My Revolution: Part 2

I started collecting secrets when I was just six years old. It was a letter that came in the mail one day. As usual, I tried to see what came so I could look at the envelopes to practice letters and numbers. I liked to sort the differently colored ones, and at the time I thought the coupon pamphlets were like comics, but for food or toys.

I remember distinctly on that day, my mother started to pass the letters down to me but suddenly noticed something. She pulled the mail back away from me. I pleaded and almost started to cry. I didn’t, because I noticed her face was sad, not playful or angry. She pulled out one envelope and handed the rest to me. I scurried off to the table with my parcel of papers. When I sat to lay out the mail I saw my mother still standing in the same place reading the letter that was in the special envelope. Once she finished she walked over to a table with an assortment of framed photographs. She picked up a frame with the picture of a lady I didn’t know very well. Although, at the time I remember thinking she looked a little bit like my mother. She took the framed picture and the letter away into the hall.

I was concerned and curious about what was going on, so I followed her. By the time my little legs caught me up to her she was already into the attic. I knew it was off limits, but with the curiosity already lit inside me I started to climb the ladder. Very slowly I tackled it like a playground jungle-gym. When I poked my head into the ceiling floor of the attic I saw my mother’s silhouette, it shook and gave off sounds of weeping. She was on her knees crying next to a box, lit by the only window; it had no marks or letters to identify its contents. She placed the picture frame into the box with both hands. Well, with one hand holding the frame and the other placed longingly on the photo. After a few moments of clearing out the tears of her eyes she stood. I knew this was my cue to get out of there, but it was too late. My mother spotted me. “Oh my god Matt! What are you doing? Don’t move.” I panicked because I was in trouble and tried to move but couldn’t because I was more afraid of falling. She picked me up with a ‘you’re not supposed to be up here.’ I was carried down the ladder asking ‘what’s in that box momma?’ to no response.

I collected other secrets along my years, but the first was special. I learned that lies and hiding spaces weren’t just for games and tricks. It was a harsh lesson for such a young child to find out; that games could be used for hiding lies. The secret planted a desire for truth, and it pushed at me and tugged at me until I knew everything I could. I asked my mother about the picture frame. She would simply say it was put away. I wanted to know why, but the answers always demanded another why from my mouth.

Eventually the incident passed from my inquisitions and as I grew I watched a new country grow around me. Fires and fears abounded. I could see it in my parents and in the news they watched. I would ask why of the news, and my parents were always reluctant to explain. They must have feared the path of information they would lead me down. Once they got uncomfortable with my line of questions, a lie or small answer was used to stop me from getting to the real truth; the truth was a secret they wanted for themselves.

The new government I grew up with changed the country and it changed the way people dealt with the truth. When I was twelve there was a devastating drought in the farm belt of the country. Wheat prices went up and people had trouble buying the necessities to allow them to feed their families. The people that could afford the increase didn’t suffer. There was essentially enough food to feed everyone but the farmers wanted the best price so they sold to buyers that could afford it. Many bakeries that served wealthy customers did very well even with the high prices for supplies.

When people finally saw the hungry children in the streets they knew something had to be done. It was the bakers who helped to keep prices high, but they decided to lend a hand. They tried to ease the suffering seen by the whole country on the news. The government saw these bakers as a hope and a set of heroes to admire. Driving up the prices to feed the wealthy was nothing compared to the Ladies of Dayton and their compassion for the hungry. They fed the needy and were commemorated with a metro station named after them in the Capital City and a children’s folksong created to honor their sacrifice.

Go to the Ladies of Dayton

You hungry children

The crisps and the sugar’s on

Your favorite treats

The Ladies have baked and said

You poor and hungry will eat

The Ladies of Dayton will call

We carry all the wheat

We have made you a treat

We look down and sigh

Please eat, we love you all.

When the news my parents watched nightly calmed and an air of peacefulness was around our house and our country, another moment stands out in the cannon of my memory. The moment when the framed picture of, what was confirmed to be my aunt, was pulled back down from the attic. It was around the same time when the new Capital City was being founded by the Reclamation Party, which carried the country to a new kind of peace and security. I was fifteen years old. As I learned my place in the world, my country was picking heroes and guardians to name monuments and streets after in the new city.

My parents made an unseen decision about the story of my aunt and wanted to share it with me. Fresh from the attic my mother carried the framed picture through the hall and into the living room. She stood in front of the table of framed pictures and called me to her. With my dad sitting nearby she unfolded the story of my aunt.

“Your aunt was a warrior Matt. She saw the tyranny of the old government before most people.” I sat on the floor with my eyes wide and the hairs on my neck prickled.

She first went into the military out of devotion to service. With her free spirit she gravitated to the air force. Once they put her in her first plane she was hooked.” My mother kept her eyes on the picture as she gently placed the frame on the table with the others. “She worked hard to become the best fighter pilot she knew she could be. As the war continued she fought along side remote controlled drone airplanes. She didn’t like them because she knew being there in the action was how wars should be fought. She saw the military misusing the drones. She knew that with no pilot at risk and the real threat of war looming over them, poor judgment about when and how long to fight would creep into the whole effort. She saw them shoot at civilian targets. When she pulled the trigger on her plane she used the information she was given, along with the moment and place she was in, to weigh her actions against. She decided it was unfair that only a button separated her and the death of enemies, but for the drone pilots, they had a whole world between them and the lives they took. She located a squadron of drones and attacked them with her weapons.” The pause in my mother’s voice led me to think tears were coming. She looked away from the framed picture into my eyes. “Her plane was shot down. She fought the tyranny of the old government, just as the fathers of the Reclamation Party did. They all helped to create our new country.” I wanted to ask questions, but I didn’t know where to begin, or what they might say to my doubts. “You are a strong, smart boy Matt. You have the same genes in you as your aunt. She used her strengths and fought for what was right. You will follow in her greatness.”

I carried the pride of that story with me. I would have the strength of my aunt behind me and the best education ahead of me. We moved to the Capital City so I could attend some of the best schools in the country. The picture of my aunt was hung on a wall in our new house where it was visible as one entered the front door. I took in my mother’s story, but I knew there was more detail and information behind her words. Curiosity has always grabbed at me and increased my wonder of the world. I wanted to know why the picture was removed from the collection on the table years before. I wanted to know what happened to her and when they knew and why they waited until that time to tell me.

I squirreled my way to the storage room in our new house and the box without markings. Over the previous years more letters had piled up in the box. I dug under all of them to get to the first one. As I passed each layer, the dust of lost time enveloped the air. I rolled it into my lungs with each breath in and out. With all of the envelopes and loose papers clutched to the side of the box I came to the end of them. Underneath the pile was a woman’s sweater and pictures of two young girls. I looked at my mother as a child and her sister for a moment. I flipped back one page and there in the light was the letter my mother placed in the box when I was six.

My eyes scanned the page and my mind grabbed the words ‘Dishonorable Discharge’ and ‘lifetime imprisonment’ in the short paragraph on the page. I continued to look back at the other papers I dug through. They changed from old government letter to Reclamation Government letterhead. I studied them and found that by the time I was seven she had been tried and convicted of using her fighter jet to shoot down unmanned drones she felt were doing more harm than good.

There were requests for visitation and appeals for review of her case. What I gathered after reading all of the mail my mother hid in that box, was my aunt was still alive and she would not be released, since her crime of violating orders wouldn’t be tolerated in the current government structure either. She was going to answer for what she did. Her own actions and her own mistakes led to her situation. She destroyed those drones because she thought they were going to destroy the reputation of her country. In reality she had other options that might have led to an easier existence outside of jail.

My parents wanted my aunt to be a hero to me. With the information from the attic letters I took another lesson. By committing to finding that truth, I found that taking responsibility for ones own actions comes out of that commitment. I know now, conscientiousness is a virtue of truth.

Meanwhile, my parents had this thing they wanted to keep to themselves, hoping to discard it from memory or judgment. At the same time they wanted to have someone for me to look up to as I started on my path in life. I decided knowing this truth was enough and arguing their lies to their faces didn’t serve a purpose. After all, I already knew the truth. I did look up to my aunt’s bravery of challenging the thinking of her superiors, however, I did not look up to the way my parents challenged the truth of her story.

The inspiration for my parents’ deception came from similar adjustments to stories issued from our government. Most people knew the stories started with a seed of truth but then lies were glued to the surface. They ignored the lies because the new stories were more comforting. When the Reclamation Party took over the government they touted stories from the past to inspire people so we could have new heroes to look to, for a feeling of safety. Knowing people out there would rise up for justice, helped remove any doubts of a new tyranny that rose out of the erroneously declared old one. The new stories we got from the government were an inspiration to my parents to spin their own fiction. Like the new fabricated heroes, my aunt’s story had some truth, but ultimately was told in a way to cover the truth.

When I could finally come to terms with the lies of my parents and my government, I looked into myself. I held to the truth I knew. I held to the commitment I made as a child to truth and the consequences it would bring to me. I focused on that moral and not the secret lies of my past and my country; I held to the truth and the righteousness of responsibility. To hold those secrets was like a small injury that had no source. Cumulatively they worked together to create a greater pain. Forcing their way into the fore of the mind, like a group of people crying out for attention to what matters most. My own actions dictated where I went in life and I knew from then on, my actions had repercussions. Just as the people that came together on a cloudy day to demand the truth be set free, have their actions to answer for.