1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT – Snippet 46
Francisco Nasi found Cory Joe Lang, his new assistant and bodyguard, to be a more interesting fellow than he'd expected.
First impressions, admittedly, had not been promising. Being fair, though, that was mostly because of Cory Joe's improbably blonde hair, which he emphasized by keeping very long and usually tied back in a pony tail.
When Francisco commented on the matter to Jackson, the American general smiled.
"Yeah, I know. He looks like a faggot hair-dresser who uses more peroxide than Marilyn Monroe. More muscular than most, but that's about it. Don't let appearances deceive you, though. The hair color's real – you should see his half-sister Pam Hardesty, if you want an even more outlandish head of genuine blonde hair. And, like Pam, he's a lot smarter than he looks."
Jackson shook his head. "It's always amazed people, the way Velma Hardesty – who's about the most worthless tramp who ever infested Marion County – managed to produce such good kids. Even Tina, the one who got drowned at a graduation celebration party, wasn't any worse than reckless. And what teenager isn't?"
Nasi hated to ask for translations, because doing so always made him feel mildly foolish. Unfortunately, where his boss Mike Stearns was almost preternaturally acute when it came to such things and always provided Francisco with internal cues, Frank Jackson was obtuse.
Faggot? Peroxide? Marilyn Monroe? The term "tramp" seemed clear enough, but Francisco went ahead and asked anyway. Since he was already making a fool of himself.
At the moment, Cory Joe was sitting in a small chair at the very back of the conference room in the palace, looked bored and half-asleep. In point of fact, Francisco had already learned, Lang had a phenomenal memory and would be able to recite back all of the important details of this meeting, if asked.
"- about the way it looks," concluded Mike Stearns. "As you can see, Wettin's not making any attempt to sugarcoat anything."
Ed Piazza and Melissa Mailey had come up to Magdeburg for this meeting. They'd brought Chad Jenkins with them, too, since he'd be running for Rebecca's vacated seat, as well as Constantin Ableidinger.
Piazza had his lips pursed, contemplating Mike's summary. Ableidinger's face was expressionless. Jenkins was scowling. Melissa was shaking her head.
"Stupid," she pronounced. "Why is he doing this, do you think?"
Ed snorted. "They want to win the election? Look, Melissa, you might think and I might think – everybody in this room might think – that the platform of Wilhelm and his Crown Loyalists is stupid, but don't kid yourself. It's also very popular, in most places in Germany."
"With the upper crust," Frank Jackson qualified. "I doubt if people farther down the food chain are that crazy about it."
By up-time standards, Jackson shouldn't have been attending the meeting, since it was a purely partisan political affair and he was an actively serving general in the USE army. But cultural influences worked both ways. By seventeenth century standards and customs, it would be ridiculous not to include Jackson in a strategy session like this one. Frank had been one of Mike Stearns' closest friends and advisers since before the Ring of Fire, and still was.
Piazza shrugged. "Sure – and so what? Most provinces in Germany are still firmly under the thumbs of their upper classes."
Mike Stearns waggled his hand. "That's putting it too strongly, Ed. Much too strongly, in most places. 'Under their thumb,' yes. 'Firmly under their thumb?' Not really. The truth is, I think the only major provinces in the USE whose established rulers have a solid hold on their populations are Brunswick and Hesse-Kassel. In the case of Brunswick, because the new oil revenues allow the duke to finance lots of popular projects. And in the case of Hesse-Kassel, because William V – not to mention his wife Amalie – is unusually smart for a provincial ruler. And unusually moderate. Odd as it may be, the Landgrave and Landgravine of Hesse-Kassel are the left wing of the Crown Loyalists."
"Insofar as the term 'left wing' applies in the seventeenth century," Chad Jenkins said stiffly.
Mike and Melissa grinned. Back up-time, before the Ring of Fire, you couldn't have found the terms "Chad Jenkins" and "left wing" in the same room. But whether the man was comfortable with the fact or not, in the year 1634 in central Europe, Chad Jenkins was a flaming radical. Even Grantville's most reactionary prominent individual, Tino Nobili – a man who'd been regularly described as "to the right of Genghis Khan" – was, in most ways, a "left-winger" in the here and now. At least, with regard to strictly political matters if not theological ones.
Luckily, Jenkins had a sense of humor. After a moment, he chuckled and leaned back in his chair. "Okay, okay, old habits die hard. I guess I might as well resign myself to the fact that I'm part of this revolutionary cabal."
Now it was Melissa's turn to get a little stiff. "It's hardly a 'cabal,' Chad. Most of us here are, after all, elected officials."
"So?" His grin was more in the way of a jeer. "And since when did being an of-fi-cial cut any mustard with you, Melissa? I can remember at least one speech you gave, back during the miners' strike, when you referred to the entire U.S. government as a conspiracy on the part of the rich and mighty to downtrod the masses."
"'Downtrod' is not a verb, and I'm sure I didn't use it that way," Melissa said primly. "I know. I'm a schoolteacher. Other than that . . ." She returned the jeering grin with a cool smile. "Fine. Touché."
"If the two of you will quit squabbling over terminology," Ed said mildly, "I'd like to return to the subject. My point was that in most provinces in the USE, most people will let the upper crust determine how they vote. And for the nobility and the town gentry, the Crown Loyalist platform pushes all the right buttons. Especially the two big ones."
He stuck up his thumb. "First, of course, they want to re-establish a state church. On a national level, not simply a provincial level."
"They have not much choice," said Constantin Ableidinger, "if they want an established church. Most of the CL leaders are Lutherans, and the few who aren't are Calvinists. They know perfectly well that if they let each province determine its own established church, some of them – certainly the SoTF and Magdeburg – would flat refuse. And if they forced the issue, Thuringia and Franconia would probably decide to split the difference and let Franconia choose Catholicism."
Melissa shook her head. "It's insane! The problem isn't simply Lutheran versus Calvinist versus Catholic. Even if they get their damn established Lutheran church, then what? There are two major factions among the Lutherans, the Philippists and the Flacians. There's no way the same pig-headed idiots who insist on a state church aren't also going to insist that it has to have the right theology. And there we are, back in the soup. Philippists and Flacians squabbling all over Germany, with everybody else – Calvinists, Catholics, Anabaptists, Jews, everybody else – out in the cold."