By: John F Zurn
Uriel Fox enjoyed his many discussions with his fellow citizens of Newton. Nearly every evening, he’d meet group retirees and enjoy coffee and stimulating conversation. One afternoon when some seniors suggested that he should run for mayor, Uriel was intrigued. He’d been living in Newton for less than a year; however, Uriel believed that he knew the town fairly well and that he could be a good leader. Yet, there existed several obstacles if he were to run for office. First, he needed to comprehend the difficulty of the task. Publicity would be vital. Without volunteers it would also be nearly impossible to pursue a campaign. Contributors would also be most important if Uriel wanted to be a plausible contender. Finally, Uriel needed fresh and exciting ideas in order to attract a majority of voters.
Uriel decided to begin planning a possible campaign by taking several steps. Fortunately, recruiting volunteers and supporters turned out to be relatively simple. Evidently, the citizens of Newton loathed the present mayor, Baron Barter, because he proved to be a corrupt politician who engaged in bribery, embezzlement and intimidation. Portraying himself as “man of the people,” he had faced no real challengers for years. Because he frightened off all contenders, the people truly hated him, but seemed afraid to challenge him.
Because of Barter’s unseemly reputation, Uriel’s potential supporters collected generous contributions for the campaign. This both pleased and worried Uriel because the mayor seemed to uncover and analyze everything worth knowing that happened in town. Barter might be quick to intervene and threaten anyone contributing money and assisting the campaign.
So it proved to be a pleasant surprise to Uriel when Mayor Barter appeared to be leaving his campaign alone. This really encouraged Uriel because his volunteers not only offered to work without compensation, but also agreed to create signs and slogans, and they even distributed literature relying on their own money. Catch phrases began appearing on store fronts and telephone poles such as “Fox for Reform” and “Vote for Fearless Fox.” Before long, a number of townspeople had committed their time and resources to help. Nevertheless, Uriel still didn’t possess any relevant ideas that could really help him triumph in a mayoral election.
Uriel believed that one of first things required now was to study his opponent’s campaign promises. The mayor’s deceit and lack of commitment made him a terrible leader and an untrustworthy mayor. Some of Barter’s election promises included better opportunities, safer streets, and better schools. In addition, Barter vowed not to raise property taxes.
All these promises, however, could be easily questioned when people contemplated the failing business district with its boarded up store fronts. Even the streets were nearly impassible because of pot holes. Not surprisingly, schools remained overcrowded and understaffed even while taxes went up every year. Worst of all, the police department officers appeared to be friends, relatives, and business associates of the mayor. These officers were mostly heavy drinkers and virtual thugs.
It soon became clear to Uriel that the townspeople recognized all the failures and character flaws with Mayor Barter, but they seemed reluctant to challenge him on his lack of progress. But Uriel also understood that sincerity and enthusiasm wouldn’t be enough to take charge of this difficult and complex situation. In the end, Uriel decided to draft only a few campaign pledges, so he wouldn’t exaggerate his experience.
The first pledge seemed self-evident. As mayor, Uriel would always do his best at all times. Second, Uriel vowed to replace fear and suspicion with confidence and trust. Uriel believed these principles would give Newton a chance to succeed, and the citizens would feel reassured about his motives. Newton could then prosper. Perhaps these goals could be considered unrealistic and naïve, but they had the potential to exert a powerful effect on many voters. These people of Newton, so weary of Mayor Barter’s deceit, might look to Uriel for positive change.
News of Uriel’s possible success in the election soon became worrisome to Mayor Barter, who finally recognized Uriel as an actual threat. The mayor decided to invite Uriel to his office and confront him directly.
“So, you’re Uriel Fox. I’ve heard a lot about you,” the mayor began arrogantly, as he his tipped back his chair seemingly underwhelmed.
“Yes,” Uriel replied already on guard.
“What makes you think that you have the ability and experience to run this town?” the mayor asserted.
“I’m not sure I can,” Uriel admitted. “But I’d like to try.”
Now Mayor Barter became more aggressive as his blood shot eyes and disheveled suit revealed his fondness for liquor. “What if you make mistakes and adversely affect the people of Newton?” the mayor challenged.
Uriel could feel his confidence draining, but he refused to appear intimidated by cowering in front of the arrogant man. Nevertheless, Uriel felt astonished when Mayor Barter offered him a job.
“Listen, Uriel,” the mayor boasted. “I doubt you have the knowledge or sophistication to perform my job duties. How would you like working for the Newton Middle School as a teacher? I’m certain you can read books, grade papers, and manage a classroom of young adults.”
Uriel looked stunned as he observed Barter’s superior attitude. Then he replied, “But I’m still on the ballot, and I still could win.”
Mayor Barton, however, offered Uriel the teaching position because he didn’t consider it likely that Uriel could remain in the campaign especially if he were a teacher with daily responsibilities. Even if Uriel’s name appeared on the ballot, the task of teaching while running a campaign would be overwhelming. “It’s okay.” Mayor Barter replied, “Your name can remain on the election ballot.”
“You do know that a teacher’s compensation is almost the same as a mayor’s salary.” the mayor continued. “So, what do you say?”
Uriel approved of the idea of teaching because it would give him an opportunity to study the town’s needs and aspirations. He also thought he might be able to continue his campaign surreptitiously. Finally, Uriel agreed, “I’ll be happy to teach. Teaching has always been one of my life long dreams.”
“Excellent,” Mayor Barter blurted out. “Wait here for a moment while I make a few phone calls.”
Ten minutes later, the mayor returned and announced that Uriel was now an English teacher at Newton Middle School. Then just before Uriel left the mayor’s office, the mayor handed him an official looking note. “Give this to Principal Lindsey White first thing tomorrow.”
At that moment, Uriel couldn’t discern whether he he’d made a wise decision or a terrible mistake.
Uriel Fox‘s arrival at Newton Middle school proved to be uncomfortable and problematic. Principal Lindsey White knew exactly how Uriel secured his teaching positon, and she found it difficult to conceal her frustration and anger. “Mr. Fox,” she began harshly. “Do you have any teaching experience?”
Uriel understood that he was already being interrogated. “No, Miss White, but I’ve always wanted to teach.”
“I assumed you wished to become Newton’s mayor.”
Uriel thought for a moment and then replied, “I’d rather be teaching.”
White continued. “Do you have any general experiences that might be applicable to teaching?”
“No, ma’am,” Uriel replied politely. “But people tell me I’m a good conversationalist.”
Principal White considered Uriel’s responses then suddenly turned away as if she might have something more important to do. She quickly requested her secretary to provide Uriel with a school tour and then escort him to his classroom. When Uriel finally arrived at his room assignment, the class appeared to be chaotic. There must have been forty students, all out of their seats, and wandering while demonstrating no respect for their new teacher. Uriel understood one thing immediately. If these students were going to learn anything, their behavior would need to greatly improve.
Nonetheless, as the weeks went by, Mayor Barter perceived that he might have underestimated Uriel’s ability. Not only had Uriel begun to manage his classroom successfully, but he also continued his election campaign surprisingly well.
Even Miss Lindsey White, the principal, took notice of Uriel’s natural aptitude for teaching, and she began including him at conferences and communicating her favorable impression to her staff. This improved relationship with Principal White would become very auspicious for Uriel in the weeks ahead.
Before the semester ended, Barter finally accepted that his job could truly be in jeopardy. He decided the best way to negatively influence Uriel’s supporters was to tarnish his reputation by attacking Uriel’s character. Barter ordered in his police officers and explained to them exactly what they needed to hear. “If I lose this election, all of you will be fired. The new mayor will most certainly want to choose his own supporters.”
“But what can we do?” one officer asked.
Then Mayor Barter angrily replied, “We must arrest Fox and accuse him of crimes that will make his supporters doubt his integrity.”
“The charges would have to be horrible yet believable,” another officer interjected.
Of course, the mayor had already decided upon a plausible plan. “It doesn’t matter if Fox actually has committed offenses. With only a week until the election, the charges should keep Fox in jail until after Election Day. Since the element of doubt will appear everywhere in town, Fox will be seriously compromised.”
“Okay,” replied the officer more excitedly. “How can I help?”
“We will accuse Uriel Fox of committing crimes in an imaginary city far from here,” the mayor declared. “Two offenses that might prove to be effective could include conning seniors out of their life savings, and stealing donations from a church fundraiser.”
“But how are we going to make people believe these charges?” another officer wanted to know.
The mayor became more animated when he noticed the officers’ growing interest. “First, we forge an arrest warrant with documentation, and then we arrest Fox during the school lunch period. As he is being arrested, students, faculty and parents will all witness the incident. Finally, we’ll lock up Fox in a cell with no visitors. By the time he goes to trial, the election will be over.”
In less than twenty four hours, the mayor’s trap was set. The following day, several officers pushed their way into the middle school lunch area, and then very publically arrested Uriel and then tossed him in jail. The people felt outraged initially, but before long, the arrest became a viable piece of gossip. By the end of the week, the false accusations about Uriel now appeared to be true. It seemed in Newton, trust and friendship was contingent on immediate circumstances. It also required those in the community to conform to the beliefs of the group. In the end, it was easy for the community to turn against Uriel.
However, Uriel did have one friend remaining. Miss Lindsey White refused to believe for a moment that Uriel could be capable of the crimes he was accused of committing. She decided to assist Uriel by contacting the FBI and asking them to investigate Uriel’s arrest and incarceration.
The FBI arrived on the same day. They examined the poorly constructed warrant and the imaginary town and immediately set Uriel free. Of course, everyone in town shook Uriel’s hand and applauded him, but Uriel Fox knew better. The citizens of Newton simply considered which way the wind was blowing and played the roles that seemed most advantageous for them. Not surprisingly, Uriel realized he could never completely trust the townspeople again, and they certainly could never be his friends. It was only Principal White’s courage and compassion that had saved him.
Since Mayor Barter successfully blamed his subordinates for his insidious crime, he felt fortunate to have escaped justice. He knew the others involved in the plan would take the blame because the mayor could free them in the near future.
However, Mayor Barter didn’t apprehend that Lindsey White not only called the FBI, but she also telephoned the IRS and accused the mayor of tax fraud and embezzlement. Having grown weary of the Mayor’s bullying and realizing she knew the IRS investigated every complaint it received, Principal White’s call could both rescue the town and punish the mayor.
The IRS office was already familiar with Mayor Baron Barter’s name, so they came swooping down into Newton unannounced. They brought with them search warrants for both the Mayor’s residence and his business office. In a few hours, the agents had searched through thousands of documents, memos, and financial accounts. They also closely examined Uriel’s recent illegal arrest. After holding the mayor on the charge of Uriel’s false arrest, they added tax fraud and embezzlement. Ironically, Mayor Barter began the first week of his career as a prisoner in the same cell Uriel Fox had only recently occupied.
When the shock of the mayor’s arrest began to fade, the election was urgently discussed. Since Uriel remained on the ballot, many citizens desired Uriel to take the job of mayor. However, Uriel politely but steadfastly, declined. The town’s fickle behavior and lack of trust made it impossible, Uriel believed, to serve as the town mayor.
When Uriel refused the opportunity to accept the mayoral position several more times, the citizens began ignoring him because they decided he didn’t care. Ironically, Even Principal White also declined the job complaining that she couldn’t spare the time.
Ultimately, the people of Newton began a new mayoral search, but Uriel did something that he believed he might never need to do again. He left his apartment, walked out to the highway and began hiking north. Uriel realized, yet again, that an individual’s behavior might change for the better, but human nature would probably never progress. He comprehended that Newton’s choice for mayor didn’t matter because the society simply reflected their leaders’ lack of courage, commitment and compassion. Uriel continued to hike down the highway with the free current of independence nudging him onward.