OUTSPOKEN By James Vachowski
Abraham Lincoln Jenkins is a teenage vandal, social activist, and aspiring Abraham’s lifelong dream of attending Harvard College is put in jeopardy when he learns that he is still in need of two core credit hours in Physical Education. Unfortunately for Abraham, the only available spaces in a P.E. class are as a cadet in the Army’s JROTC program! Told almost exclusively through Abraham’s one-sided complaint letters, OUTSPOKEN is the natural result when the War on Terror collides with the War on Christmas. OUTSPOKEN is a digital short and a fast and funny read for both teens and adults
“America is not at war. The Marine Corps is at war; America is at the mall.” — Unknown Marine in Iraq
The day after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year. Commonly known as “Black Friday,” it marks the traditional start of Christmas shopping, as well as the point when stores begin turning a yearly profit. Retail-crazed shoppers arise before the sun, flocking to early store openings and huge discount sales. The morning of November 28, 2008 was no different. In the midst of a global economic downturn and ongoing wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, a bargainhunting frenzy gripped the nation. At a Wal-Mart store in Valley Stream, New York, a temporary worker was trampled to death by a horde of customers just minutes before the scheduled opening time of 5:00 a.m. Four other people were injured, including a woman who was eight months pregnant. Even after announcements were made that an employee had been killed, shoppers kept flooding in and snatching up sale items. Police were called in to clear the store, which re-opened without incident several hours later. At a crowded Toys“R”Us store in Palm Desert, California, two men pulled handguns and ran down the aisles shooting at each other as the result of an altercation between their female acquaintances. Both men died. Toys“R”Us was open for business the next day. But in Charleston, South Carolina, businesses in the trendy King Street shopping district were unusually quiet. Both customers and store employees alike loitered impatiently out on the chilly sidewalks, waiting for every locksmith in the city to be called into action. Apparently, during the late night hours while most Charlestonians were sleeping off their turkey-infused hangovers, a team of highly organized vandals spent several hours methodically working its way down King Street, using Super Glue to fill the door locks of over seventy upscale shops. The culprits remain at large.
“Dare to do things worthy of imprisonment if you mean to be of consequence.” — Juvenal
December 22, 2008 Abraham L. Jenkins 12-A Flood St. Charleston, SC 29403 Letters to the Editor c/o News and Courier 124 Columbus Street Charleston, SC 29403 Dear Sir, Your article of December 19 “Glue Bandit Remains at Large! Investigation Still Ongoing, Police Say” gave me great pause. I found myself pondering not only the customary ineptitude displayed by local law enforcement, but also the very role that the rule of law plays in a democratic society. For the purposes of this discussion, I will refrain from commenting on the very real fact that all aspects of our lives are manipulated by a shadowy group of elite power-brokers comprised of, but not limited to: the Bush family, the Skull and Bones society and a plurality of the royal family of Saudi Arabia. Thus, in theory anyway, those nagging guidelines we know as “laws” are simply a behavioral contract between members of a society, duly approved by their representatives and enacted for the sole purpose of improving the quality of life for all parties concerned. If this somewhat utopian concept is, in fact, our reality, then I hope you can understand my befuddlement as to why exactly this “Glue Bandit” of yours is still under investigation by the authorities for a crime of vandalism. If this “Bandit” did indeed go to Herculean lengths to slip Super Glue into the door locks of seventytwo separate, overpriced retail establishments on King Street during the wee hours of Thanksgiving night, as he (or she) is alleged to have done, we have borne witness to much more than a minor act of graffiti. In a fascinating etymological sidebar, the word “vandalism” is derived from the name of an East Germanic tribe who sacked Rome in the year 455. The Vandals were not noticeably more destructive than any othersociety, yet historians unfairly chastise them for the role they played in causing social upheaval within the vaunted Roman Empire. Because of its large scope and powerful symbolism, what the square heads comprising Charleston’s Goon Squad of a police force have bluntly listed as an act of “vandalism” clearly merits a second look.
When viewed in a sociological light, this act looks less like a random act of street crime and more like the kickoff of a highly coordinated grassroots campaign aimed at simultaneously highlighting and rejecting the blatant nationwide trend of consumerism, whose fires are stoked annually by a crisis-driven media using the thin guise of celebrating Christianity. Granted, seasonal price-gouging has a long and proud history that traces back more than two thousand years to when a Bethlehem innkeeper first accepted an under-the-table cash payment to lease space in a crowded stable to Joseph of Nazareth and his pregnant wife, Mary. But from the looks of last month’s glue protest, at least one clear head remains among the throngs of frenzied, pear-shaped shoppers. This enlightened soul has refused to kowtow and pay homage before the mighty Gods of Retail and is clearly attempting to show others the folly of their ways. Perhaps this would be a good time to consider Machiavelli’s argument that, in many instances, the end does justify the means. A word of caution to my fellow citizens: Before you rush to unmask this young man (or woman) and drag him (or her) before the City’s Municipal Kangaroo Court, please take a moment to consider the events by which our very nation was born. Those who we revere in a somewhat misogynistic fashion as “Founding Fathers” were once no more than vandals with sizeable chips on their shoulders. The idea to dress up as oppressed Native Americans with the aim of looting British ships was a plan most likely hatched in a local pub. History, however, records this drunken brouhaha as the first stirrings of a glorious revolution, as well as the start of Boston’s proud tradition of polluting its Harbor. Were those uniformly lily-white gentlemen to attempt the same stunt today, I am certain that they would be quickly slapped in handcuffs and hauled away for trespassing, breaking and entering, littering, piracy, and disorderly conduct. Representatives from both the FBI and CIA, having taken sworn oaths to restrict civil liberties at every possible opportunity, would be clamoring for the chance to become involved with the case. This motley crew of “Patriots” would no doubt be linked to Al Qaeda, however tenuously, and locked away for violating Hate Crimes laws as a result of disguising themselves as members of a protected minority group. Paul Revere’s family silversmithing business would be seized and sold at auction.
When considered in the illuminating, but mercilessly unflattering, light of History, the alleged actions of Charleston’s own so-called “Glue Bandit” are not a crime, but rather the result of a sincere, almost noble desire to educate society about the dangers of falling victim to the clever ploys used by modern retailers, as those sharp-witted hucksters attempt to make us feel that our wants have somehow become needs. This fact is in evidence by these very stores’ window presentations. At the beginning of yet another chilly Charleston winter, how many of the community’s pre-pubescent young women truly need skimpy hooker couture? Sir, if a few tubes of Super Glue and a dashing but secretive young figure, shaped from the same mold as Robin Hood or (dare I say) Al Gore, are all that it takes to expose the dominant paradigm of Black Friday shopping as a symbol of the money-grubbing salesmanship currently holding the Western hemisphere in a stranglehold, then I for one say, “Stick to it, Glue Bandit!” Very Respectfully, Abraham L. Jenkins
About the Author
James Vachowski previously worked as a police officer and as a civilian contractor in Iraq before fixing his sights on the lofty goal of middle management. James is a graduate of both the University of South Carolina and The Citadel, and currently lives with his family in Jacksonville, Florida. For more information on Jamesâ€™ future projects, check out his website at http://www.jamesvachowski.com.