If You’re Reading This, I’m Probably Dead — Maybe Not
Hard to say for sure, because I’ve seen a top-secret report that could destroy the United States and they’re after me
By Larry Kahaner
(This first appeared in The Bigger Picture)
To whomever (not whoever… right?) finds this letter:
If you’re reading this letter it means I’m dead. Well, maybe not fully dead. Perhaps I’m just rotting in an undisclosed government location waiting to be tortured. Well, not really undisclosed. Obviously, the federal thugs who would have grabbed me out of my bed in the middle of the night know where they put me. Come to think of it, the torture part may be overstating the case, too. At least I hope so.
Anyhoo, things aren’t looking so hot for me, a crack investigative reporter, since I saw a top-secret government report that blows the lid off what Americans really believe about their country. If it’s made public, the social fabric of the United States could fray or unravel or whatever happens when a textile breaks apart.
Bottom line: The U.S. would no longer be a country. It’s unclear what it would become but definitely not a country.
While rumors of the report’s existence have been circulating for at least the past 5 years, it has been kept under wraps. Only a handful of people, like me, who have proof of its existence are, well… I already explained my situation to you.
Alright, I’ve kept you in suspense long enough, and I can see flashing lights outside my window. (Note to self: Hide this letter really, really, really good so THEY don’t find it.)
The official report, titled “The Official Report,” is the result of decades of investigation in which government officials asked Americans under the guise of doing census research whether the following statement was true or false:
We are better than that.
Just like you, I hear this catchphrase all the time. It’s usually coming from some TV talking-head politician or public figure who wants to reassure me that we have the power to correct our mistakes even though we are often called a jerk-face-of-a-country by other nations. What the hell do any of them know about the real us?
Here are some of the study’s responses from honest-to-goodness Americans:
– A 45-year-old mechanic in the Midwest said: “No. We may not be better than that, but we are better than those people.”
– A self-identified Libertarian college student said: “No. It’s up to each of us to decide whether or not we choose to be better than that. That’s my right. Deal with it.”
– A stay-at-home mother in Boston said: “Probably not, but who the hell are you to be asking such a question?” (There were footnotes, but I didn’t have time to read them.)
– A high-tech executive in Austin said: “Negative, bro, but the word ‘better’ is totally a relative term. I’ll loop in my algo team and get back to you.”
– A beet farmer in Louisiana said: “No, sir. That doesn’t sound right to me… who’d you say you were with again?”
With my time running out, (I was allowed eyes-only on the document for 10 minutes) I stopped reading the rest of the interviews and jumped to the findings section, which was broken out into a separate segment marked “Findings.” I quickly wrote down the last paragraphs exactly as presented.
“This non-partisan report took decades to complete and encompasses the views of millions of Americans. Under no circumstances should it be released to the public as it will cause citizens to be more bummed out than they already are. All the data show conclusively that in asking the question presented to Americans: Are we better than that? the resounding answer was ‘no.’
Our recommendation is for our public officials to keep saying, We are better than that, because what the hell else do you suggest?”
I was shaken by the last line. It is so true. What could anyone possibly suggest that might change things?
P.S. — Please send my posthumous journalism award to my sister Diane, and not to my other sister Karen. She’s always been mean to me.