Warning: This is normally an apolitical place, where I write about fantasy inns, Greek gods, and things like mysterious stone tablets appearing out of nowhere. But the following is a ghost story with a political point, and if you wish to skip it, I totally understand. Personally, I’d love to go back to mostly ignoring politics, but currently, I feel a need to speak about…stuff.


Legacy presidents

Halloween of 2021 rolled around, and as usual, all the dead US presidents rose from their graves. This was meant as a final courtesy, a way for them to check on their legacies and provide guidance to the current president, should he need it. In the past, Washington had counseled Lincoln as the Confederacy had handed humiliating defeats to Union forces. John Quincy Adams had consoled Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression, and just about everyone had popped in with an encouraging word to FDR as World War II had raged.

But since then the country had mostly been at peace. Sure, Americans had fought smaller wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, but nothing had ever risen again to extreme crisis levels.

Because of this, the usual practice was that at the beginning of the evening, the former presidents gathered around and drew lots to see who would visit the White House, freeing up everyone else to go enjoy the holiday as they saw fit. As a practical consideration, only those of the same party as the sitting president were selected to officially visit. (It is a regrettable fact, however, that sometimes members of the opposite party chose to do a little unofficial haunting on the side.)

This year, though, due to the pandemic, three presidents volunteered for the official duty—Andrew Jackson, Grover Cleveland, and Harry Truman.

“Well, fewer people seem to be wearing masks this year,” Jackson said grudgingly. “Perhaps the disease has run its course.”

Cleveland snorted. “I hope so. So many people sitting at home, not working—that’s the most un-American thing I’ve ever seen, in life or death.”

Truman shook his head sadly. “Where is the courage needed to face the enemy—any enemy? I am unsure whether I could lead this nation to defeat even a third world dictator, let alone Hitler or Stalin.”

“That is true,” said Jackson, “although it gives me no pleasure to say it. Last year I checked all over Washington DC. Few patriots are left.”

“The strength of the nation was never in Washington,” Grover Cleveland declared. “We must seek it in the rest of the country.”

And so they did. They poked their insubstantial noses into high schools, malls, sporting events, and churches. They listened to parents out trick-or-treating with their children, to veterans gathered in dusty halls and bars, and to police and firemen. They noted the many people who were no longer working, not by choice, but because of decrees. They checked on Americans scattered across all fifty states, and the more they saw, the madder they got. They ended their tour at the White House, but nothing there diminished their ire.

“Don’t the people realize all this was outlawed at Nuremburg?” Truman shouted. “The mask mandates, the involuntary shots—everything we’re seeing is illegal!”

“Couldn’t you have done something about the FBI, Harry?” complained Cleveland. “They’re talking about investigating parents for speaking up at school board meetings! That’s a clear violation of the first amendment.”

“The southern border stands wide open,” Andy Jackson said. “No one even tries to stop the criminals flooding the country with drugs. Citizens near the border live in fear.”

“And all the while that pathetic man just sits there, as if the Americans left in Afghanistan no longer exist,” Harry fumed. “He left our people behind to suffer under a hostile regime, even though he held an overwhelming military advantage.”

“Then what shall we do?” asked Cleveland. “We need to speak with the words of the people. And we must do it loudly enough that the current…occupant will hear.” He couldn’t bring himself to call the man president.

“We heard only one rallying cry spoken again and again,” Jackson reminded them with an evil grin.

Cleveland frowned. “There were others.”

“But none shouted as forcefully,” said Give-them-hell Harry. “Even that one minister didn’t try to restrain his flock.”

“Good for him,” declared Andy. “Maybe there’s some spine left in America after all.”

Cleveland sighed but then said, “Very well. Are we all ready? One, two, three…”

Together, they all leaned forward and shouted at the forty-sixth president, “F— Joe Biden!”


If you’re still with me, I have a little more to say. We hear a lot from people on the right and left these days, so I thought I’d give you a perspective from someone who has considered herself a lifelong centrist.

Part of this, at least for me, isn’t a Pollyanna attitude of trying to see the best in everyone, but rather a default setting of extreme distrust regarding those in power. Or as I’ve heard one history teacher say, “If you blindly trust your government, then your history teacher hasn’t done their job.”

People in power often have reason to lie. I understand the whole national security/reasons of statecraft thing, but that’s a very slippery slope. And in my opinion, many recent presidents have slid down it gleefully, without any thought of consequences. Besides Biden, one of the most blatant recent offenders was a Republican, the one who saddled us with the so-called Patriot Act.

As a piece of supporting evidence, I have a song by Jackson Browne.

This song was released in 1986, so it was written for the Reagan/Bush administration, although to careful readers of history, it might be more accurate to call it the Bush/Reagan presidency. (By the way, this isn’t a tinfoil hat conspiracy theory, either–it’s well documented that Reagan was sliding into mental confusion during his second term, and that Nancy Reagan’s astrologer basically ran the White House appointment schedule. Don’t take my word for it, though–do your own research. I’ve read books and many articles on the era, but it’s always possible to miss something.)

I remember singing this song at the top of my lungs at a Jackson Browne concert nearly twenty years later, during the Iraq war, when it was even more relevant than when it was written. GW Bush was a scary president, the one who saddled us with the Orwellian-named Patriot Act. (Because who would oppose a law with that title?) The country basically handed him the keys to power, and he used it against us. Then he justified it with nonsense explanations that didn’t pass any symbolic logic test. One of his favorites was, “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.”

We have NEVER gotten back many of the civil liberties abolished with that piece of evil, unconstitutional legislation. And it was overwhelmingly bipartisan, with many of those who voted for it still in office. Biden bragged that he wrote parts of it. Mitch McConnell, a senate Republican, wanted to extend its provisions. It was only through the sheer stubbornness of Rand Paul (ironically, the other Republican senator from Kentucky) that some of its provisions expired. For a list of all who voted for and against, you can visit this site: https://educate-yourself.org/cn/patriotact20012006senatevote.shtml.

I used to like it that the presidency swung back and forth between Democrats and Republicans–I saw it as another check on political power. If one side screwed up too much, well, the other was always waiting in the wings. And they had the recent example of what happened when our rulers strayed too far from the wishes of the people as an object lesson.

But I’m not sure that’s much of a safeguard anymore. Recall what happened just recently at the 9/11 anniversary: an aging Dubya was trotted out on stage. First Bush issued a call for unity, and then he warned that domestic terrorists pose just as big a threat as foreign agents!

Right–so let’s break that down. GW is saying that the January 6th protestors, who killed nobody and many of whom have been held without bail for months for the crime of trespassing (!), are just as big a threat as the Taliban, who slew just shy of three thousand people on September 11, 2001.

But according to Biden, who seems to be using the same logic playbook as Bush, Jr., the Taliban are our friends now. (Remember Jackson Browne asking who we call our friends, when they kill their own people?) Sure, they’re our friends–even though they’re hunting down Americans and killing them, too. But we don’t talk about that, or at least the official media doesn’t.

Carter had the decency to call the Americans held in Iran hostages, and the whole nation prayed for them. He kept a counter running of how many days their captivity lasted, even though that could hardly have benefitted him politically. Contrast his behavior to Biden’s. Or GW’s.

And then ask yourself if it matters that one of them calls himself a Democrat and the other a Republican.

It scares me witless that Jackson Browne’s lyrics are looking like they fit the times yet again.

Americans, we are being played. We’re being systematically lied to by members of both parties. And we need to wake up, or our “betters” will try to lock us all in our houses, too, just like they did in Australia. Then they’ll let us out only if we can show that we’ve complied with their mandates forbidden by an international court in Nuremburg. For those who don’t recall, that court was convened so that the atrocities committed by actual Hitler-obeying Nazis would never be repeated again.

In the immortal words of Mark Twain:

twain quote

So this is my plea, dear countrymen (and women). Every single time you have the chance to vote–please do so. And when you do, consider voting out (almost) every single incumbent. Approach it with the attitude that they’ve been paid enough of our money already, and have we gotten much real value for it? Have you ever heard them lie to you? How much money have they made over the course of their political career? Do their current assets reasonably reflect their salary, or do they own way more real estate than can be explained by their years of living on the government payroll?

Do this every single time. The years when we could just vote GOP or Dem because that’s how our family voted are over. We need to vote every incumbent out, with only maybe a few exceptions.

One of their favorite tactics to avoid this is to divide us, even as they speak about unity. This is deliberate. Students of history can easily recognize the same moves leading up to the the Civil War.

irish vs black cartoon

The above is a pre-Civil War political cartoon, and it’s one of many that used this kind of ugly illustration. Note the simian features of both the black man and the Irishman. As a student of history, I can tell you they relentlessly pitted the Irish and blacks against each other–because God help them if the working classes combined to bring their “betters” down. Then the jig really would have been up. It wasn’t until Teddy Roosevelt in the next century that the people found a champion to break the power of the corporations–and the government officials in bed with them. That took over forty years.

I don’t think we can afford to wait that long this time. We may not have anything left that we recognize as our country if we do.

Please, don’t let them divide us. We need to take back our country–now, before it’s too late.

Avid writer and reader of Faerie tales and noblebright fantasy.

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38 comments on “Legacy
  1. An interesting story and post, Cathleen.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Not going to touch this with a ten-foot pole, Cathleen. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed the post, and appreciate it, Cathleen. Most people when they say they’re going to write politics mean exactly the opposite of what you said. It’s refreshing to read the contrary opinion. Love the “F*** J** B*****. Or, as it has been cleaned up to “Let’s go Brandon!” (Thank you, NBC reporter).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jacqui. I dislike the profanity, too. That particular chant lacks the power of something like, “Hey, hey, LBJ–how many kids have you killed today?”

      I thought about putting “Let’s go, Brandon” in there, but it would have lacked the little bit of punch it otherwise had. And the post had enough moving parts without adding any more confusion.

      Liked by 2 people

      • So true. I not only resonate with your opinions but that you are doing something about it, at least on a personal level. I have bought a home generator, months of food supply, and a few other items that will allow me to be self-sufficient if necessary.

        Liked by 1 person

        • If you don’t mind another recommendation, consider stocking up on shoes. When was the last time we made shoes in this country? I’m sure lots of the shipping containers offshore have them, but that won’t help if they don’t solve that problem soon. My friend and I went shoe shopping at Walmart for her grandson just this week. There were exactly two pair of size four boys shoes in stock. And we bought one of them. Just an FYI, in case it helps. And thanks for joining in. : )

          Liked by 1 person

        • I hadn’t thought about shoes. I bought running shoes the other day–no problem but a brand I had never heard of at a price I’d never paid ($150). But, they are pretty good! My son–back from Okinawa and in need of a car to drive to his next duty station–found exactly one at the Audi dealership after finding none at other dealers. He bought it. Things are not as they used to be.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi, Cathleen, I’m an Australian but a student of US politics and have visited the US many times. The premise of previous Presidents rising up to give advice is a clever one.
    However, I have a number of problems with the comments you have made following your story but here’s just two. I find the total absence of any mention of the most divisive President in US history, Donald Trump, curious to say the least.
    And Australians have not been ‘locked in their houses’ by a repressive government; they have chosen to act responsibly in the face of a global pandemic to protect their fellow citizens, instead of demanding the civil right to infect their neighbours at will. Resulting deaths per million from Covid: US 2,172, Australia 58.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, Doug, I’m not going to debate matters on the ground in Australia with an actual Australian. This post is more about how Americans see the images of Australians arrested for breaking curfew. If an Australian majority approves of their government’s actions, I really have no say about it. It’s not my country.

      And I left out Trump for a very good reason. My post was all about an appeal for unity to Americans on the one issue that should unite us–our civil liberties. Trump was very divisive, and I didn’t need him to make my point. IMO, a simpler argument is usually better than a more complex one. : )

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi, Cathleen. Your passion about civil liberties matches my own and we have had similar bogus ‘national security’ legislation here that I hope to see rolled back over time. However I don’t see people who won’t be vaccinated, who then fill up our intensive care units at the expense of people needing them for other life-threatening illnesses, as civil libertarians so much as parasites on an already over-stretched health system. The mask/vaccination issue for me is akin to all of us agreeing to drive on the same side of the road to protect ourselves and others. To conclude, regarding simple solutions, I recommend this quote from your late countryman HL Mencken “For every problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.”

        Liked by 1 person

        • Wow–I’ve never heard that quote before–and I love it. Simplicity is a virtue, at least when compared to unnecessarily complicating matters. OTOH, oversimplifying out of convenience or mental laziness isn’t elegant at all–it’s counterproductive. And the real trick is to distinguish between the two. Thanks for chiming in. : )

          Liked by 2 people

  5. I think the best ghost stories often speak to their times, Cathleen! And if you can’t couch a political and/or ethical position in a genre story, what’s the use of genre stories?!

    You know, sometimes we just need to vent what’s on our mind, and, to that end, what else is a blog for? I don’t keep a blog to soapbox; instead, I blog because, to quote E.M. Forster, when I see what I say, I know what I think. My storytelling-centric blog got very political last year — sometimes even against my intentions for it — but the great thing about blogging as a creative exercise is it allows us to confront and express the notions preoccupying our subconscious. No blogger should ever make excuses for that!

    Tribalism in this country has made political trust a zero-sum proposition, alas. We blindly trust leaders in our party, and reflexively distrust leaders on the other side of the aisle. Government has always worked best when we approach every elected official and their policy initiatives with healthy skepticism. Ranting into the Twittersphere is not being a good citizen; rather, staying informed, voting regularly, and reaching out to our representatives to keep them apprised of our priorities — because they work for us — is how everyday people are empowered by democracy. And joining movements with others who share our concerns, our values, and our priorities is how we move the political needle. Placing our faith in one person to solve all our problems is “superhero thinking”; democracy is always better off when we place faith in each other.


    Liked by 2 people

    • I’d trust you over most of the members of Congress any day, Sean. You have no vested interest in staying in power, other than the power that’s still inherent in being a US citizen.

      Of course, I totally agree with your comments on tribalism, and it’s nice to see someone get the thrust of my post. Hopefully, being an informed voter is something that Americans can all get behind.

      And I didn’t put it in the post, but I’ll say it here for you. The whole superhero or savior thinking is my biggest problem with many voters. If you abdicate responsibility, you also forfeit the privileges that accompanied it.

      In other words, politically at least (I’m still Catholic), I think we need to save ourselves. : )

      Liked by 2 people

  6. D.L. Finn, Author says:

    Interesting story and post, Cathleen. As my grandmother wisely advised, I stay out of public political discussions 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. balroop2013 says:

    Interesting to know more about American history. Thanks for presenting it in an interesting manner Cathleen. That cartoon speaks volumes, if people pay attention!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ann Coleman says:

    I think it is beyond time for people to think for themselves and let go of party loyalty.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, of course, and I’m glad my post touched a chord in some people. It actually took some courage to post it, although that might be a commentary on how timid I’ve allowed myself to become. As far as party loyalty goes, it’s always puzzled me how the voters of Kentucky could elect both Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul. Other than the R after their names on the ticket, the two men seem to have little in common.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Thought provoking post, Cathleen. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. aebranson says:

    Usually I try to read these BB stories in the order they’re posted, but your political warning brought me here first. 🙂 Clever way of using the ghosts of past presidents – while reading it, I also wondered if you’d mention how some people want to remove their statues. I also wondered what the current presidents think when they realize what’s in store for them after their demise. 🙂 George Washington, who was offered the scepter and refused it, would be totally mortified by Biden “legislating” from the oval office. So as one fed-up citizen to another, I can only say “Amen” and “Let’s go Brandon!”

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Jennie says:

    Very thought provoking!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I was very curious about this entry and had this open for days now, waiting for when I have some time to read it.

    I was wondering which way it would go. The ghosts of president pasts on Halloween were widely creative! Like AE, I wondered if they were going to discuss their toppled-over statues.

    You made some great points at the end of the post and responded perfectly to some of the comments. Way to go.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. […] “Legacy” by Cathleen Townsend *Comes with a Political Commentary Warning. 😉 […]

    Liked by 1 person

  14. sonworshiper says:

    Interesting read. It’s hard being centrist these days, it seems to me, because everyone goes all-or-nothing “either with us or against us” about politics and ideology. I’d hope that even if people disagree with your take on the presidents’ perspectives of our current situation, we’d all be able to look back at history and really consider when, if ever, has increasing government power worked out well in the long run.

    I also saw the warning and the bit Rachael posted about allowing you the space to speak your mind, and found myself clicking this link first. Conflict gets the clicks! 😀 (I know that’s not why you wrote it, but hey, it’s a silver lining.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, David. : )

      Limiting government power is really at the heart of this post–that’s what our system of checks and balances is supposed to be about. First with the war on terrorism and now with the pandemic, certain people in power appear to have gotten too much of it, and now they don’t want to let it go again.

      And the only thing that can stand in their way is us–if we have the courage and wit to unite and stand firm. And also, since I know where you stand on this issue, I pray a lot. I’m pretty sure we’re going to need God’s help to get through this.

      Liked by 1 person

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