Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Empty Nester/Retirement (from work) (09/10/09)
TITLE: Is there life after politics?
By Gregory Kane
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To think that this time last year I was poised to send a thousand troops into Lebanon to take out a network of terrorist training camps. That's the power I commanded. Now I can't even get someone to pop round on his way home from work and look at my hot water pipes. I used to be irresistible to women; they would swoon when I walked in the room. Now they all turn up their noses and joke about my greying hair and wrinkled skin. And what about all those business leaders, constantly dropping in for a drink or bearing an invitation for a weekend cruise? Not any longer. Not now. I'm old news, a has-been, a retired nobody, yesterday's man.
I've been thinking about writing my memoirs. I've even been offered a book deal. But I'm not sure how many people would be interested in my accomplishments: the military adventures, peace in our time, improvements to the road network, construction of theatres and new housing... I rather suspect that most people would merely be looking for the tittle-tattle tales of who said what about whom and who was sleeping with whose wife. I really can't be bothered scratching around in that sordid, malodorous gutter. Besides, I wrote to my successor the other day, offering my advice on the Jewish question. You're handling them all wrong, I opined, they're the scum of the earth and you need to treat them accordingly. But the pompous oaf had the impudence to send my letter back unopened. Apparently my decades of experience count for nothing, so why should I waste my remaining years immortalising them in writing?
By the time he gets to my age, a man starts thinking about his legacy. What will he be remembered for? I've double-crossed my fair share of opponents but that's the name of the game in politics. And I've had to compromise my convictions so many times, I'm no longer sure what I actually stand for. Such moral ambiguity reminds me of one of my worst judgment calls— that time when I withheld a pardon from a man on death row. It's funny how that story haunts me to this day. I knew perfectly well that it was a put-up job. A bunch of religious nutters wanted an excuse to put him away for good and I found it politically expedient to go along with the facade. So the man died a pitiless, slow death while I washed my hands of any complicity.
I can't even remember the fellow's name. What I seem to recall is that I went on to offer clemency to a convicted murderer. The stupid fool walked out of his prison cell, promptly knifed the next soldier he stumbled across, and ended up with a hole in his chest that you could put your fist through. Not one of my most sensible pardons that! But that first chap, the one who was executed, he really got under my skin. Kept waffling on about authority and integrity and ultimate reality. “What's truth?” I asked with a politician's spineless cynicism, but the question has bothered me ever since.
Of course what's-his-name is long forgotten, a smudged footnote in history, but my legacy will live on. For as long as Eternal Rome endures, people will remember my name. Caligula is even talking about sending me off to Gaul. Perhaps I'll be given another chance to serve the Empire, to etch my name a little deeper in the annals of time. That would show those nincompoops, those fair-weather friends who were quick to turn their backs when I was abruptly recalled. Pontius Pilate may be down but he's never out. He may have been humbled but he will rise again. Mankind will never forget what I have done.
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