President Cohen directs Janet and Benjamin to join him on the two sofas that face each other in the center of his office. The Secret Service Officers at the door are dismissed with a wave from one of the President’s entourage. His assistants move to seats by the fireplace but are still close enough to stay tuned into the conversation. One of them is taking notes in a black book he brought with him.
“Ambassador Jagger, I wanted to get you alone here to ask you about Anna. My concerns are rising about her agenda. I sense she is being led by some source of power—perhaps an unseen hand. She is my daughter, and this might keep me from being objective. I need an outsider’s opinion. I also want to hear your reservations concerning the Mandates. I know you understand the level of security needed for both topics. I don’t even want them discussed in the Conference Room of the U.N. Do I have your word?”
“Let’s start with the Mandates. I’d like your quick thoughts on them, and then to walk through them one-by-one and hear your concerns. I’ll give you the floor. Please begin.”
“Mr. President, I’m not going to sugar-coat it. You asked me to always be honest with you. I believe these mandates were purposely written to play to our desire for a Utopian society. Each mandate appears to solve a legitimate challenge faced by man and his planet. They could be misleading on purpose. I’m an optimist by nature, but can see how each one of these mandates can be turned into a weapon against the people, and not just against the people of the United States. I’m speaking of every citizen of the world.
“Right up front, I’m very concerned about the Pope being credited as the main designer of the Mandates. This automatically earns them the reverence normally reserved for Holy Scriptures. The Catholic Church is the wealthiest institution on the planet. It seems hypocritical to get all hyped-up about Amazon infringing upon antitrust laws—as you have—and then calmly allow the leader of the world’s wealthiest religion to put forth worldwide mandates for the rest of us to follow. The implication is that these things are blessed with Holy Water.
“Some nations like Brazil, Italy, Mexico, Argentina, and even our partner on the U.N. Security Council, France, are predominantly Catholic. They, along with the United States, already struggle to separate government and religion. Some of these mandates are clearly referencing religious beliefs. If we back them, we will be giving government power over religion, forcing them back together, and muddying the very water we have been trying to clear.”
“Ambassador,” interrupts the President, “I hear your passion, but this decision has been made in committee. Today can only be productive if we focus on the Mandates singularly and tighten the scope of your specific concerns with each one.” The note-taking assistant hands the President a piece of paper.
“Let’s begin with Mandate #1: Only one Spiritual Being will be recognized by the United Nations. The language that follows offers freedom for all religions to keep their verbiage and worship practices. It goes on to speak of building an international prison for those who commit crimes in the name of religion. What is your concern with Mandate #1?”
“My concern,” says Janet, “lies with the lack of separation between church and state. This isn’t a call that the U.N. should be making. The two biggest religions in the world, Christianity and Islam, are emphatic that they do not worship the same spiritual being. This mandate is forcing them to unite behind a single Allah. This would be offensive to both religions.
“What will the U.N. do when there is a conflict between nations who pray to separate Gods? Will we be forced to speak for a spiritual being of our choosing? History shows us there is a greater likelihood for peace if religion and politics are kept separate. I fear this forced blend of faiths will only cause more bloodshed. The prison built for crimes of religion might fill more quickly than anyone anticipates.
“Furthermore, this can be used as a weapon against the people by restricting public speeches that fail to comply with the U.N.’s position. It could ban the sale and distribution of religious books not inclusive of the U.N.’s position. It could remove the tax exemption on properties owned by the religious institutions that do not comply with the U.N. With all due respect, how did the United States find itself on the side that doesn’t support freedom of religion?”
“Janet, I hear you. Most of your arguments were taken into consideration when the Congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs decided to back this mandate. We are seeking to increase the U.N.’s ability to take action on criminal activity done in the name of religion. Much of this is pure terrorism. We are not living in the time of the Greek gods. Our polls show most people believe if there is a spiritual being, it is one singular being who represents all people equally. The others will adjust to this within a few years, and we will be in a better position to deal with extremists. Let’s move on to Mandate #2.”
Once again, Janet avoids looking in Benjamin’s direction. She’s sure he’s sharing her impression of the President’s response. It was a total shutdown.
The President presents Mandate #2: “Religion will defer to government. Surely, you support this one. If not, let’s hear it.”
“While I appreciate the basic ideology here, this mandate could tie the hands of the religions in the future when issues such as abortion-on-demand, marital rights, euthanasia, and assisted suicides come before the U.N. Judicial Court. These four are among many issues people oppose because of their religious beliefs—not humanitarian ones. This mandate could be used as a weapon on religious groups around the world. They could be stripped of their rights to outwardly express and practice as they wish. I cannot see this in any other light. This is a blatant attempt to give government power to control religion.”
The President leans towards her. “Janet, that isn’t where the Pope and Anna are going with this mandate. Government has been controlling religion all along. If anyone thinks otherwise, they are misguided. Religions cannot rewrite the laws of the lands to suit their belief systems. They have lost in court for polygamy, tolerating sexual abuse, withholding medical treatments, and mishandling funds. Religion does not get to decide when life begins, nor does it get to decide when it ends. This mandate is just taking the next step. That’s all.”
Janet sighs softly and looks to the floor. She cannot believe what she is hearing.
“I can anticipate your push back on Mandate #3 after our phone call on Monday,” the President continues. “It requires world leaders to be approved by the U.N. This was not an easy one for me either. Then, I started to imagine a world where dictators and rogue leaders could not assume power through coercion, fear, military force, or rigged elections. It allows us to ensure the objectives of the U.N. are being supported by every member nation. Do you have something else to add?”
“You’re correct about my objection,” Janet says slowly. “Allowing the U.N. to participate in the election of leaders for the world’s nations, may be the most frightening thing I’ve ever heard. I vehemently disagree with your conclusions. I see a future of people protesting in the streets because their chosen leader was eliminated by foreign nations. This invalidates any personal rights in elections.”
Janet expects a reply from the President. He says nothing. After a minute of silence, he moves on to the next mandate. It’s obvious he is determined not to engage.“Mandate #4: All nations would share in the protection and renewal of the Earth’s resources. This one addresses three things—pollution, a shared economy, and human diets. The floor is yours.”
“Mr. President, the scientists of the world are not in agreement about global warming—including how much man is contributing to the problem, should there be one. Though I’m inclined to believe global warming is happening, and some habits of man are contributing to it, I side with the legal argument that we shouldn’t force actions until we have conclusive evidence.
“China and the United States will be taking the hardest hits for more regulatory action. The manufacturing plants of these nations are large, and therefore, heavily reliant on fossil fuels. Because of this, they are already stringently-regulated on waste and emissions. They are on strict schedules to slowly move to renewable energy sources. Since so much of this is subjective, I fear manufacturing companies will be shut down based solely upon a smaller nation’s theory that they are not in compliance with pollution limits. If our factories become vulnerable, so will our production, as well as our finest product—our intellectual property. And, this is probably a good place to work in that the United States was just proven to have the cleanest air of any industrialized nation.
“As far as the shared economy, I’m a supporter. Eradicating regulation and restrictions will support the growth of a shared economy. It’s great for the environment and embraced by the younger generations.”
“Well, I’m happy we have your buy-in on something. Shall we move on?” The President offers up a small smile.
“Mr. President, there was a third part—it suggested moving people to plant-based diets. It’s a nice thought, but why would these mandates vaguely address plant-based diets and ignore the issue of poverty? Where are the rights to nutritious food and clean water addressed? The wording is just, ‘asked to adopt.’ Even the supportive material we received after the Pope’s speech didn’t tell us what this could look like. It didn’t address penalties for individuals, families, and nations for failing to comply. We need more information before we vote to regulate the diets of the world. And, don’t forget that some well-respected physicians within the United States are still recommending meat and dairy products as part of a healthy diet.”
“Ambassador, the plant-based diets will be regulated by the Health Care Mandate. Physicians will still make the decisions on the diets of their patients. This mandate only seeks to address how man’s diet affects the environment—something that is undeniable.”
“But, Mr. President—”
“Mandate #5,” says the President, “here we go. We are proposing a single currency, required savings, absolving government-backed loans, and the microchip. You’re up.”
This is pointless, Janet thinks. The President isn’t even acknowledging any of my concerns. They set this meeting up just to appease me. Regardless, she pushes ahead. “The single currency has been in the works for decades. I am not an economist, so I cannot comment on the financial consequences of this. I do hope our economy is treated fairly. I wouldn’t want us to become another Greece—unable to dig ourselves out of debt because we can’t control our money supply. I recognize we are very close to a cashless society and that most Americans seem to have adapted. I’m sure there will be both benefits and drawbacks.
“The required savings plan has been proven to work in the U.N. trial studies. I’ll leave that one alone for now. The absolving of debt between nations is probably a non-issue. We weren’t really expecting the return of our dollars anyway. And the microchip was inevitable.”
The President shifts in his seat. “What do you mean by ‘inevitable?”
Out of nowhere, Benjamin decides to enter the conversation. “I believe Ambassador Jagger is referring to Biblical prophecy.”