|Change the World
by Rodford Edmiston
© Rodford Edmiston -- all rights reserved
I like to walk when I think. Usually I simply pace inside, but tonight more room was needed.
I've lived in this neighborhood since 1984. I've sometimes thought about moving out to the country, but never seriously. There are woods half a block a from my house, and sometimes deer come into my back yard. There's little human activity at night. I've run that wooded hill as both wolf and cougar, and the streets as a centaur, without attracting attention. Two blocks downhill is the Kentucky River, making it's lazy way north. Few of my neighbors even know I am a scab. I might find all this in the country, but not with modern shopping centers close by.
My visit to the Blind Pig had been fun, but it had also awakened me to the problems that most scabs faced. I had known of these, intellectually, of course, but it had taken meeting some of the people affected to make it real. Barnes had lost the election, but he had never been more than a local annoyance. The real problem was society. Any organism, whether an individual creature or a group made up of individuals, is frightened by the unfamiliar, and takes time to adjust.
Things were getting better. Societies take longer to change than individuals, but they do change. Already, many of the early measures taken against SCABS victims had been declared unconstitutional. However, the rate of change was currently very slow. What had me walking the quiet streets of my neighborhood past midnight was the thought that there had to be something I could do to help things along.
Most humans are impatient. The civil rights demonstrators of the sixties had demanded total equality right now. They hadn't gotten it, but fifty years later their grandchildren had to be reminded that blacks, Hispanics and others had once not been considered equal under the law. I, on the other hand, can be very patient. A lot of patience is stubbornness, and that I have in surplus quantities.
I'm in my seventies, but could pass for 50, and not only because of my SCABS-generated ability. I come from a long-lived family. Just ask my great-uncle Woody. Because of that, and because for many years I had earned a living making projections based on past history, I tend to take the long view. The hostility towards scabs was a reaction rather than an institution, and the current social trends would keep it from becoming an institution. Something might change that, but it was unlikely. However, that didn't help people who were being victimized now.
I have some influence. For over twenty years I have earned a living writing fiction. But while reading hasn't declined the way many people predicted in the late Twentieth Century, readers - especially of science-fiction and fantasy, which are what I write - are definitely a minority.
I suddenly realized that I had stopped walking, and was looking at a house. Someone was up late, watching television.
Television. It was one of those moments where things suddenly snap into place. There was a producer who had been trying for eight years to get me to agree to letting him create a TV show based on one of my book series. I wasn't interested. But what if...?
It had been done before. "All in the Family," by Norman Lear, had featured a bigoted, narrow-minded man. Lear had been roasted for popularizing such a man, accused of promoting stereotypes. They didn't understand what he was doing. Gradually, as the series continued for several years, Archie Bunker had learned and grown and become more accepting and open-minded. The effect on society was small, but it was definite.
"Scab in the Family"? No. For one thing, the show was still in syndication occasionally. But something similar...
A middle-class family, with a hard-working and opinionated but decent father. A new family moves in next door. One of the children - the daughter - is obviously a scab, though not monstrous. (Arrange for a popular teen star to play the girl, but have real scabs for other scab roles.) The father is concerned, but not overtly hostile. Uneasy through ignorance, he mouths the common beliefs and complaints. His teenage son criticizes him for being a bigot, but in truth he is merely frightened. Another neighbor is far more outspoken, advocating violent eviction, but never actually doing anything. Play the son's criticism of his father for small laughs, the neighbor's words without action for large ones. When the son or someone else presents information about scabs or defends them, treat it seriously. Have the father gradually come to tolerate the presence of these new neighbors during the first season, but still be uneasy at the end.
Start the second season as more of the same. Then, the third episode, have the son come in injured. He has just saved the scab neighbor from a group of local roughs, out to do her harm. The father quietly praises the son for his heroism. Play it low-key, as a minor incident near the end.
A few episodes later, the bigoted neighbor confronts the father, accusing him of having a scab-lover for a son. Turns out the leader of the attackers was the neighbor's son. Over the next few episodes things get very tense. The neighbor is harassing the father and his family, being more active against them than he has ever been against the scab family. Finally, the father has a restraining order filed against the neighbor. The neighbor immediately confronts the father, who again defends his son. After angry words, the neighbor beats him up.
Remember the ending of "Giant," when Elizabeth Taylor tells Rock Hudson that she was never more proud of him than when she saw him laying on the floor of the diner, defeated, after standing up for his half-Hispanic grandson? The episode ends similarly, with the bandaged father and his wife watching through the window as the neighbor is taken away by the police.
Yeah. No direct support of scabs by the main character, but he praises and defends his son for doing the right thing. Don't be preachy, don't make a big issue of it. Next episode go back to being light. Let things soak in.
I started walking again, more quickly now and with a smile on my face. Thoughts flew around inside my head, most vanishing but a few settling into place like the pieces to a jigsaw puzzle. There were still details to develop, but I could see that it could work, would probably work. I wouldn't have to do this alone, either. My pace quickened even more; I had things to do, people to contact.
The fellow who wrote the screenplay for the second movie based on one of my works is now very popular in Hollywood. He is also a friend. Just a couple of weeks before, he had written to me about how he and some others were quietly helping scab writers by buying their work and selling it as their own. Much as had been done for blacklisted writers during the McCarthy era. He would help with this project. So would his friends. Some because they were scabs. Some because they had family or friends who were scabs. Some simply for the thrill of putting one over on the American public.
With talent like that, we had a very good chance of success. Not just in getting and staying on the air, but in helping people to overcome their fears. By making them laugh at those fears and the people who promoted them. By showing how those fears could make a familiar person turn dangerous.
Life is chaotic, in the mathematical sense. Small stimuli can produce large changes, such as the flap of a butterfly's wings altering the course of a hurricane. A TV show is a small thing in comparison with a society, but done right it could have an enormous influence. Within five years, we would have reduced the hostility towards scabs by perhaps a third.
My smile widened, revealing the elongated canines I've had since my early teens. There were interesting times ahead.
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