“I can’t believe that I have to stand out in the cold with all these smelly hicks.” Veronica shivered beneath a dozen layers of winter clothing. There were four inches of snow and counting blanketing the ground and piling up on the roof of the ramshackle 3 room cabin behind her. “Jesus, the things I have to do for this job. Hey Kevin, you got a smoke?”
Kevin looked down at his watch. “No time, Veronica. We’re on in 5…” Kevin hoisted the monolithic TV camera onto his shoulder and adjusted the lens. “… 4… 3… 2…”
Veronica quickly messed with her bangs and cleared her throat. A small monitor, showing the KERP Channel 13 Action News Team of Greg Staples and Sylvia Bay, flashed on. “-nd we’ll be joining Veronica Nguyen live in Harney County, Oregon for more on this story. Veronica?”
“Thanks Sylvia, Greg. I’m here at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon, about 30 miles south of Burns, where an armed group of self proclaimed ‘freedom fighters’ have taken over a federal building. The group is occupying this building in response to the conviction last October of two local farmers, who set fire to over a hundred acres of federal land. What are their demands? What is their end goal and are they willing to resort to violence to achieve it? We hope to get answers to these questions and more when I interview the leader of these men in just under an hour. Back to you, Sylvia.”
“Thanks, Veronica. Now let’s go over to Steve with-” Kevin cut the power and lowered the camera.
“I’ll be so glad when we can get the hell out of this wasteland and back to Eugene,” Veronica said. She extended her hand to the cameraman. “I’m really gonna need that smoke.”
* * *
A dozen muscular, slightly overweight men clad in flannel shuffled around the cabin, using every ounce of their middling housekeeping skill to try to spruce the place up. A man in a deerhunter hat flung his AR-15 over his shoulder so he could adjust a vase full of artificial roses. A bearded man, wearing a shirt with a red white and blue “Don’t Tread on Me” snake with an eagle’s head, pulled up a dusty leather armchair and began polishing it off.
“Y’all can take a seat right here while you wait, ma’am,” the man said to Veronica, who was leaned up against the wall of the cabin taking a drag off of the smoldering nub of a nearly spent cigarette.
“Uh, thanks. How much longer are you going to make me wait? This interview is going to be live.”
“Sorry, ma’am. He should be with you in about 5 minutes. He got caught up making some important phone calls.”
“We’re going on air in 4 with or without him.” Veronica flicked the butt onto the cabin floor and sat down in the old chair. She thumbed mindlessly through her iPhone, trying to access Facebook in case by some miracle her cell reception had returned. She frantically refreshed the page, getting an error every time.
“Sorry to keep you waiting, miss. I had some important calls to make,” said a cherubic voice from the other side of the room. The curly headed man closed the door behind him and began to sit in the chair adjacent to Veronica. He was more well dressed than the rest of the people, with a pressed navy suit and red striped tie. He shined the American flag pin on his lapel with the cuff of his shirt. “Your name is?”
Veronica looked up from her cellphone. “Veronica. And yeah, so I heard.” Veronica slipped the phone into her pocket and craned her head around the chair. “Kevin! Hurry up! The guy’s here!”
“One second, almost ready to go,” Kevin replied from the office next door.
“People just love making me wait!” Veronica twisted back around and slunk into the chair. “So, who are you again? Some kind of rancher or something?”
The man shook his head . “Oh no, that was the other guy. My name is Rand Paul.”
“Is that supposed to mean something to me?”
“Well I’m a Senator from Kentucky and am currently running for-”
“Yeah, I don’t care much for politics, or what’s going on here for that matter. Just here for the job, you know?”
Kevin plodded into the room, each arm toting half a ton of video equipment, lighting rigs, and boom microphones. “Sorry, sorry. Just… just give me a second to set up the lighting and… oh god, sorry, this was such a rushed job and…” Kevin wheezed.
“Don’t worry about the lights or whatever, just grab the camera and start rolling already! This isn’t a Diane Sawyer interview with the pope, we’re in the middle of the woods 200 miles the closest one traffic light podunk.” Veronica let out a sharp sigh. “So, Rand, you ever done one of these things before? Just act like we’re having a nice conversation and everything will be cool.”
“Going live… “ Kevin puffed, having barely caught his breath. “Going live in 5… 4… 3… 2…”
“Good evening to all you people at home. I am Veronica Nguyen, sitting here with Rand Paul, the leader of this band of armed militiamen who have been occupying this facility for the past week and a half. Mr. Paul, is there anything that you would like to say before we get this interview started?”
“Yes, Veronica. I’d like to let the American people know that what we’re doing isn’t some kind of terrorist attack or some publicity stunt or whatever people are calling it. We’d prefer if you didn’t refer to us as ‘militiamen’. Rather, we are simply a small group of American citizens who are concerned with exercising our rights under the United States Constitution.”
“If that’s the case, then what is with all these men with rifles and shotguns? Don’t you think that send the wrong kind of message? Are the American people right to compare you guys to ISIS or other such groups?”
“I think that comparison is entirely baseless to tell you the truth, Veronica. We aren’t beheading people or waging war, we’re protesting and are within every legal right. There is nothing illegal about carrying a weapon, despite what the left would have you believe. What I would compare us most closely to is a sit in or something along those lines, and we will sit here and occupy this space until the federal government finally listens to the people and meets our demands.”
“And what exactly are those demands?”
“We want them to cease existing.”
“We want the federal government to say ‘sorry about all this, we’re done’ and then stop existing. Give the power back to the people where it belongs.”
“But aren’t you a Senator, Mr. Paul? Aren’t you running for president in the next election? That doesn’t sound very anti-government if you ask me.”
“That’s just a means to an end, Veronica. Have you ever tried to fix a car without opening the hood? It doesn’t really work. When I become president, I will do what every president before me should’ve done… I’ll sit there, like these fine Americans that sit with me now.”
“That’s it? No president stuff? Just sitting there?”
“Yup. If they try to get me to leave I’ll just sit there. The next president comes along? I’ll just sit in the Oval Office and not let them have it. They’ll have no choice but to end the government forever.”
“If that’s your plan, then what are you doing all the way out here in the middle of nowhere, 2000 miles from Washington DC?”
“I’m just showing the American people that I mean business. I’m not afraid to sit down in this government building and I won’t be afraid to sit down in any other one, not even the White House. Now I implore anyone who loves this country like I do to join me. Go to the nearest government building you can find, your town hall, the DMV, a post office, and just sit there, preferably with an assault rifle or at least a pointed stick of some sort. If just 100,000 people occupy a building, one person apiece for the small ones and two or three for the bigger ones, then we can end the scourge of the government within the year.”