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Commander in Chief
“Okay, so should we blockade Cuba?” I ask the members of my war council.
“That may seem like a good option now,” my public relations advisor answers slowly, visibly sweating under the stark-white light of the fluorescent bulbs. “But then the public may view you as being weak on the communists.”
“We should just bomb the hell outta them,” my bearish Secretary of Defense mutters, disrupting the debate. The rest of us turn to his scowling face, wondering if he had listened to anything we had been talking about in class the past week. “Well, com’on, you wouldn’t be seen as weak…” seeing that he has no supporters, he trails off and slumps back in his chair.
“The blockade may seem weak at first, but I don’t see how we have any other choice,” -another member of my cabinet adds. “I mean, we definitely can’t invade Cuba with ground forces. Then we’d just have another Bay of Pigs on our hands.”
“Well, I don’t want to risk war in Europe by moving our ground forces there, and we can’t just sit here all day twiddling our thumbs!” I blurt, the tension of the last few hours has finally gotten the best of me. I pause, trying to ignore the twitch that has developed in my left thigh. I glance up at the white board that contains a detailed map of the world within its borders. Tiny tanks and miniature ships dot the map: blue for the United States and red for the Soviets. Innocent little triangles pop up here and there, their small size belying what they truly represent: nuclear missile sites. Finally, I come to a decision. “No, the blockade is our next move. I’ll go tell Mr. Johnson.”
I lift myself out of my seat and walk over to my Secretary of State, Mr. Steve Johnson. I wonder what he’ll think of this… I mean I don’t see any other alternative! As I cross the room, my eyes wander over the posters that cover the walls; some depict dictators such as Kim Jong Il and Castro, while others show Luke and Yoda training in the swamps of Dagobah. Large maps of the Gulf War swim across my vision as a long line of my predecessors marches along the top of one wall, scowling down at me. Darnit, he’ll probably think I don’t have a backbone. Him and the rest of the American people!
By the time I make my way over to Mr. Johnson, I’ve nearly talked myself out of the decision.
“Mr. Jahn. So what have you got for me?” he asks.
“Well, um, I think my group… I mean, my group and I… We’ve decided to blockade Cuba,” I utter, my hesitant words tripping over themselves in their haste to leave my mouth.
“Okay, and what brought you to that decision?” he inquires.
“Well, right away we decided against bombing the either the Soviets or the Cubans, ‘cause hey, we don’t really want to destroy the world. We also agreed that the CIA would probably screw up any assassination attempt we authorized. And then we felt that it really wouldn’t be a good idea to move any of our troops around either, because we’d rather solve this peacefully. So really that leaves us with only one good option: the blockade.”
“So it sounds to me like you’re pretty set on this.”
“Yes,” I answer with confidence this time. Mr. Johnson isn’t going to coddle me and tell me that“We’re gonna do the blockade.”
“Alright,” Johnson replies, swiveling in his chair. “I’ll go tell your decision to our Soviet friends.”
And with that I could finally relax for a few moments. As I headed back to my chair, the last twenty four hours began to swirl in my mind. It had all begun yesterday when Mr. Johnson had announced that we would be playing a game. We had stared penetratingly at him. We all knew what kind of “games” teachers like to play. Teachers only use games as thinly veiled test reviews, their questions deviously hidden behind flashy Jeopardy cards.
“Oh yes,” he had plowed on, ignoring the laser gazes that tracked his movements. “I will be dividing you into groups and you will reenact the Cuban Missile Crisis! Some of you will be the US and others of you will be the USSR. You will have to elect a president and the rest of the group will be the president’s advisors.” At these words, the mood in the room seemed to shift.
Hey, I thought, this could actually be fun.
We were assigned groups, and I was landed with the job of president. Suddenly, the game no longer felt as exciting.
Great, a voice in my head jeered, you are going to be the leader of the free world. You are going to be the one that everyone gets mad at when this all goes to hell. Which it most certainly will with you at the wheel.
Man, is this is how the actual president feels? I wondered. Urgh, it must be horrible having thoughts like that run through your mind on a daily basis. Well, if this country is gonna be my responsibility, I’ll have to do my best not to screw it up.
Now, deep into the “game,” my cabinet and I are attempting to determine our next move. As public relations had warned, some of the “public” (made up of classmates), feel that I’m not dealing with the Soviets properly, that I’m just letting them trample all over the red, white, and blue. Sitting in our tight huddle, I take a quick look over at the Soviet camp. Their President is doing the exact same thing, and for a moment our eyes meet. For those few seconds I feel like a small child playing war games on the playground. And then the feeling is gone, the two of us once again great leaders of our people.
We need a way to convince the public that the course of action we are taking is the right one. Unfortunately, none of us can think of a good way to do this. We bring our problem to Mr. Johnson who answers in his usual fashion: with a question. “What does the actual president do when he wants to placate the American public?”
Oh god, I think, because I can see where he is going with this. “He usually makes… an address.” I answer, the final word going off like a bomb in the midst of my group, the shockwave leaving their faces slack. We have to write a speech
Wasting no time, we quickly draft a short, barely-passable-for speech. The few sentences we scratch together resemble a patchwork-quilt of words as they ramble and meander across the page. Mr. Johnson gathers together the American public as I walk up to the front of the room. Soon all eyes are on me and I know there is no going back. I quickly scan over the hand-written speech one last time, take a deep breath, open my mouth and plunge in.