Friday, July 24, 2009




By : Mr. Franklin F. Tottenham, Chancellor of the Federal Department for Living/Dead Relations; J.D., Yale Law School (1989); Consulting Expert in Health Policy, The Brookline Association, Boston, Massachusetts (1991-2004); Deceased 2005; Vice President of the American Walking Corpse Federation for Fair Employment Opportunities in the Private Sector (2005-2008); Corpse (Living).

When President Barack Obama won the White House last autumn, he promised America “change we can believe in.” Unlike his predecessor, President Obama grounded his political philosophy in a society of inclusion, not exclusion. In short, President Obama ushered in a new day in American political life. Under President Obama, everyone has a chance to succeed in America. Everyone counts. The President’s own life story proves that anyone make it in this country. Minorities and historically-marginalized groups all over America wept for joy to celebrate Obama’s victory. For the first time in their lives, they felt real hope that America would finally make a place for them: African-Americans no longer felt that they were doomed to repression and “dead ends” in society; gay men dared hope that they, too, could marry; and immigrants proudly stood up to say that they had a place.

This is a new America. This is an America that believes in itself. This is change we can believe in. President Obama, you said: “Yes we can.” We say: “Yes we did.” We salute your commitment to the American dream for all Americans. You understand that everyone in America—even those without economic power or education—can contribute to our Nation’s success.

This is a significant achievement. All Americans means all Americans; that means both living and dead Americans. For too long, America has failed to consider the needs of the dead in political life. For too long, America simply buried its dead and moved on. It not only maliciously discriminated against dead people; it literally forgot about them. But President Obama understands injustice when he sees it. Freedom does not exist unless all people enjoy it. It does not matter whether a person’s cells have perished. It does not matter whether a person’s heart has stopped or his flesh has rotted away. It does not even matter whether a person died in 1694. Americans are still Americans—and Americans deserve freedom. That is why President Obama commanded Congress to pass the Dead Matter Too Act (DMTA). This act represents a gigantic step toward justice in the United States. For the first time in history, America told its dead: “You have a voice, too.”

Mr. President, as Chancellor of the Federal Department for Living/Dead Relations, and as a dead man, I salute you for your commitment to American ideals. I speak for every dead body in America when I say: “We will help you realize the dream.”

But despite all the recent gains, our road has not been easy. We cannot guarantee immediate progress. For centuries, America has stamped the dead with a badge of inferiority. The living lived as if they were the only ones here. For centuries, the law permitted them to bury us, burn us, toss us into ditches and even sink us to the ocean bottom without so much as asking our opinion on the matter. The living branded us with epithets that cut deeply into our collective self-esteem: stiffs, stinkers, stenches, funeral parlor bait, coffin crud… the list goes on. Laws not only authorized this unequal and demeaning treatment; laws did not even mention us. From a legal perspective, we were not even second-class citizens; we were nothing at all. Although the living spent money on headstones and even set aside land for us, they simply ignored us afterward, leaving us to slowly decompose six feet underground. To add insult to injury, they took away all our property and distributed it to grandchildren, estranged wives and even creditors. In sum, dead Americans face a legacy of State-sponsored discrimination. We have been purposely suppressed, marginalized, demeaned and forgotten. In some cases, we are completely gone. We ask the President to remember our dead brethren who faced cremation, obliteration, vaporization or worse.

But those dark days are over. We are turning a new page in American history. Now, the Federal government has finally recognized that we deserve a chance, too. Despite all the historical prejudice against us, President Obama recognized that we deserve a chance to influence policy in the United States. Through the DMTA, the Federal Department for Living/Dead Relations has two goals: (1) To help eradicate the practical handicaps created by historical discrimination against dead Americans; and (2) To make policy suggestions to living lawmakers concerning national legislative initiatives.

Today, I want to educate the public about our mission. Concerning our first goal, I want to remind all living Americans that dead people are people, too. We ask you to remember that President Obama promised a bright future for all Americans, whether black, white, Native American, Asian, immigrant, disabled, homosexual or dead. We recognize that it used to be “OK” to discriminate against the dead. In days past, polite people rarely invited dead neighbors over for dinner. Top-rate universities never accepted dead applicants. Living Americans assumed that all dead people smelled, were ugly, acted irresponsibly and looked like they were sleeping all the time. But that was pure bigotry. In 2009, we no longer make assumptions about people simply because they are dead. We evaluate people based upon their character and their achievements, not their cellular status or pulmonary/respiratory function. We do not stereotype about dead people, just as we do not stereotype about Hispanics or Asians. Today, every American deserves a chance.

We want to set the record straight about dead Americans. We are not sleeping. We do not smell. We are not ugly, even if we may have decomposed in whole or in part. Despite our appearance, we have achieved great things. Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity and he is dead. Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone and he is dead. Dwight Eisenhower defeated the Nazis in Europe and he is dead. Henry Ford introduced mass production and revolutionized industrial society; he is dead, too. Thus, there is no substance to the claim that “all dead people” are irresponsible or lazy. To the contrary, many dead people have achieved tremendous things. Babe Ruth, for instance, is one of the greatest baseball players in American history. And he is dead. We believe America should open its mind to the reality that dead people have done—and will do—great things. We must move beyond superficial generalizations. We believe the Federal Department for Living/Dead Relations will help living Americans cast aside their historical prejudices against the dead. After all, you likely have dead relatives. You wouldn’t treat them with disrespect, would you?

When Americans learn that the dead are people just like you, we are confident that dead Americans will overcome the practical roadblocks that have held them back for so long. When Americans learn that dead people do not just “sleep” or “smell,” we are confident that private employers will proudly offer them jobs. We are confident that dead Americans will prove their worth by their own merit and intelligence. For that reason, we do not advocate mandatory quotas to forcibly assimilate dead Americans into the workforce. We do not believe this because we fear that the United States Supreme Court will rule against us. Rather, we do not need quotas because dead Americans have the ability to succeed without additional assistance. Many dead people achieved success during life. There is no reason to think that minor impediments such as death should bar them from resuming their winning ways. All Americans face adversity. All Americans can overcome adversity. Death is no exception. A determined American dead person can get any job he or she wants, as long as she has the talent, drive and ambition to get it. In short, we are confident that dead Americans will soon be respected, productive members of American society, just as they were when they were alive.

Dead people want to work. They want to be responsible. They want to send their children to college. They want to pay taxes. We believe they should have the chance to prove themselves on a level playing field. Although we acknowledge the concern that living people may lose their jobs to the dead, we point out that death affects us all. Living people, too, will one day be dead. While a living person may feel stung to lose a job or university seat to a dead person, we merely note that for centuries the dead had no opportunity whatsoever either to work or study. In that light, we believe that living people can bear some incidental burdens to compensate dead people for centuries of unrestricted social exclusion. Colloquially, we also note that “what goes around comes around.” When a living person sacrifices for a dead one, he or she should do it cheerfully, for one day she, too, will be dead. Once she is dead, she will want all the same opportunities she had when she was alive. In this sense, it is only fair that both living and dead Americans enjoy equal access to every advantage in American society. And fairness is important in America.

Dead Americans also have a right to participate in the democratic process. The Federal Department for Living/Dead Relations gives substance to this right. Under the DMTA, the Department has authority to advise Congress concerning all legislative initiatives. This does not mean that the dead will dominate the national debate; it merely means that the dead have a right to be heard in legislative decisionmaking. This is not revolutionary. To the contrary, the dead have special insights into practical problems. Taken as a whole, dead people possess boundless wisdom. We have seen everything under the sun. This collective experience will translate well into prudent legislation.

Yet we cannot effectively consult on legislative matters until Congress recognizes that dead people have needs, too. We agree with Congress that health care must be reformed. But we will not solve the health care mess by ignoring the dead. We must take steps to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable health care, including American corpses in various states of decay. How is it just that only wealthy living people have access to top-notch treatments? How is it just that lower-income living people and every dead person cannot even visit a doctor when they need to? Both the economy and the government depend upon people. Without a healthy population, people cannot effectively serve either the economy or the government. We must find a solution to the health care mess that delivers compassionate, high-quality care no matter whether the patient is a wealthy living banker or a bankrupt dead day laborer. And we must do so in a fiscally responsible manner.

We believe that dead people can help end the health care impasse in many ways. For one, dead doctors can volunteer their time to treat living patients. Contrary to longstanding social prejudice, dead doctors can perform examinations, administer medications, write prescriptions and oversee surgery just as well as—if not better than—living doctors. In fact, many living doctors learned what they know from doctors who are now dead. Additionally, dead doctors have simpler salary requirements, do not require lunch breaks and do not suffer as much fatigue as living doctors. Second, dead financial advisers can help iron out solutions to funding national health care programs. Many well-respected dead financial advisers have key experience needed to balance the unique fiscal risks inherent in any national health program. We should harness that experience. Third, dead office personnel can handle the tremendous administrative burden that surely will accompany any national health plan. Millions of dead Americans lived their lives managing charts, organizing files, pulling patient records and stapling medical documents for hours on end. We should put their experience back to work to guarantee well-administered national health care for all. In a word, dead people have varied talents. And they all can help write America a clean bill of health.

As dead people, we just want to be heard. We acknowledge that there are certain questions in the national debate we may not be fully qualified to handle. For example, the death penalty perplexes us. After all, what good does the death penalty do for offenders who are already dead? In our view, the death penalty is no penalty at all for a dead American. Yet we acknowledge that we are not qualified to debate this issue. We are fully prepared to defer to our living colleagues to handle it.

All in all, we are happy to live in an enlightened era. For the first time in American history, we have achieved equal opportunity. We finally matter. We are not just forgotten relics. We are confident that we can contribute to American society. We salute President Obama for his commitment to freedom for everyone, including the dead. No longer are we condemned to a bleak future in caskets and urns. No, for the first time in American history, we have a chance to speak. We have achieved so much. And so has America. We truly now live in an era of freedom.

It is 2009. Discrimination is dead, not us.


Nothing Profound said...

Balthazar-you are going to kill me with laughter, which evidently will be no problem once the Office of Living/Dead Relations becomes a reality. This is brilliant, positively Swiftean. You need to get a wider audience somehow. Do a Shameless Blog promotion to draw more attention to your writing. This is really superior stuff. Satire in the true sense of the word.

Balthazar Oesterhoudt said...

Your comments are always so encouraging, Profound. I think I am going to start revising my old satires and turn them into a collection in book form.

I knew you would like this one! I had a lot of fun writing it.

Timoteo said...

If you consider the number of Americans who are "brain dead," this sector of the populace represents the majority.