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A SHORT PLAY
by Joel Schechter
Auctioneer (eager, boyish, Paul Ryan type)
Bidders 1, 2, 3 (banker, real estate magnate, hedge fund manager, all looking like recent cabinet appointees seated in a hearing room)
Setting: U.S. House of Representatives -- rented to an auction house for the morning.
Auctioneer (bangs podium with gavel and begins): Good morning, ladies, gentlemen, and members of the despised press corps. Welcome to the first annual sale of the United States. As you all know, our new President wants his government to serve the private sector. To increase profits as fast as possible, tax cuts are not enough; we need to sell valuable government properties to speculators so that the United States can become great again, although smaller and privately owned.
Bidder 1 (aside): Russia secretly offered to buy Alaska for Arctic drilling rights, but Trump’s selling the state to an American firm. America for the Americans!
Bidder 2 (aside): The government also will build synthetic oil-derivative igloos, with built-in refrigerators, for homeless Eskimos. After all the ice caps melt, the igloos will float like beautiful small boats.
Bidder 1 (aside): I bought one myself as a second home in Nome.
Auctioneer (bangs gavel again): The bureau of government surplus offers you a rare portfolio of properties today, beginning with Lot #1, a most curious remnant of the past, an item called political honesty. (Holds up empty glass case.) This historic item was owned by George Washington, who could not tell a lie (not just one, anyway). If it looks new, well, it’s rarely been used.
Bidder 3: I don’t see anything.
Bidder 2: That’s why they call it transparency.
Auctioneer: Do I hear one million for a little honesty? Half a million? A quarter.
Bidder 1: For twenty-five cents I’ll take it. I have a cabinet of curiosities.
Auctioneer: Sold to the bidder with the cabinet of Trump appointees. Now we move on to Lot #2, a property once held by politicians of all kinds: an ounce of modesty.
Bidder 3: You mean as in humility?
Bidder 2: Our new President doesn’t have any modesty, why should we?
Donald Trump (making a surprise cameo appearance, just couldn’t resist): Actually, he has a lot of it, fantastic, huge modesty. Besides having amazing intelligence, wit and sexual prowess, he’s one of the most modest men I know; he just doesn’t show it off.
Bidder 1: He’s too modest to show his modesty!
Auctioneer: The same asset could be yours for, what? Let’s start modestly at one-hundred thousand dollars. Do I hear fifty-thousand? Too modest to bid out loud? I’ll put the item aside then, and move on to Lot #3. Here we have a trove of previously unreleased Tweets from a White House insider, a man who sends out messages at all hours, providing the nation with continuous entertainment. Read the latest ban on immigrants, the newest attack on Hillary, and the next location of our Israeli embassy (in Teheran). You’ll receive these Tweets a few seconds before seventeen-million other readers. What a privilege!
Bidder 3: A preview of Presidential Tweets, isn’t that like insider trading?
Trump (making another surprise appearance): Wrong. The President is exempt from all conflicts of interest. He could run his great, great company and the country at the same time. I know this because Donald Trump said it at a recent press conference. Forget his conflicts -- there are none. None. Getting advance Tweets from Donald Trump two, three, five times a day ought to be worth quite a sum.
Auctioneer: Do I hear fifty million?
Bidder 1: Yes!
Bidder 3: Sixty.
Bidder: 2: I’ ll wait and read them when everyone else does.
Auctioneer: No other bids? Going once, twice . . .
Trump: They’re worth more! One-hundred million!
Auctioneer: I heard that. Going once, twice, sold to the man who likes to read his own words. We’ll take a short break here for a message from our sponsors, those great, great Morgan Chase bankers who recently acquired the United States Treasury Department. Then I’ll be back to auction off some of the Blue States.
Author’s note: A few lines in this scene were written by Henry Fielding for a stage satire of England’s Prime Minister in 1737. The Prime Minister responded by strengthening theater censorship.
Joel Schechter is a contributing writer to Jewish Currents and the author of Radical Yiddish and Eighteenth-Century Brechtians.