 Sep

 

The Winnowing Time

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

 A wise king winnows out the wicked;

he drives the threshing wheel over them.

— Proverbs 20:26, NIV

 

 The magistrates are God-fearing gentlemen, but merciful overmuch,—that is a truth,” added a third autumnal matron. “At the very least, they should have put the brand of a hot iron on Hester Prynne’s forehead.

— The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

___________________

 

No other event in the storied history of the country had ever signaled such an abrupt turn from its previous momentum.

The President strode confidently to the podium, situated below the Lincoln Monument facing the Washington Mall. The reflecting pool, which ordinarily would have mirrored an upturned Washington Monument, had been drained and scrubbed clean so that spectators could gather in the area.

Throngs were lined and packed together like chattel. It was, at long-last, one of the greatest gatherings of humanity ever assembled to hear a Presidential Address.

The President tapped the mic — more out of nervousness than the need to check it. His lithe index finger produced several rapid “boofs” on impact.

He stared out before him, and turned to survey those to either side and behind him. Among the sunglassed Secret Agents were a plethora of other armed and battle-prepared law officers and military personnel.

He cleared his throat, and began.

“Jesus said in the Book of Matthew, ‘His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’

Looking up, his audience was a study of stern and knowing expressions, stone faced and somber. Many nodded slowly. Some murmured “Amen” under their breaths. Others braced themselves with anticipation. Husbands reached for the hands of their wives. Mothers pulled their babies in close against the brisk October air. Children fidgeted arms and other body parts, and were nudged to keep still by parents, grandparents, or even complete strangers.

In a raspy voice, the President continued.

“Today is the most auspicious day in this great country’s history. It marks a time for direction that has never, ever, been embarked upon before. We have come to a precipice, and the world demands we make this leap of faith.

“The psalmist said, ‘Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.’

He looked up again at the sea of faces around him. There was not a cloud in the sky … nothing to deter him from continuing, no rabble nor protests. Everything, every one, was focused — at long last — on him. The clicks of cell phones sounded like insects: chit, chit, chit, chit, chit. Hundreds of news video cameras whirred nearly noiselessly. The battery of media mics on the podium seemed to stand at attention, hungry for his next words.

“We are the chosen. We are the answer to the confusion and horror that proliferates throughout this incredible world. We are the truth against the lies that seek to destroy us, the only hope for the world. But like that simple child’s song, I will not let our light be extinguished! I’m gonna let it shine! Will you let your light shine, too?”

The first eruption of enthusiasm split the silence like a sudden storm, and rolled around the podium and to the sides and down the drained reflecting pond to the outer trees and streets until Washington sounded like an old lion, lifting its head against the dark, roaring with unequaled strength and might.

He lifted his small hands above his head, quieting the tide of cheers. His eyes were bright, and he licked his lips repeatedly, as if savoring what had long been denied him most his life.

“This — this will not be an easy task. We know God is our protector, and is pointing us toward the desert. I will lead you to and through that desolate desert to the Promised Land to the very best of my ability. And, with the Lord’s strong arm, we will prevail!

An eruption of ecstasy swarmed over the Capitol.

As on cue, a battery of drones silently appeared over the throngs and hovered. No one noticed.

“In any righteous endeavor, there will be naysayers, and those who will work from within and without to try to delay our mission and cause us to stumble.”

Hints of boos rifled through the air.

“But!” he said several, hands again in the air until the seething ended, “but — my fellow Americans — we have the promise the Lord will command his angels to protect us, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.”

It was as if a Hail Mary pass had been caught in the end zone in the waning seconds of the Super Bowl, propelling the Redskins to victory over the Patriots. Confetti dropped from the bays of the drones hovering overhead. Near pandemonium threatened to disrupt the event until the President raised one arm and hand over his head, calling for calm and quiet. It had the opposite effect, and nearly every person in the area raised an arm in response.

“Please! Please — thank you … thank you. Let’s continue, please!” 

Those in uniform began to mill about, ordering spectators to be quiet. Finally the chaos settled, and the President glanced at his watch and tapped the mic again.

“Thank you! Thank you all! But — but there is much work to be done. 

“Our country is called the United States of America. United. Think of that for a minute. Not divided, not of separate mind or philosophy — but united. And the only way this country will bring our world out of bedlam will be if we present a clear and united front.

“That’s what we did during the greatest war of all times, World War II. Some of you still remember, right?”

A trickle of laughter.

“Let me tell you, America is going to once again reach the greatest and most epic level of leadership this world has ever seen or known before, and we are going to do that because we … are … UNITED!

Again, pandemonium. Again, the President’s arm extended. Again, the crowds responding with uplifted arms. Again, armed uniforms controlling the respondees.

“So, how do we become united? This country of different races and backgrounds and heritages and religious beliefs? How does this great nation of differences make it through to our greatest calling?

“By concentrating on one goal. By not letting those differences deter us. By uniting whole-heartedly, and remaining steadfast — despite the odds.

“You, my fellow Americans, my friends, my neighbors — are the ones who will make that happen. Put aside your differences. Put aside what you thought was so important and take up the flag and carry it forward into battle! And this IS a battle, make no mistake about that! Not just against the enemies of our great country, but those who refuse to join the cause as well! Yes! You know them: neighbors, people you work with. Even family. And that is very sad. Very sad indeed.

“We can contend with the threat of arms and weapons. We can overrun military obstacles. But — we cannot — I repeat, can NOT survive those pockets of cancer that spread doubt from within. Those cancers must be surgically removed!

“So I am asking each of you, as your Leader, to help us separate the wheat from the chaff. The good from the evil. That which is healthy from that which is useless. You are the grain — the great potential for making this planet great for the first time ever. America — the United States — will lead that effort through the desert and into the Promised Land!

“You are a light — one of many, many lights. So many lights. And you must not let your light be put out! EVER!

The Marine Band, positioned on the steps to the Lincoln Memorial, began playing. The tune was familiar, and people began to hum along as the band leader directed the musicians, then turned toward the Mall to synchronize the response.

The President began to hum as well, and as he did, paper messages began to drop from the drones, fluttering to reaching arms below.

“This little light of mine,” he sang, “I’m gonna let it shine …” 

The crowd joined in, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine! Let it Shine, let it Shine, let it Shine!”

A child picked up one of the pieces of paper and read its message:

Do you know a doubter? A friend, a fellow worker, a teacher, or even someone in your family who will keep America from being United? Call this number. We won’t ask your name. Tell us who that person is, and we will take care of it from here. Again, you won’t be involved. Help us Keep America United, and help your Leader Make the World Strong! Your Leader and your God are counting on you! Call 1-800-468-2837 (DOUBTER) today!

She pressed the paper to her heart and began to sing loudly, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!”

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