Be Strong

I have always believed them to be a good thing. The elections, I mean. I was so happy that Andrew Stronghold was chosen as our new leader. Everybody loved him. Not only had he promised no more long working hours and no more child labor, but no more war! Finally! That was all the people of the island country of Bahkan ever wanted, no more war. We were constantly warring with the other small island countries off the coast of South America, and soon at least one member of every single family on the island had been sent to war and killed, including my family. My mother and I lived alone for a long time, grieving the absence of my father. But that all changed on the day of the elections. Andrew Stronghold! My family's hero! Andrew Stronghold gave my mother and I such hope, he was amazingly charismatic. He was a powerful speaker and easily motivated everyone. He made everything seem so easy and attainable, such as a peace and economic stability. He insisted that we all referred to him as Mr. Strong, and we did, the name suited him perfectly. Mr. Strong, the perfect leader.


Things changed quickly after he was elected. Most of the changes were good though, to our benefit. That’s what Mr. Strong said, so that’s what we believed. He had security cameras installed in every home, in every room, so he could “watch over us and make sure we were safe.” My crazy neighbor was foolish enough to say that the cameras weren’t there to keep us safe, but to monitor us, to make sure we weren’t going against Mr. Strong. How crazy was that? Why would anyone want to go against Mr. Strong? But, my neighbor had always been a little off-beat anyways. She moved away a few days later, which was perfectly normal, but she left all her belongings at home. At first I thought she had been kidnapped! But when I reported her disappearance to the police, Mr. Strong later made a personal visit to our house to re-assure us that she had simply moved away to travel the world. If Mr. Strong said she had, then obviously she had. Who couldn’t believe his reassuring manner, and his cheery smile? Nobody. That’s why everyone happily agreed to having the cameras installed. But those weren’t the only wonderful changes he made.


Mr. Strong said that it would be very honorable for the youth of Bahkan to join the Strong Youth Group that was held after school and on the weekends, so we could learn how to lead and be like Mr. Strong. I willingly joined, and to my surprise so had every other kid on Bahkan! But then again, who wouldn’t have joined? Everyone loved Mr. Strong. He was making our lives better. He also provided jobs for everybody on Bahkan, jobs in factories and farms that were owned by Mr. Strong himself! He said all the proceeds made by the factories would go to the state of Bahkan to help make our country more wonderful than it already was. Using this money, Mr. Strong started his own TV show, the Strong Station. Every single night, from six to eight, Mr. Strong would appear on TV and give us words of encouragement and hope, and every single broadcast ended with a cheery tune and the slogan “Be one of us! Be Strong!” Mr. Strong was truly making our lives better. That’s what he said, so that’s what was true.


Soon, more drastic changes were put in place as more and more officials left to travel the world, like my neighbor had. With less people to disagree with Mr. Strong’s wonderful ideas, he could put into power any act he wished. He banned all the books that had “negative” or “mean” messages, which would “harm the youth”. Mr. Strong banned those books to protect us, and we were thankful. Then, the Strong Guard was put in place. The Strong Guard was an elite force of “protectors” as Mr. Strong called them. Everywhere you went, there were Strong Guards. In the classrooms at my school, Strong Guards watched over the class and our lessons to make sure we weren’t being “negatively influenced”, or being “misguided”. Every single Strong Guard wore a bright pin that stated “Be one of us! Be Strong!” and if you asked them politely, they would play the cheery tune from Strong Station on a small harmonica that they all carried. I thought that the Strong Guards were amazing, so much so that I strived to be a Strong Guard when I grew up. How great it would be, to serve under Mr. Strong in the name of Bahkan, helping to keep the citizens safe.


The first instance that built my passion for protecting Bahkan happened during a regular school day that had started off just like any other day. My teacher, Mr. King, was nervously teaching a lesson at the front of the class. Mr. King had always been a naturally nervous, uncomfortable, twitchy teacher, but he had been getting more and more jumpy ever since the election of Mr. Strong. Halfway through the lesson, Mr. King stopped and wrung his hands nervously. Slightly annoyed, I cleared my throat, hoping Mr. King would snap out of his worried moment and continue with the lesson, but his reaction was far beyond what I expected. He turned around and punched the nearest Strong Guard in the face; setting of a series of squeals and gasps from the class. As he was being tackled by the other guards in the room, he shouted out the last lesson he would ever try to pass on to our class; don’t trust Andrew Stronghold.


Astounded by what I heard, I realized Mr. King must have been one of “them”. One of the people that Mr. Strong had been trying to protect us from, one of the people who wrote the mean things in the books, and contributed to the radio stations and TV stations that had been newly banned to protect us. Fury rising in my chest, I got up and began to help the Strong Guards beat Mr. King to the ground. Proud with my contribution, I turned to meet the confused and almost hateful faces of my classmates, the other members of Strong Youth Group. How could they look at me like that? I was doing the right thing! Protecting the country! How dare they think to go against Mr. Strong, he was trying to protect us! I stormed angrily out of the classroom and straight up the main road, where I passed the living quarters of most of the population of Bahkan.


The houses here were much different from mine, the windows were boarded up, and most plastered over with large posters of Mr. Strong with his famous and loveable slogan “Be one of us! Be Strong!” The filthy streets were littered with bags and torn flyers similar to the posters on the windows. The fruit stalls on the side of the road had gone rotten, attracting crowds of flies instead of the usual crowds of customers that I had seen so many times before on Main Street. The usually loud and boisterous area of the city was deathly silent, the only sound being Mr. Strong’s cheery TV tune, which was blaring from the speakers attached to every single telephone pole.


Unnerved by the drastic changes to the area that had been known for its cheerful attitude and prosperity, my confidence wavered slightly, but I continued my journey to the capital building, where Mr. Strong was, so I could request admission into the Strong Guard. I jumped slightly as an ear-splitting scream erupted from the left side of the street as a man was tackled to the ground by more members of the Strong Guard. Using my peripheral vision, I saw that the man had been trying to turn down the volume on one of the speakers so his “baby daughter could get to sleep”, or so he was yelling at the Strong Guards as he pleaded for them to stop beating him. Even though he had done it for his child, that still wasn’t right, was it? To tamper with the speakers? Mr. Strong wouldn’t think so, and I wanted to think like Mr. Strong. I wanted to have his charisma, his leadership. I wanted to Be Strong.





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SecretNonConformist said...
Sept. 18, 2010 at 7:45 am

Oh. My. God. Great story! Since you chose a fictional country, it was less likely for people to get offended. This will help more people read and understand your story. This follower....oh my god! You are a great writer to be able to pull that off. The brainwashing by Mr. Strong worked completely and there was no cliched ending where the follower switched sides. This story made me so angry and if it wasn't as good as it was, it wouldn't have.

Keep writing!

 
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