Tuesday, January 25, 2011

424 - Learning to Campaign

“Those who would deny other people freedom;  freedom to read, freedom to vote, freedom to express themselves, call their own freedoms into question.  You Ser, are free to express yourself without fear of the wrath of the Imperator falling on you or your family.  You, Ser, will not have to fear having your children flung off the Rim if I make a mistake and you catch me at it.  That is freedom and that is the kind of Imperator I intend to be.”
I said that in Marsae.  I knew it because the Pages reporter assigned to me, Sinimas Menden, began collecting bits and piece of my speeches.  I did not think they were terribly quotable.  They were just what I saw needed to be said.  People needed to know I had some kind of core, some kind of integrity.  I had to show people who I was or they would never vote for me.
“My reputation?  Is terrible, my personal honour, however, is intact.  My reputation I built as a bad child and I am now committed to building my reputation as an adult.  I am only second threshold but I have chosen the men I intend to emulate and will build my reputation on that basis, one act at a time.”
I had my childhood flung at me about as much as I expected.  I got used to it.  Shame, apparently can only burn so long.  You keep answering the same and the accusation finally loses its sting.
“I intend to have a very long memory for kindnesses and decency. I also intend to cultivate a very short memory for attempts at personal injury.  Even in a public and open Arko any one may attempt to call me names, but saying a person is a jackass does not automatically confer hooves, ears and tail.  Saying it louder merely causes people to wonder exactly who is the one braying, the speaker or the listener.”
That got a big laugh in the hall where the fellow flung the epithets ‘jackass’ and ‘house donkey’ at me.  It was actually in White Creek.
“The last war was not a good war.  In history I have never actually seen a good war.  I also have never seen a bad peace. A field of corpses is certainly very peaceful.  But not helpful to anyone.”
“I am not attempting to please everyone.  That is the key to failure, not success.”
“Some of the most intense and complex ideas can be expressed in simple words, single words. Horrific ideas may be simply said. Tyrant. Ruthless. Evil. Hate.  Words that can be freely flung in any campaign to win people’s hearts and minds.  However, people are smarter than that and there are other, greater ideas; simple, single words that can be used in their place.  Freedom. Hope. Mercy. Justice. Duty. Honour.  Let me work for you towards these simple words and away from the first set.”
“You, ser, say I am merely a glove upon Chevenga’s hand, or Kallijas’s hand.  At least I can pick, clean, decent, honourable men to be models for me, to draw me toward their ideals.  Shall I ask, Ser, whose glove you are?”
“You ask me about peace and freedom as if they are separate things.  They are one and the same because no one is at peace if they do not have their freedom!”
“It is sensible to test a method by trying it.  If it fails, admit it and try something else.  If it succeeds, cling to it like to your hope of Selestialis!”
“I must appear sensible, sober, calm and wise, all of these things.  But one of my hopes at being a good Imperator is to have a healthy sense of humour.”
“A hero is someone who understands the responsibility inherent in his freedom.  You, the people choose who will govern you.  You, the people have the power to take up one of us… myself, Kazien, Kallen, Tori Itzan… and present that man to the Ten and say ‘We want this one to guide us, to be first among equals.  Thus you… every one of you is, in my eyes, a hero.”
“The vote substitutes election by the masses for the appointment of the corrupt and venal few.”
“If I am voted in as Imperator, by you, it is your responsibility to speak to me… and to continue to speak to me.  It is my responsibility to listen.  I swear, as Imperator I will listen, with care and commitment to my people, Second Fire come, if I lie.”
“A new war, Ser?  War is fear hiding behind courage and honour.  Do the Seras’ of Arko need more blood poured out uselessly on the land rather than flowing in their sons’ bodies?  Arko has nothing to fear, Ser, except what we ourselves make.”
I spoke on presentation platforms and farm carts, from village halls and in some cases when there was not enough space in the hall, from a stump brought out to the common ground in front.  I was lucky that it was high summer in Arko and I and everyone else could better bear sun than cold or rain.  And the wing made things tremendously easy for we could travel as the crow flew instead of having to skirt lakes and rivers and such like.
When the wings spiraled down to the Town hall or the new landing fields we drew crowds.  We were the latest dancing bear come to town.  My security detail -- all those that Joras had hired, including the three zealous solas who had tried to turn me in, were concerned but I insisted on letting people close.  I made a point of talking to the children.
They were not voters but their parents were. Proud fathers began bringing their sons to the lines my security set up, presenting them to me, probably so they could say… whatever happened… that they had spoken to me personally.  The little girls were not so brought forward but I often could include them by asking them about their pets and their new lessons in reading. 

Joras was actually appalled when, a time or two, I sat right down, heedless of my dignity, cross-legged in the grass, to talk to a circle of children who wanted to hear about my little brother and how he got lost in the sewer pipes. Or how his pet domoctopus saved him from a big spider there.
It was at Nurim Hill that a young woman leaned forward across the line and handed me a child… a baby.  I was so startled that I almost dropped the infant but took it… him? Her? I couldn’t tell.  Thankfully Ili had taught me how to hold a baby without snapping its neck.
I found myself with a very confused child on my arm so I tickled the end of his nose with my hair to keep him from screaming.  He grinned at me and I managed to smile at his mother.  “A boy?” I had to ask.  “A fine, healthy child.  He’ll do you proud one day.” I managed to hand him back to her without dropping him and all of a sudden others wanted me to dandle their children as well.  

Aside from the occasional smelly one, it wasn’t a problem really and I began carrying a largish round harness bell that I could pull out to distract possible screamers.  It was as if I could hear Binshala at my elbow. It is only baby pee, Spark. It washes off.
I could not help the sneakingly smug thought that Kazien or Kallen wouldn't touch these lower caste children.  Honestly it was more fun than handling the epithets that were sometimes flung out of the crowd by people testing how much they could say, not understanding perhaps that they could… and should… say anything they wanted to.
Assembly servants sometimes were there in their home cities when it was close enough to the city for them to fly out and I ended up often sharing whatever platform was offered with them. Which was fine. I got to know them better afterwards, as well. 

Arko had elected a lot more solas and fessas to Assembly than okas.  And, surprisingly few Aitzas, until I thought about it and realized that most Aitzas held it beneath them. I could talk to the solas about training and the fessas about how I had lived as a fessas while in hiding.
It was at my last speaking stop, at North Gate, that I found I would share the platform with one of my honourable opponents.  Kin Kazien would be there to speak his piece as well.  He had ridden out of the city, rather than wing, and I found him at the Town Hall, speaking to the local servant of Assembly.  

He looked impeccable in his dark red satins, with cutwork hems and cuffs dotted here and there with tiny gold sequins. I was still in my flying leathers and considerably more aromatic from flying all day.

He was taller than I.  Obviously broader across the shoulders with a small paunch of presence.  A man's fleshier build, to my gracile one.  He was fashionably smooth faced and had hair all the way down to his mid-thigh, also perfectly combed. I felt very scruffy and wind-blown.
He raised his nose and smiled down it at me, his smile never reaching his eyes, like most nobles in my father's court who were being polite without liking.  “Serin Aan,” he said slightly emphasizing the fact that I was merely a second thresholder.  Good day.  I trust you had a good flight?” Now why was he putting that slight sneer on the word flight, as if it were somehow lesser than riding a good horse?
“Very good, Ser.” I said as calmly as I could, standing as tall as I could without taking a poker up the backside. A short memory for injury, I thought. A good sense of humour, I thought.
“Sers,” the organizer, Assembly servant Porapas Asimir, solas, said.  “Which one of the exalteds would care to speak first?”


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  2. I'm glad you like Minis as a politician!