June's Speech

(by anonymous, 22 July 2009)


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June was a straight A student; a senior in High School and the valedictorian
in her class.  But she was no single dimensional nerd, she lettered in both
swimming and field hockey.  However, June had a secret; June was a smoker,
though today that was all about to change.

June had been around smoking all throughout her life; her parents were
lifelong smokers.  It was only natural that June herself would become a
smoker herself one day.  However, by the time she started the world had
turned against smokers.  In spite of, or perhaps because of that, she had
nonetheless decided to become a smoker herself.  She started with her
parents' approval; she never even tried smoked behind their back or anything
else untoward, she was always the good daughter.  When she first approached
her parents at fourteen with her desire to smoke they were understandably
taken aback, after all smoking had been banned in all public places three
months earlier in their home state of Massachusetts. June had presented her
case with the clarity and foresight that only the child of an attorney and a
software developer could.  While her parents were reluctant to have her join
them in the greatest pleasure known to man, they could not defeat her
arguments; after all both of them had started smoking before they were her
age, and neither had discussed their choice with their parents beforehand.

When June started smoking her parents had outlined some very stringent rules
for her: no one other than her parents could know she smoked, and she could
never smoke outside the house.  This hadn't seemed too difficult a request
for June when she started, but soon, as she realized the totality of the
enjoyment that cigarettes provided her she found these rules more difficult.
Her parents provided her with nicotine patches to wear during school and for
social occasions.  

Shortly after June started smoking she found that her best friend Lori, who's
mother was also a smoker and close friends with June's mother, was also a
smoker and their mothers' let them smoke together in their respective homes.
Lori was not required to be as discreet with her habit as June was, and many
of June's peers wondered why she would associate with someone who smoked.
Aside from the ridicule, June used her relationship with Lori to learn of
which of the faculty and members of the student body also smoked.  Through
the rhetoric they preached June was surprised to learn nearly half of her
peers and teachers enjoyed at least the occasional cigarette and that about a
third of them were regular smokers.  Over time, and with her parents
approval, June outed herself to each of them, and encouraged them to do the
same, so that by the end of her senior year close to a third of her entire
school knew about each others' enjoyment of tobacco.

June was content with her circle of smoking friends and the secret they all
shared until March of her senior year.  This was when the school board
proposed a new policy regarding tobacco control.  Under the new policy every
student and teacher was to submit to a urine test once a month to screen for
nicotine in their bloodstream.  Teachers who turned up positive would be
fired immediately; students would face a ten day suspension and would be
removed from class to face a "drug awareness" program where they would have
to abandon not only any tobacco habit they had, but also swear not to
associate with anyone who was a "user of the cancerous drug nicotine", even
if that person was one of their parents.  Foster homes were to be set up to
be sure the "victims of tobacco abuse" would have a safe haven away from
their "drug addicted" parents.  These rules were to be enforced starting with
the next school year in September.  As Valedictorian of the outgoing senior
class June was to be the keystone in the anti's argument and was given a
special place in their program as the bill was presented to the town for
vote.  The parties involved had no idea where June's loyalties truly lay.

As had become the custom with the anti smoking brigade, the usual suspects
were rolled out for this night's presentation.  First the mayor himself (June
knew he loved his cigars) spoke and endorsed "removing the scourge of
tobacco" from their town; next came the superintendent of schools (a born
again Christian; twice divorced, with seven children from his three wives,
the last of whom had Down's syndrome and who they referred to as "God's
little miracle" that would cost the country tens of thousands of dollars for
every year "God" saw fit to keep her on Earth).  After the superintendent
came the principal of June's own school, a woman whom June knew to be a
highly committed, if closeted, smoker.  June watched dismayed as her
principal, a woman she had shared a cigarette with not forty eight hours ago
in her car, trumpeted the new bill as a great law for the sake of the
children.  Next up was Lisa, a girl whose father had succumbed to a heart
attack a year ago.  Never mind her father weighed in at 400lbs, and downed a
fifth of scotch every day, no, smoking is what killed him.  That aside, he
had been collecting SSI disability for the past ten years, with no end in
sight, so his quick and costless death had saved hundreds of thousands of
dollars from the national debt.  The gallery sat in quiet repose.  Finally it
was June's turn.  The anti's in the gallery sat on the edge of their seats,
they knew June's parent's smoked and were looking forward to their
crucifixion.  They had no idea what June had in store for them.

June walked tentatively to the podium.  Upon reaching her mark she gazed upon
the thousands in attendance she knew were hanging on her every word.  Finally
her gaze met Lori's, her wife of six months, since her eighteenth birthday,
though possibly even fewer people in attendance knew of that than knew of
June's smoking.

"To the graduating class of 2009, parents and faculty welcome!" June began.
"The 21st century promises to be one of great change and personal liberty!"
June paused as applause broke out from those in attendance, she could only
wonder what the reaction would be to what else she had to say.  "For the
first time in western history a person of African descent has been elected,
not only as the President of the United States, but to the top office of any
western nation."  Again, more applause erupted.  "And for the first time in
human history a man or a woman is able to marry a person of their own
gender."  More applause.  "My fellow citizens, I myself have utilized this
right when I took my best friend Lori's hand in marriage on her eighteenth
birthday just six months ago."  Julie pointed to Lori who stood up.  The
applause definitely wasn't as strong as it had been, and a pallor of
discomfort spread across the room.  "Okay, so some of you aren't really ready
to accept my marriage, but I am sure had I married a man at my age your
reaction would be the same.  It's not my orientation that's bothering you,
rather my station in life.  However, no one is calling us abominations, and
that is progress!"  The applause registered slightly higher than it had
before.  "And today we have decided to stop locking up people that possess a
small amount of marijuana, a drug I myself do not partake in."  This time the
stoners at the top of the bleachers gave a huge shout.  "However we will all
benefit from not clogging the courts with these meaningless cases and can
stop ruining lives of kids for utilizing a substance that has a lower
societal cost than alcohol!"  With that cheers emitted from all sides of the
auditorium.  "However, a far more grave situation calls us here today.  The
dark side of liberalism, if you will, the freedom from choice." June could
hear the various dignitaries behind her beginning to shift uncomfortably in
their seats.  "I am the valedictorian of this class, I have led us to victory
in the state finals in track two years running, no one is talking about
taking this away because I am a lesbian, or because I am married to a woman,
and it would be illegal for them to do so, nor can they any longer use minor
marijuana use against a student to preclude them from their deserved
accolades.  However, next year, should the person that has my role use
tobacco," and with that June extracted a pack of Newport 100's from her
pocket, "as I do, they will never be given the chance to do the things I have
done."   Instantly an audible gasp rose both from the crowd and the panel
behind her.  June knew everyone was dismayed she was going to defend smokers,
even the smokers she knew were staring agape at her.  Mrs. Henderson, the
principal scrambled to her feet and approached the podium as June continued,
"Everybody look to the person on your left and then to the person on your
right.  Chances are one of you is a smoker.  Chances also are that another
one of you is a former smoker who more than likely started in high school.
Are two thirds of you bad people?"

"June, this is quite enough," Mrs. Henderson began saying as she attempted to
derail June's speech.

"Is it?  Look at Mrs. Henderson here rushing up to deny me my first amendment
rights.  What are you people so afraid of?  Should we scrap the constitution
in the name of political correctness?"

Mrs. Henderson placed herself between June and the microphone, "June you sit
down this instant!"

"Or what?  You'll expel me?  For simply exercising my constitutional rights?
For having a dissenting opinion?"

Try as she might Mrs. Henderson could not block June's voice from carrying
over the PA system; nor could she block her own voice, "June, this is NOT the
forum for this discussion!"

"This is not the forum?  Then what is?  Is this a discussion or a lecture?
We have all the students, faculty and the voters here!  Are they not entitled
to an honest debate?"

"June! Please!  Tobacco needs to be eradicated!"

"And smokers along with it?  Weren't you the one smoking with me two days ago
in your car after school?  Do you really think you'll have a job next
September?"

"Well I'll just have to quit, I should be quitting anyway; it's not good for
me as a role model to be smoking anyway."

"Why not?  Were you a bad role model for me when you taught me in second
grade?  You were a great teacher and a great principal, and honestly I never
knew you smoked until well after I started myself.  Should we have people
like Mr. Cheever teaching us?  Automaton, I believe you called him."

"June, well, you just don't understand what we're trying to do here, we're
trying to save the children of the future from damaging themselves."

"Damaging themselves how exactly?  How old are you?  Sixty?  Smoking for
forty five plus years?"

"Things were different then."

"Yes, you got to make your choices, and tonight I hope the people of this
town make the right one for themselves.  See you Monday Mrs. Henderson."

With that June walked off the stage.  Lori got up and met her as she walked
toward the door.  They gave each other a long embrace and kissed as only a
married couple can.  Then Lori and June both retrieved their wedding rings
from their pockets, slipped them on, and walked out of the gymnasium.  As
they reached the edge of campus each lit up their cigarettes, and rejoiced in
their freedom.

For the first time in decades a town found its sobriety from hysteria,
remembered what America once stood for, and voted down totalitarianism.


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