The trial was going toward its end. After years of administrative battle and weeks of in court, the defendant attorney was about to deliver his closing argument.
In the courtroom, one of the largest in the Northwest Democratic Republic, families, journalists and curious were massed in a dense, sour smelling crowd, shoving and stretching to get a glimpse of the action. Peace keeping squads had to be deployed outside in order to avoid clashes between supporters and detractors of the accused. Both groups, facing each other, seemed to be holding a slogan chanting contest.
“Free speech, free Billy Kay” was met with “Hate haters”, while “Open your eyes, open your mouth” loudly clashed again “Feelings first”.
Billy Kay, a short, rather skinny, young looking black man, was sitting almost motionless on his bench, enjoying the change of athmosphere from his stay in protective custody.
He had been placed under home arrest for a while, but after a small group of ‘outraged citizens’ had showered his house in molotov cocktails, he found himself moved to a more secure location. When the press asked him about his feelings concerning the loss of his roof, he sent another wave of resentment throughout the country. “Next time, why don’t they bring a nice, tall wooden cross for a little burn-along? I’ll provide the popcorn”.
Big Mouth Billy, as the media had monickered him, had first stepped into trouble when selected for a live, prime-time trivia game show. Student in cognitive sciences with an impeccable record, knowledgeable of a wide range of topic and, as student go, perpetually penniless, he’d though of if as an occasion for quick monetary relief.
When, under the attentive eyes of millions of viewers, the presenter had asked him a ritual question, “What motivated you to enter this show, Billy?”, not seeing any benefit dihonesty he simply answered “Well, I could say a lot of things, but I’m just hoping for a big fat heap of cash”.
While his mouth was still split into a grin, the show’s audience fell silent.
“You mean a huge amount of cash, right Billy?” the presenter looked on the verge of panic.
“Not at all, I do mean a massive, fa…”
Only then, he noticed the look in the eyes of the three other contestant. Two morbidly obese ladies and one morbidly obese man. Apparently, his choice of words hadn’t been to the taste of everyone. One of the girls almost immediately broke into hysterical sobs, the crowd started booing, the show was interrupted.
Of course, the recording had made it around the Internet before Billy got home. The lawsuit came a week later. The contestants, backed by the TV network, accused him of infringing the hate speech and banned terms laws. To his knowledge, the word ‘fat’ wasn’t appearing in the banned terms blacklist. Apparently, it had only taken a couple of days to send it there, among the colony of c-words, n-words and other letter-dash-words.
But then why not?
The video of his misstep had gone viral, the public opinion was shaken, hordes of overweight people went marching… the government had to do something.
At first, Billy had taken the news rather stoically. He didn’t care about much, he wouldn’t care much for that either.
When the molotovs when through his windows, he found himself caring at once and completely.
Usually described as a lively lad, prone to humor (although sometime defining himself as a bit of an ass), his only response was then to sit, immobile, mulling things over and not uttering a word.
As he was now, waiting for the defense attorney to start babbling about temporary insanity, stage fright and maybe a stay at the Federal Recalibration Institute instead of the expected 15 years of jail time. His lawyer, reluctant from the start, was doing no more than the necessary minimum. His refusal to talk hadn’t helped his case either.
It wouldn’t matter, he’d end up with an RFID implant like other ‘hater’ in any case. The prosecutor would burn him to crisp without effort; just pointing at the street, showing a couple of recordings from the ‘big march’ would impress the jury way beyond what was needed.
The hell with it all.
Billy had talked. Interrupting the defense’s speech in the middle of a sentence having something to do with his skin color.
Hundreds of mouths went shut.
“Yeah, I wish to dismiss my attorney. Yes, you. I don’t want you to talk on my behalf, I’m screwed coming and going and you’re not helping. So shut up.
Now I’m gonna tell you how I see it. Your honor, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you in the corner with that huge camera, all of you.
First. Yeah. I said it, it’s on video. I wasn’t drunk, I wasn’t crazy, I wasn’t stressed or anything. I just said what was in my mind.”
The judge’s gavel had to rasp several times before anybody could calm down.
“Now hear me. I’m not polite, I swear a lot, I’m a bit of an ass, I’m far from perfect. I’m black, too.
Ah, and I don’t give a fuck.”
The following commotion was even louder than the first one.
“Would you all stop screaming every time you hear a word you don’t like? What are you? 8 year old girls?
Yes your honor. I know your honor, I’m going to far. But hey, I’ll get an implant soon. I’m just asking for five minutes.
You all want to see me convicted because, to your standards, I said the wrong thing a the wrong moment. I said something that made some people sad. Fat people.”
The courtroom was on its way to another antic when he stood up and shouted “SHUT UP! Hear me! You’ve been marching, you’ve been screaming and I haven’t said a word yet. My turn!”
Somehow, his voice was commanding enough to turn the room silent again.
“See, that’s your problem. You don’t want so see what’s here. You’re so afraid of certain things that you don’t even want to accept their existence. I’m black, I’m short, I’ve got a voice so low it could lay down on a railroad and be alright if a train passed… Call me shortie! For the love of all that’s good, call me blacky! I don’t give a damn! And you know why? Because I have absolutely no reason to be ashamed of what I am. Even if I wanted to. You think I don’t want to be taller? You think I could? Of course I can’t!
So I just get on with it. When I see what you call the ‘big march’, I can’t help myself thinking… are all these people so sad to be themselves? Change what you can and live with what you can’t change. Full stop!
I never hurt anybody, I don’t get into people’s ways, I study hard, I support our Unique Party and our Wise Leader, like all of you here. Now, you’ve been calling me a crazy person, an egoistic hater, a sociopath. You’ve been marching to put me in jail just because I said something that happened to somehow relate to someone who didn’t like the sound of it.
Do you have any idea of what these words mean to me, of how I feel about what you guys said? Your words ruined my life, robbed my of my future. And I just sit down and shut up. How twisted is that?”
Some in the audience tried to start booing, but the heart wasn’t there anymore. The truth was: Billy had had the guts to say aloud what was thought by many. His speech was the second recording of him going viral in less than an hour.
A week later, on his way to the Federal Recalibration Institute, in a police wagon, he listened to the muffled sound of the radio. The Minister of Morals was on air. “… yes, Big Mouth Billy has been proven guilty as charged, the decision is supported by overwhelming proofs and technically valid. We can not reasonably afford to overlook the law for the needs of an individual. But even then, we can not deny the strength of his message which, even if lacking in subtlety, has indeed underlined a serious problem in our way of apprehending our verbal communication. This is why, starting from today and in honor of the courage it took to stand up and speak, the words ‘egoist’, ‘sociopath’ and ‘short’ are now banned from any sort of speech whatsoever. Thank you, Billy Kay”
The wagon’s driver jumped on his seat, startled. He’d seen all sorts of behaviors from his passengers, but a convict laughing his head off like that, that was a first.
The Fat Trial by Danny Hefer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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