There he stood, arms outstretched off to his sides, forming the letter T with his torso. As he swayed slightly in the gusty breeze he gazed downwards — his eyes bloodshot, tears streaming — down through the shades of night at the flashing lights on the vehicles of the first responders below. A crowd had gathered — clambering and milling about, pushed by police officers this way and then that — away from the building. It was a six-story drop. If he leaped into the night air that would have been it — finito!
A policewoman, who had gotten unto the ledge with him was now about ten feet away. He, seeing her through the corner of an eye shouted, “Stay back!” The officer paused, showing him the palms of her hands, nodding her compliance, mouthing, calmly, “Okay, okay. Relax, relax. I don’t want to hurt you.” Glancing down at her feet to reassess her footing, she looked up and at him again. “What is your name?” She asked, “Can’t we talk about what the problem is? I am here to listen. I am here to help you…if I can.”
“I don’t want to talk!”, he replied, “I am done talking!” Again, she asked him his name. He, squeezing out tears that fell as large droplets unto his shirt, answered, “My name is U.S. My name is U.S. Constitution!” “Well, U.S., errr….can I…can I…can I call you “U.S.”? He assented with a nod of his head. Then, said she again, “Don’t I know you? Are you theee U.S. Constitution?” “The one and only,” he replied. “I read all about you in high school and in college. It’s really you! It’s, really, really youuuu!” She said with a chuckle.
As she shuffled a little towards him, he shouted, “Stay back! Come any closer, and I’ll jump!!!” She, stopped, pleading, with an upraised hand, “Okay, okay, please, please — don’t jump.” With arms still outstretched, now sobbing, his eyes moved back to the scene below. Someone on a bullhorn could be heard shouting, “Please step back! Step back, please! And, lower your voices! Let us give the officer upon the roof all the support as she tries to talk him down!” To that, someone shouted, “Jump, fellah! Go ahead and jump!”, before he was accosted and then led away.
“What happened?” said the officer, to the man, “How did you come to this?” “I feel so guilty, so bad about a lot of things! I have played such a huge role in messing up the lives of so many people! I just want to end it all!” “But, you have done so much for the people in this country. For me! What are you talking about?” she retorted. “Strange that you, as a woman should say that,” he replied, “seeing that it was because of me that you were denied the right to vote for 132 years! How can you say that, after 132 years?!”
“It took long, I know, but you corrected that with your 19th Amendment in 1920, didn’t you?” she said. “I know,” said the man, sobbing, “but women suffered for so long! For so, so long, because of me! I want to die!” “But, it wasn’t your fault, U.S.! It was the founders — they, with their patriarchal and misogynistic mindset, it was they who had put you up to it! Can’t you take some comfort in that?” she asked. “I don’t know”, he said, “don’t know.” What about how I treated the African people and their descendants in this country? The founders enslaved them, and I signed off on it, and they suffered for 77 years under me and because of me, since 1788, when I was ratified!!”
“That is true, I can’t deny that.” she replied, “What they did to those people since 1619, and what you allowed, even saying that they were like cattle; valuing them as three-fifths of any white man; remaining silent when they were sold as property; when they were oppressed; brutalized; raped and murdered with impunity was awful, but you apologized with your 13th Amendment.” “Yes, I did.” he replied, “But I find no comfort in that because the people managed to twist and then use it to re-enslave them using the penal system.” “But, U.S., that is on those who did it and who are still doing it. You gave them a tool for good, but they have turned it into something for bad!” “I hear what you are saying, but many of them are still suffering because of me! Damn! Damn! Damn! Because of meeeeee!!!!”
Then, said the officer, shuffling towards him, “U.S., I know that you are hurting, but we can talk about it some more, but this ledge is not the place to do so on. It is not safe. Suicide is not the answer. Can’t we both just step back and down unto safer ground? I want to protect you?” “Protect meee!?” He, asked with a sarcastic laugh, “You must be joking! Nobody seems to be looking out for me these days! In fact, for generations, most people, including those Supreme Court justices who had pledged allegiance to me, and who were supposed to work for me only ended up taking advantage of me!!! So, don’t you dare tell me about protection!” He said, angrily.
“How am I to feel,” he went on, “when one who swore to protect and to defend me, against all enemies, foreign and domestic, sought to call my name while trying to overthrow an election?! Huh?! You tell meeee!!! They think I am stupid or something?!! Protection??!! You have got to be joking!! Perhaps you ought to be on this ledge contemplating suicide and not me! You seem to be the one who is deluded and not me! The 1619 Project people and the Critical Race Theory folks have raised all kinds of serious questions about me! They make me so very, very uncomfortable. I am not as relaxed with them as I ought to be — not as I am with white people. But, this is reality — my reality! Even a blind man can see that I prefer you white people to them! Go ahead, you try and deny history!!!”
“But you have changed,” she replied, “in fact, you have been changing and you have been maturing. A little criticism does not hurt, if done constructively. How you respond to it, however, will make all the difference in the world. Nobody is perfect, and that includes you. You are not God.” “I do understand their observations,” he replied, “and also their concerns, more than I care to admit. But, my children are more blind and more stubborn than I am! I am as one in a senior citizens’ home with them behaving like controlling and abusive guardians. They tell the public that I said things that I never said! I can’t take it anymore! Stay away!” he shouted, as the officer inched slowly towards him!
“And now this,” he continued, “and now this.” “What do you mean by ‘And now this’?” she inquired. “My 2nd Amendment, and all those people who died in Texas and Buffalo, recently. I brought it up, and I pushed it after the founders fought the British. I knew that they were scared that a federal army would be used to rise up and mistreat the people. And so, if the normal citizens could be armed for that purpose, to protect the nation, then they wouldn’t need an army like that of the British, and Napoleon and other European countries. I agreed to it! I signed off on it! But they went and established a federal army anyway, and now their children — their stupid, stupid children are using that freedom to murder their own offspring!!!”
“U.S., please, step back! We need you! You are all that we have! We cannot move forward without you! If things are so bad now, while you are still with us, imperfect as you are, then can you imagine what this country would be like without you?! Please, man, think it through! You have brought us so far, even with some racist tendencies, I admit, but America, with its high ideals, and its hopes for the future would cease to exist! You are the reason that I am here — here on this ledge with you. I am here, because I had sworn to protect and defend you when I became a law enforcement officer. You might not have begun your journey in 1788 with everybody in mind, but don’t disparage all that you have accomplished with all of your amendments.”
“There are bad actors out there,” she continued, “people bent on destroying us and preventing us to be the best that we can be, and, I…..Constitution?…….U.S.?….What are you doing?…….U.S, don’t do it!!! Don’t do it!! Don’t do it! Nooooooooooo!!!! Oh, my God!!! Noooooooo!!! Noooooooooooo!!!!
Off the ledge?