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Shultz on the Road to Damascus

5 min read

Howard Schultz swore as he wrenched the steering wheel on his rented car, barely making the freeway on-ramp.  His floundering presidential campaign had him so distracted he could barely focus on driving.

And now he was driving himself to meet with a cadre of Billionaires in southwest Virginia, while his $500/hour consultants slept off their drunks in the back seat. 

Dang!  Did he miss his exit?  He stomped his brakes, swerved into the right lane, and took the next off ramp. His headlights lit up the sign; Damascus: 66.6 Miles.

Lightning has flashed across the sky all evening.  But the next lighting burst blinded Schultz. He braked and swerved and felt the car ease off the shoulder and stop.

A voice roared louder than a freight train:

“Harvey!  Why do you disgrace your own heritage? Don’t be such a putz! Why do you not offer your bounties of riches to help others?  Remember, the Lord giveth, and the Lord for d**n sure can take away.”

The Blinding Light faded.

Schultz’s aides were gibbering with fear.  But they had only seen the light.  Only Schultz had heard the voice AND seen the light.

Schultz was shell-shocked for several days.  He canceled all appointments.  A week later he proclaimed a major announcement to be made from Wall Street.

And there, on the steps of the Stock Exchange, an emotional Schultz announced he was running in the Republican presidential primary against Trump.

“And,” he shouted, his voice climbing,” My first official act as a candidate will be to drive the moneychangers from their temple, where their corrosive greed has weakened the foundations of our democracy!” 

Schultz whooped, grabbed a broom from a custodian, and barged his way onto the Exchange floor, swinging the broom. He scattered brokers and knocked computers from desks before the police threw him down. 

The evening newscasters discussed the incident in quiet tones.  Clearly Schultz had broken under the strain of his failing campaign. 

The New York Police released Schultz the next morning, after a night at Riker’s Island. 

A shaky filthy shoeless Schultz addressed hundreds of reporters from the jail’s parking lot.

“No society is civilized when thousands of its own brothers and sisters suffer under the horrible conditions of prisons such as these.  No justice can be done for an innocent person who was forced to wait weeks on Riker’s Island for a trial.”

He paused and pointed a finger into the sky.

“As of this moment I am posting bail and hiring attorneys for every prisoner on Riker’s Island.   As we do to the least of us, we do to our own souls.”

While he talked, some of the 11,000 released prisoners began to file by. “Right on Howard,”  “Thanks Howard,”  ‘God Bless Howard,” they called.  Some volunteered for his campaign. 

After he switched to running against Trump, rather than as an Independent, the polling percentages that said they “just wanted to slap Schultz’s face”  fell from 88% to 1%.

The Afternoon talk shows went wild. Had Howard successfully outflanked the other candidates on prison reform?  Would his populist act overshadow Trump’s?  Would the Wall Street stunt speak to the Trump supporters who hated bankers?

Others pointed out the total costs of defending 11,000 prisoners could approach $1 billion, and how many similar tricks could Schultz pull out out of his portfolio?

The next day, a fatigued, but upbeat Schultz spoke from Puerto Rico, at a small village.  

“Our brothers and sisters suffer here, beaten by the storm,  while heartless racists strangle the flow of relief dollars.  We march for these funds!” Schultz shouted.  The crowd surged forward and gathered strength as they wound through other small towns.

The police intercepted the crowd in front of the Joint HUD/FEMA building in San Juan where Trump’s minions were denying relief claims.  Someone threw rocks, and everyone was arrested, including Schultz.

After his release hours later, Schultz proclaimed:

“No one person can heal Puerto Rico’s wounds.  But I’m sure every one wants these folks to get the money appropriated for them.  And from my own pocket I pledge funding to send 20,000 Puerto Rico teenagers through 4 years of college, for free.”

Howard finally smiled, the first time in a long time. He wiped blood and dust from his forehead.

“Please note it costs the same to send 20,000 kids to college as it does to send 10,000 folks to prison.”  He paused, “I’m also funding solar panels for every building in Puerto Rico so these folks aren’t victimized again. We must remove the corporate control of energy that poisons our planet.”

 The talking heads on every channel flipped out. Public opinion polls showed Schultz surging, with 10% now agreeing that he was not an awful person. 

Environmentalist groups loved his solar energy plans. 

Fox News invited him on, and pointed out that Schultz had now spent $3 billion of his $3.3 billion, and there were still 49 states left. 

“I’m here to save capitalism from itself,” Schultz pontificated.

“Are you a Trotskyist communist?” gasped one of the hosts.

“Have I become your enemy, when I’ve come here to tell you the truth?”  Howard shouted, stood up, fled the studio, and vanished.

“Where’s Howard” became a catchword. Many rumored that he dressed poorly and walked everywhere, and if you unknowingly gave him a ride or a meal, you might find out that your mortgage or car loan’s been paid off.

Judging from the unconfirmed stories, he was drifting towards the Southwest.

A 30-second film clip surfaced on Youtube.  Howard was sitting around a table with several Latino laborers.  A banner with a red eagle on it was hung on the wall.

“Good evening, fellow Americans. I’m now an honorary member of the United Farmworkers, because I tried to harvest lettuce today.  I didn’t last 30 minutes.  A country that does not pay these people what they deserve, and give them the rights of dual citizenship, when we depend on their work for food itself, doesn’t deserve to look itself in the face. “

The camera zoomed in on Schultz.  His face had a fresh scar.

“God bless you all.” he concluded, and dropped back out of sight.

Howard had reasons for his new silence.  He wanted to cross the border from Mexico to the US with refugees, to walk in their shoes, and he knew the border was a dangerous place.

When the moon shone full, Howard and the others rode to a desolate gully by the Border Fence.  At this place, the fence was cut and torn down and run over and you could walk under it when the gully was dry. 

Everyone ducked under the fence and began to jog north, where their next ride was supposed to wait, 10 miles distant.

Suddenly an overpowerlng light blinded Schultz.  He fell to his knees in the desert sand. Rough hands grabbed him and tossed him towards the headlights of the SUV.

“My name is Howard Schultz. I’m an American citizen,” he said quickly.

A sneering Southern accent answered him.

“Too bad for you, Howard, I ain’t the Border Patrol.  We’s XE Services, contractors for this piece of the Border, and there’s a price for you.”

Schultz was never heard from again, but his brief candidacy kicked the Overton Window several clicks to the left.  The 2020 elections produced Democratic supermajorities in the Congress and the first woman President.

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