March 28 2023
RIDE INTO THE DANGER ZONE
by Kevin Burnett
As Cruise Announces Presidential Candidacy, Meet the Real Top Gun.
It is a cold winter morning in January when I meet at his home for the first time, in a town whose name I am under no circumstances to divulge. He makes me feel warmed and welcomed while I sit at his kitchen table with a mug of tea, listening to the plinking-plonking atmospheric music on the stereo and looking around at the minimalist bareness of the walls. When he sits down with his own cup of tea and sets an Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee ashtray on the table, he surprises me by broaching the topic of the up-coming American Presidential election first.
Most important figures in the world of politics are open about their achievements, but where he is concerned, I assumed there would be some reluctance. Few members of the public – almost none, in fact – know who Michael Suzuki is or what he has done to influence the current face of American politics.
The campaign for the United States 2024 election commenced last Friday with the official announcement of the presidential candidate short list. Heading on the trail in the first step of the world’s single longest job application process for the Democratic Party are Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Harris, who is already tipped by opinion polls to be the favourite, is running on a ticket of hope and restoration following eight years of a tumultuous Republican leadership. President Leopold Matthews is set to run for re-election against undeniable opposition; his approval rating has been stuck at a 27% trough for the last six months. According to the GOP, his advisers have urged him to use his last year in the oval office towards reassessing the strict gun control laws fearfully rolled out in 2019. Stealing the limelight however was the announcement of President Matthews’ opposition, sixty-year-old actor and entrepreneur Tom Cruise. “I’m excited, totally excited to steer this sinking ship to safe land. I just can’t wait,” the five foot seven inch tall Edge of Tomorrow star declared at his press conference on Saturday.
Considering even for a moment that the rumoured immortal will be given the opportunity to guide America out of the danger zone in over a year’s time, as he already believes, the issue isn’t so much whether he will be qualified for the job should he run a successful campaign (he isn’t), but whether the American people are prepared for the climate that will come of the campaign itself. It’s a sign of the legacy bought by the election in 2016 of a president who fed off press attention like a demon off all things good in the world yet bought the outlets to control its tone that this is a question we must ask. It’s the result of a campaign so dubious yet so scandalously successful that such candidates as Cruise can no longer be written off. Thanks to the forty-fifth president, whose name is cursed and so will only be called ‘David Hoope’, we have to ask the American voting public if they have the fortitude to weather this coming election year.
Like a hazy cough syrup nightmare, we seem to have forgotten the upheaval that has dogged President Matthews every step of the way. Since the 2018 assassination that placed him in the presidency, following the federal investigation that removed every felonious apple from Congress, every move he has made has displayed severe paranoia. His emergency surgery approach promised future security during the legitimising 2020 election and it was his moves to repeal pro-discrimination bills and reinstate and improve Obama’s Affordable Care Act that won him many friends with governors and citizens on the other side of the aisle, but with the blanket ban on guns, Orwellian internet surveillance and draconian immigration laws, the fact is that his every action comes not from duty to his people, but out of fear that one of them, dissatisfied, will unseat him.
It has made his leadership frenetic at best, made worse by the American news networks’ aim to keep the people oblivious. As Internet surveillance was heightened, at one point reaching a degree that people posting their grumbles about the president in one hour were being interrogated over the phone by federal agents in the next, the news was not focused on breaches of civil liberties but on President Matthews’ first state visit with French President Emmanuel Macron. As Matthews left empty details on Twitter about his plans for healthcare reform, Fox News anchors expounded on every character rather than livestreamed instances of British travellers being dragged off US-bound flights, apparently due to ‘overbooking’. Every opportunity that arose for Matthews to correct these disparities through the only outlet which, thanks to the 2017 Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement (COVFEFE) Act, is law-and-duty-bound to remain unfiltered were flatly eschewed. This has drawn a disturbing parallel to his predecessor Hoope; as unprofessional and dangerous as he was, as much as he trained the media to listen to his Twitter feed, his penchant for oversharing at least gave the public something to work with. It’s this cowardice that will condemn his re-election campaign before it begins.
This era of news stories lacking in substance, lacking in facts in favour of ideology and emotive rhetoric in fact, were birthed almost entirely in the crucible of Hoope’s campaign of distraction, information control and empty promises. Just as news of Hoope’s assaults and various lawsuits were waylaid by FBI investigations into Democratic opposition Hillary Clinton’s e-mail correspondence as recently as one week before the vote, reports on the president’s sudden death were overwhelmingly sentimental, full of commemorations lingering on his virtues. It happened during a state visit to Glasgow, the attack itself was caught on film in sickening detail, but five years on, shockingly little else of the assassination has been allowed to reach the public. News reporters who openly asked after the identity of the murderer or their motives were taken aside and told to report on the federal investigations into the foul play in Hoope’s now-gone administration. Investigative journalists who asked to give more than a five-hundred-word review were given profiles to make on the potential replacement. The public, starved for information and seeking retribution for the death of their Commander-in-Chief as well as the integrity of the Oval Office, were assured that the United States would not seek war with the United Kingdom; if the assassinator was sold to the US to make that assurance possible, nothing of it was stated. It was simply out of character. The public went as far as to petition numerous organizations from the CIA to the Secret Service, to accuse them of burying the information, but not one of them would engage.
I sit before Michael Suzuki having learned for myself that, had he not murdered the president, current President Matthews would not be running for a second term. He would not have won a first term on the promise of regaining the security and certainty robbed of the American people by the assassination. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris would not be pledging to end the paranoia that has slowly leeched the people of their freedoms in favour of Matthews’ personal safety. Had he not run such a shaky administration, Cruise would not feel as though he had a chance.
Now twenty-five years old, Michael was a few months shy of twenty-one when he pulled the trigger on August 6 2018, often euphemised and commemorated today as ‘8/6 day’. I was surprised myself to learn that he was even alive, but in a neutral country and under an assumed identity, he lives what he believes to be a lifetime exile thousands of miles from his hometown in Sheffield, England. He holds steady employment in an ordinary job with access to wider society. More than many people in fact, he maintains a steady relationship with a partner he refuses to allow me to meet. He doesn’t tell me that this partner doesn’t know who he used to be, but I assume that is the case.
Michael is a secretive, guarded man. His freedom today depends on no one making a connection between his past deeds and his current persona. When we talk, it is always at his home while his partner works. He always takes every photograph off the walls and hides them away where I can’t see them. The odd music he plays on the stereo, he tells me, is weaponised sound; it is designed to disrupt electronic recording devices and wiretaps, ‘just in case’. He lets me write everything down, but I never leave without allowing him to read through my notes. There are still things he refuses to tell me no matter how often I promise to keep it off the record. He knows divulging to the press like this is risky, but I like to think we have an understanding now. Although I found and approached him with this mission, he agrees that the time is past due to give the public the truth. He agrees that this environment of ‘truthiness’ would fit a second campaign like Hoope’s to a T; after all these years, the last thing he wants outside of outright validation is for his crime to mean nothing.
I waste no time in asking, in no uncertain terms, the most important question. ‘Michael, why did you kill the American president?’
‘Why does anyone get involved in other people’s business?’ he asked. ‘The American people were running out of options. They couldn’t think a bad thing about their Commander-in-Chief without facing the consequences. Warning them with facts didn’t work anymore, so someone had to reset the clock.’
To that, I asked him the second most important question. In the aftermath of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, following the capture of Lee Harvey Oswald, many people refused to believe that he was a lone gunman. Conspiracy theories were built on the premise that, while he stood alone on the Grassy Knoll, he was put there by a group or organization. Oswald, however, planned and executed the plot alone.
‘Were you working alone?’ I asked.
Michael shook his head, ‘the situation was very complicated. If I’m honest, the idea to do something about David Hoope wasn’t even my idea to begin with.’
As Michael Suzuki continued to tell me and I will continue to tell you, the story of how he came to stand in George Square began a scant year before as an undergraduate student at the University of Sheffield, on the night he joined an unassuming little club known as the ‘Knitwear Society’.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
© 2017 Kevin Burnett, ‘Burnit Write’