By Paul V. DeMarco
Scene: A distant galaxy, year 2834, in the Tardis.
Dr. Who: What’s on the schedule today?
Ruby (the doctor’s companion): Looks like we have the day off. Not an alien in sight.
Who: Smashing! I’ve really wanted to brush up on my American history. The 1920’s seemed like an eventful time-jazz music, speakeasies, flappers, the Depression. I came across this name I had never heard of (flipping pages on a touch screen). Let’s see here… yes, there he is, Michael Johnson. Came out of nowhere it seems. Only six years’ experience and pop! – he’s the speaker of the House. Seems perfect for the job for someone of that era though. Rock-ribbed conservative Christian, literally interprets the Bible, believes in Noah’s Ark and the world being about 10,000 years old. A man for his time! Ha, but there’s a typo in his bio. It says he was elected in 2023. They must mean 1923 (pauses to adjust the Tardis’ time-travel settings). OK, course set for Michael Johnson as speaker of the House. Here we go!
Ruby (shouting over the roaring of the Tardis): Actually, Doctor, there is no mistake!! Johnson was elected in 2023!!!
Who: (also shouting): Sorry, I can’t hear you!!
(The Tardis makes a rough landing. Unbeknownst to the Doctor, Ruby is knocked unconscious).
Who: Blimey! That was more of a shake than I expected. Let’s see what other history we can glean before we start exploring. Righto, I see here that the Scopes Monkey Trial will happen in just a couple years. Well, that’s advantageous for Mike. He’s a constitutional lawyer whom I’m sure can argue a cracking case against evolution. He’s got a strong voice and a great stage presence. Ruby, don’t the creationists win at trial?
(Ruby awakens but is too groggy to respond. The Doctor is oblivious.)
Who: (continues reading) But there’s no mention of Mike at the Scopes trial… Hmm… I guess they needed a more experienced lawyer… (swiping)… so they picked Williams Jennings Bryan. Too bad for Mike.
Who: Ooh, I wonder if Mike ran for President in 1924. With that winning smile and such a nice head of hair. Surely he would have grasped for the brass ring. (Swipes touch screen) What! Calvin Coolidge?! Silent Cal? Surely Mike would have been more exciting. And he hated welfare just as much as Coolidge did.
Ruby (finally fully regaining consciousness): Where are we?
Who: 1923, weren’t you paying attention?
Ruby (now clear-headed): Doctor, we’re in 2023.
Who: Ruby, you are one sandwich short of a picnic! I mean a man like Mike Johnson makes perfect sense for 1923, when creationism and evolution were seen as competitors in the marketplace of ideas. But a hundred years does a lot to disabuse people of the notion that humans kept pet dinosaurs. And look at his ideas on sexual orientation. Back in 1923 every state had a sodomy law. Views like Mike’s prevailed and most gay people lived closeted and afraid. You expect me to believe that Mike Johnson was elected speaker of the United States House of Representatives, second in the line of presidential succession after the vice-president… in the year 2023! Not a snowball’s chance! It’s a foul-up in the blasted Tardis!
Ruby: Doctor, It’s not the Tardis.
Who: And then there’s his wife. Also ideal for early 20th-century America. What a role model for women who had just won the right to vote! Look at her – she’s running her own business. But, as would be expected in 1923, biblically submissive to her husband. What a power couple for the Roaring Twenties. She’s so much more magnetic than Mrs. Coolidge. Wow, they really missed an opportunity by not running in 1924.
Ruby (coming over to the doctor’s computer station and manipulating the touch screen fiercely): Doctor! There is nothing wrong with the Tardis!
Who: (reviewing what Ruby is showing him, stunned): Crikey… We are in 2023. It’s been 100 years since the Scopes trial, there’s now incontrovertible evidence that the earth is billions of years old, it’s been over 50 years since Stonewall, and gay marriage is legal. Isn’t that right Ruby? Gay marriage has been legalized by this time in the US?
Ruby: Yes sir, Obergefell was decided in 2015. (Swiping a touchscreen). Here’s some more about him. He made no secret that his interpretation of the Bible was at the base of his political views. He wrote columns in his local paper about it. Here’s one from 2003 in which he responded to the U.S. Supreme Court’s striking down of a Texas sodomy law. He said it was a “devastating blow to fundamental American values and millennia of moral teaching.”
Who: But surely he and his wife’s views moderated once he was elected Speaker…
Ruby: Well, his wife’s counseling service did take down their website in which they call homosexuality “sinful and offensive to God.”
Who: Well that’s something…
Ruby: But when asked what his views were a couple days after being elected, he said if you want to know what he thinks “About any issue under the sun… Well, go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it. That’s my worldview.”
Who: Any issue? Climate change? Nuclear arms? The next pandemic? I am gobsmacked. But I have to know. Does America become a theocracy? Set a course to November 2024 (TO BE CONTINUED).
A version of this column appeared in the November 15th edition of the Post and Courier-Pee Dee.