Year Zero: A Future History Of America: Chapter One

When the following events first occurred, the era of unprecedented change in America and the world at large was not referred to as “Year Zero.” At the time, most people were unaware that such monumental changes were underway. For the average citizen living then, the political upheaval that is now universally recognized as the most fundamental transformation since the American Revolution of 1776 was seen as almost a natural progression of how politics were changing from the late 20th century and into the early decades of the 21st. French journalist Renly LeDaum described the phenomenon in an interview as “the sensation of the ground shifting underneath you in the biggest earthquake, but feeling as if only a grain of dirt was moving.”

Nobody saw it coming.

 

Andee Miraj did not like the term dictator. She intentionally decried the description in several televised interviews she gave during the same time in which she went from a chart topping rap star to leader of the United States of America.

Miraj, instead, said that in her new role she was simply “simplifying” and “streamlining” the operation of American government, which poll after poll the population had repeatedly complained was simply stuck in a quagmire of infighting between the left and the right. Both the Democratic and Republican parties had complained that “gridlock” was the most glaring obstacle to progress in America. So Miraj framed her initiatives as “busting gridlock.” And poll after poll showed that she unabashedly had the support of the voters.

According to interviews with those in Miraj’s inner circle who would speak on the record, along with leaked reports published at the time, she was largely apolitical before Year Zero began. She had nominally backed the Democratic Party, showed up at a fundraiser or two, but according to those in a position to know, this was mostly done for networking purposes. Miraj cared more about “launching a movie career than being leader of the free world,” according to one account. The reality runs counter to her official biography, which claims Miraj “always had an interest in public service” and “was active in local politics.” No independent evidence exists to verify these assertions, and outside of the eclectic set of advisors and public officials that surrounded Miraj, very few have ever said the same about her. The texts making these references, particularly her official biography Miraj: Power to the People, are widely considered propaganda used to retroactively justify the direction she took the country in.

Records in fact show that Miraj’s shift into politics was an accident, or at best, a joke. The Facebook group “Miraj for President” started as a humorous attempt by a founder whose name is now lost to history to lodge his protest against the sitting American president at the time. In his description of the then-president, the founder said Miraj “would make America be TRULY great and look fly as hell while doing it.”

The group languished for months with only a few people joining it, mostly sharing photo manipulated images riffing on the group’s topic. Things changed when Miraj herself, apparently tipped off by an aide as to its existence, highlighted it on her social media accounts and said it was a “fly” idea.

In days, millions had joined.

Abe Calcott of The Frostburg Institute, a think tank, said the rapid growth of the group “spoke to a yearning at the time for something different, and while the president at the time was also a product of that similar sentiment, he was failing miserably.”

Sociologists now call it “the Miraj effect” but the online chatter behind the Miraj group quickly overwhelmed other topics. Her supporters began to support the idea diligently, without seemingly any guidance or direction from Miraj. Many serious pundits and experts at the time dismissed the campaign.

“Despite the White House occupant at the time, this was dismissed,” said Calcott, “and the racial component cannot be ignored as part of that.”

Miraj being an African-American woman, originally seen as an excuse to ignore her, “actually made her perfect to take advantage of the sentiment we now call ‘the great yearning’,” said Calcott.

One faction of Miraj supporters pushed for a deliberative, traditional path for their chosen candidate. They believed that through traditional political organizing, she could contend for the Democratic Party’s nomination and make a run for the presidency in the next election. “Miraj would win,” wrote Slate’s Noah Gofwitz in a piece arguing that she “is the kind of jolt the Democratic establishment needs to wake up and really deal with 21st century politics.” A political action committee (PAC) formed called “Americans for Miraj” brought in nearly $600,000 in donations in the first thirty hours of its existence, a feat the New York Times characterized as a “seismic earthquake” in American politics.

Miraj said the fundraising was “cool” and remained relatively tight-lipped about the grassroots campaign. A memo authored by Democratic strategist and pollster Mike Inkk laid out a “path to victory” for Miraj, pointing out her large social media following, fundraising success, and “dissatisfaction with the direction of the country” as the three pillars a campaign could be based on. Miraj later denied it, but it is widely believed that the memo made it to her, and that she was “extremely supportive” of its conclusions.

As these political calculations and plans took hold, another, larger faction of Miraj backers favored a more radical approach.

“You can’t fix a broken system by saying it’s legitimate,” wrote Ezekiel Browning, then a political columnist. Browning argued that it was “insipid and absurd” to allow the sitting president to just “grow like mold” in the office while Miraj simply “twiddled her thumbs.” Instead, he argued that Miraj had an obligation and “the right” to “seize power now before things get worse.”

The provocative essay went viral. Not only was it a hit in social media but even the printed version of it, collected as a pamphlet along with other columns by Browning, became a New York Times bestseller. Supporters of the president decried Browning’s work as “treasonous” and “sedition,” and the uproar led to his firing by the LA Times.

“Miraj was full-on into politics,” by the time Browning’s essay became a hit, reported the Washington Post, and “she was in the right mindset to accept its conclusions” as she considered the uphill road a traditional path to the presidency would entail.

The rise of the so-called “Miraj Militia” was largely unnoticed at the time, but based on what followed, clearly influenced her thinking. The groups, started simply as gun clubs whose members had an affinity for Miraj, informally endorsed the Browning column, and multiple chapters across the country openly said they would endorse the course of action “if it becomes necessary.”

In response, several Republican members of Congress, including ten who had received millions in support from the National Rifle Association, called for hearings that would advocate “sensible gun control,” along with a probe of “domestic terrorism and its link to the widespread availability of guns.”

No surviving records can verify whether the committee ever met or held hearings.

 

As these twin strands of discussion continued to build momentum, Miraj stoked the fires with a series of public statements and open hints that she was intensely following the story.

At the MTV Video Music Awards, her medley of hits forming the centerpiece of the broadcast was concluded with a rendition of “Hail to the Chief” played on a bugle by a retired soldier. Miraj saluted him, and winked to the audience. The video of the performance became the most viewed clip in YouTube’s history within three months, racking up over two billion views.

“When the president began attacking Miraj,” the movement truly “became real,” said Buzzfeed’s Hank Clink, referring to the period called “the final meltdown.”

During the so-called meltdown, the president began attacking Miraj on his Facebook and Twitter accounts, describing her as “trashy” and “so nasty,” while referencing an arrest for marijuana possession during her teens as “proof” that she was a “total criminal.”

It was a storyline echoed in outlets sympathetic to the president, including a segment on Fox News Channel, where several figures purporting to be “childhood friends” of Miraj claimed she was “part of a drug ring” that had “destroyed their neighborhood.” Other outlets attempted to verify the claims but were unable. A meme circulated by Miraj backers alleged that the accusers were “paid for” by a billionaire with a history of supporting Republican causes, but the allegation could not be independently verified.

“The campaign backfired” anyway, Clink wrote, noting that the presidential attacks and smear campaign “made her even more legitimate as a political actor” in the view of many Americans. Opinion polling bears his conclusion out, as Miraj’s name recognition and popularity increased exponentially. Without having ever been elected to any office, and with no real history of political involvement, Andee Miraj had become the most popular political figure in the United States.

Events entered a new phase after Miraj delivered the speech now called “The Ultimatum” in both the official texts and in more objective documents. It was a prime time address, delivered by Miraj from her New York City penthouse, on the balcony with the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop. It was the public debut of the logo that would soon become ubiquitous, a purple, clenched fist, holding a single red rose. The logo was on the podium where Miraj spoke, and also made an appearance on the clothing she wore. It was the first time she wore the military-style jacket that would soon become so closely associated with her time in office, and archival footage shows that the imagery often connected to her – army browns and blacks juxtaposed with the bright purple of her logo – was set early on.

“This was someone extremely comfortable in this setting,” a New York Times new analysis concluded the next day, adding, “her time in hip-hop seems to have been a help, not a hindrance” for the next phase in Miraj’s career trajectory.

The content of the speech was even more striking. The New York Times editorial said it had echoes of “fascism,” while the libertarian journal Reason termed it a “nightmare.” The liberals at The Nation said they “sympathized with Miraj’s sense of emergency” but could not condone “her martial path.”

In the message, which was simulcast across all the broadcast networks while also reportedly breaking online streaming records, Miraj demanded an immediate withdrawal from power for the sitting president, along with a demand that lawmakers begin enacting a plan to put her in power that had been drafted by a “braintrust of legal experts.” Miraj said she was authorizing the militias “loyal to me and the country” to “do what needs to be done” to ensure her demands were satisfied. She justified the message with a passionate recitation of grievances against the sitting government, along with complaints about the ongoing political gridlock and the need for “somebody to fucking act so some shit finally gets done.”

Both Democrats and Republicans quickly condemned the speech, with Sen. Dave Johnason (R-AL) calling for Miraj’s “immediate arrest for treason” during an appearance on CNN.

Public reaction was far more supportive. Overnight polling showed 75 percent of the public agreed with “most,” if not all, of what Miraj had said.

Soon, protests at regional congressional offices began to pop up, as members of Congress were told to “support the ultimatum, or else.” Public displays from the Miraj Militias increased, culminating in a controversial Washington, D.C. march where members sporting Miraj’s logo walked from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol, backed by thousands of supporters wearing the single “purple glove” that is so well-known now around the globe.

 

When the president announced that Miraj would be a guest at the White House, it was a complete surprise. Unlike so many other such meetings, word had not leaked out in advance. The announcement appeared swiftly and suddenly on the president’s daily schedule.

The press secretary would not tell the media any details of the meeting, but insisted they should “tune in” to remarks the president intended to make after meeting with Miraj during her Oval Office visit.

Without knowing it, “Zero Day” was underway. It would later be declared one of the national holidays by executive decree.

The president in a statement that was again broadcast worldwide in real time as it happened, was all smiles as he sat next to Miraj. They shook hands, and he said it had been “such a pleasure” to meet her. She repaid the compliment, but said no more.

The president then said, “We understand what an important person Miss Miraj is, and we hear it – we totally hear it – when the people are demanding that things be changed. So, they will be. We’ve spoken to the experts – great folks – and I’ll be stepping down from the day to day stuff until we have worked out the transition to Miss Miraj.”

In reaction, the stock markets dropped over 56 percent, and the networks immediately began describing the events as a “coup.” Yet perhaps reflecting opinion polling, elected officials were largely silent. Rep. Chet Henderson (R-NV) decried the “purple-fist fascism” of the moment, and Sen. Elaine Canmitchell (D-DE) said “norms are being violated,” but they were outliers to the blue and red wall of silence that had been hastily erected.

While much of the press decried the announcement, public opinion continued to reject the consensus. Former columnist Ezekiel Browning, now working as Miraj’s communications director, infamously described the detractors as “the jealous loudlings” in a televised appearance.

The sitting president then moved out of the White House, in an unprecedented moment in American history. Per the agreement devised by Miraj’s team, he would remain legally as president until Congress would pass the necessary legislation, but his signature would effectively work as a rubber stamp on the legislation supported by Miraj. He would make her wishes into the law, working in concert with Congress.

As this process began, Miraj’s supporters began to push state governments to enact the constitutional changes needed to enshrine the new status quo into law.

The end of the beginning happened on a cold December night, as the media – and the world – was told that there would be an address from the new leadership from the Oval Office.

The purple fist logo, and not the presidential seal, appearing on the White House feed was the first sign that things had taken a major detour in America.

Miraj appeared, sitting at the resolute desk, again in her military fatigues. On her head she wore a golden crown, highlighted by blinding diamonds that glittered in the custom lighting brought in just for the broadcast. She pursed her lips and clasped her hands as she began to speak.

“Greetings my fellow Americans. I am Emperor Miraj. We are going to be doing wonderful things together.”

This was how everything changed, and the world was never the same.

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