Like I said, I wrote a paper for my American Politics course. We had to propose an imaginary bill and nurse it through the legislative process. Our prof. gave us free rein, which meant that I got a little crazy. So yeah, there are aliens involved. :p
The Battle for Fuzzy Reservations
Well, I met Fluffy when in college. He literally fell from the sky and made a sizable dent in our friend’s car. At first, Abby, Beth, and I, were outraged at the dent in what was the only car we had among us. Then we saw Fluffy, who was literally a ball of purple fluff. He was simply too adorable for us to stay angry for long. Unlike other people, the three of us had no trouble believing that aliens existed (we were just weird like that), so we took Fluffy in and took turns taking care of him. I moved to California after graduation and worked as a reporter for the LA Times, while writing novels when my hectic work schedule allowed. Fluffy stayed at my house for four months each year, spending the rest of the year with Beth or Abby. We eventually learned that Fluffy was not the only one of his kind – there were about three hundred of his brethren roaming the earth, either in the wild, or “adopted” by humans like he was. When I found out, I knew that the secret of aliens would not be contained for much longer. I hoped that people would be able to react positively to the news, but highly doubted it. Anyway, I slowly joined various groups of sci-fi nerds, never actively, never enough to tarnish my reputation. Through dealings with various group-leaders, I got the groups to slowly merge, until the sci-fi nerds became quite a large movement in California. I secretly hoped that the nerd base would be a positive influence on people when the news finally broke that aliens actually existed and lived among us.
Then Fluffy told me that his third cousin twice removed was in the hands of NASA and was being traumatized by their experiments on her. (As you may know, Fluffy and his kind communicated telepathically, which was why we could understand him in the first place.)
Abby, Beth, and I talked it over. We decided that we could not just sit back and do nothing. So we went public. I did an article for LA Times (after introducing my editor to Fluffy to convince him that aliens did exist) and soon the rest of the media world was all over us like flies.
People reacted in two very predictable ways: those who feared and condemned and wanted to kill all “alien invaders,” and those who absolutely loved it. As I had hoped, the Sci-Fi United, largest group of nerds in California, did a lot for us. They campaigned actively for the release of Purplie (as we dubbed Fluffy’s cousin), and dished out quite a bit of pressure to those in charge. The movement grew much bigger than I ever expected it to, and personally, I found it highly amusing that the long neglected nerds suddenly became such a force in politics. Also to my great relief, the media, after some internal debate, came out on our side. The media reported favorably on Fluffy, Purplie, and their other relatives who were also coming out of hiding, and ripped NASA to pieces. Eventually the pressure grew high enough for the president to sign an executive order to release Purplie. NASA practically refused, and Congresswoman S. Crain, who was chairing the Ways and Means Committee at the time, threatened to cut off their funds. It worked, and Purplie was released and came to live with us.
Sadly, the trouble did not end there. Though most of the world liked the aliens just fine (they are terribly adorable), there were still those who were either scared or angry at the “invasion,” as they called it. Two months later, Purplie was killed by some madman with a gun at our fund raising event at a local park. We were shocked and heartbroken.
Again, Fuzzies (as the aliens have been dubbed) stirred up a media whirlwind. In the following six months, two more of Fluffly’s relatives were killed. Abby, Beth, Fluffy and I decided that something needed to be done. We got together and brainstormed ideas, finally decided that perhaps a reservation for the aliens would be a good idea.
We then proceeded to get the idea through the lengthy legislative process. I started with Congressman William Smith, a representative of California’s 25th congressional district. He liked the idea of an alien reservation on his turf, thought that it would boost tourism. I highly disliked the idea of tourism, and told him so in no uncertain terms, but also realized that as long as tourism was regulated, Fluffy and his family could still live in relative peace, while Smith and his colleagues would fight more passionately for it. And so, the idea of a reservation for aliens was brought up on the House floor.
After some discussion, the matter was given to the House Committee on Natural Resources, which I found somewhat strange. But then, I suppose it was the first time the House had to deal with aliens, and the idea was indeed to put them on some nature reserve. The Committee then handed the matter to the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.
Then came hearing after hearing. My friends and I were called up many times to testify on a myriad of subjects, from whether or not Fuzzies were hostile to humans, to how many grains of brown rice Fluffy preferred for breakfast (the truth is that Fluffy does not like rice at all. I have no idea why people thought he did). Fluffy too, was called to testify so often that he came to know Capitol Hill like the back of his paw. Watching Fluffy testify was one of the strangest things I have ever seen. You see this very excited ball of purple fluff telepathically speaking to the House members, all of whom still wear a somewhat incredulous look on their faces, while the transcript person is having the hardest time trying to translate some very abstract thoughts and feelings from telepathy to English. They soon decided to have a group of three transcribers, for the sake of accuracy. Upsettingly, many scientists from NASA were also called to testify before the Committee. I treated them coldly because of what they did to Purplie, and did my best to keep Fluffy away from them. Fluffy was still very torn up over the deaths of his brethren.
Finally, the hearings and markups drew to an end, or so I thought. The subcommittee liked the idea of converting a nature reserve to a reservation for Fuzzies. It kept haters pacified, since aliens would no longer be allowed to roam the streets or live among humans, and it kept Fuzzies happy and safe. So the subcommittee reported to the committee, and we went through a whole new round of hearings and markups and hearing again. The committee was also rather fond of the idea, and eventually the bill for setting up Fuzzy reservations was brought before the House. The bill was slightly different from what Smith had originally proposed. Instead of only one reservation in California, there were actually three spread out over the country and in various climates. The bill provided for communication between the three sites, and also limited travel among the sites for Fuzzies.
The House then proceeded to debate the bill, after setting down the various rules for the debate. The debate was worse than the hearings. Not only was I unable to do much (except stir up emotions with sincere pleas on TV), but several times it seemed likely that the bill might be killed. Unlike the committees, the House was extremely divided on the issue. I then learned the power of constituencies and personal friendships. Because of the gigantic sci-fi movement in California, all our representatives fought quite willingly for the bill. Women and children also loved Fuzzies, and when their voices were loud enough, it served to sway their representatives. One of the most memorable images was an ad of a teary-eyed child hugging a Fuzzy, with the caption, “Mommy, why doesn’t he have a home?”
As for friendships. Having always been a Republican, and long a reporter, I was on rather good terms with various Congressmen and –women whom I interviewed over the years. And there was my cousin, Congresswoman S. Crain, whom I have long considered my sister. She met Fluffy once, before the whole thing became a media fest, and she loved him. She also had a very forceful personality, which was an advantage. With exceptions, the liberals were mostly for the bill, while many conservatives appeared to dislike the very idea of aliens. “Send them back to space where they belong!” one congressman said in an interview. But with Crain’s support (it helped that she chaired the Ways and Means Committee), and several dinner parties where I got to perfect my skills of persuasion and show off Fluffy’s adorableness, we got the votes we needed.
So the House had passed the bill. Then off to the Senate. We moved across the Capitol Building from the south wing to the north wing. And all over again, hearings, markups, more hearings, debates, and so forth. I wondered why the Senate did not go through all this when the House did. They had seemed somewhat unwilling to act, instead, waited passively for the House’s reaction. So we had to go through everything twice. More dinner parties. More bargaining. More TV appearances, and strained smiles to the many sci-fi nerds who have lived to see their dreams come true. More interviews. I even had an editor breathing down my back again, and I cursed the day I decided to write a novel. I was tired, but could not stop fighting. Our chances were good, and I owed it to Fluffy and his family.
The Senate finally passed the bill. It was five in the afternoon. I was completely exhausted, and all I wanted was a nice long nap after a quiet dinner. Abby, Beth, and Fluffy were all there. I guess I should have been excited, but at that point I was almost past caring. Senator Sharp called me up (I met her not long after the bill was brought up in the Senate, and she has been a staunch ally ever since) and told me that the bill was passed. It was a victory, but all I could offer was a tired smile.
I canceled all appointments in the following week and swore that I would catch up on my rest. In the meantime, the bill had gone to the Conference Committee as the Senate and House negotiated the minor differences, most of which hardly mattered to anyone except a congressman or two trying to look good. It did not take too long, and again, back to the House and Senate for the final vote.
I was feeling much better by the time the bill was all through the congressional process. Supposedly, the major battle had already been fought and won. The bill passed both chambers, and I had no doubts that the president would sign the bill, considering that he rescued poor Purplie. And so he did.
So now it is on to the bureaucratic process. I am not sure what to expect, but having survived the two chambers, I am pretty sure I could handle whatever comes up. I look forward to meeting the wonderful people of the Department of the Interior, and hopefully, I will make a few acquaintances who would deign to guide me through the rulemaking process. What worries me the most is whether or not the Fuzzy reservations would be open to tourism. I sincerely hope not, but the bill did not mention anything either way. I suppose Congressman Smith, with whom this all started, and I will now bash it out over the public comments. But in the end, Fluffy and his family have now been promised a home, though it may still be a while before they could claim it. And I am grateful for that.