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[2008: NOV-DEC] Death of Perfection


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Death of Perfection

By Toni Turner

The weathered man sat glancing randomly around the empty stage - his eyes, by some estimations, vacant too. His face, time worn, but not by years. Broad and strong shoulders, now without tone, slumped inward, making a valley of his once firm and full chest. He leaned forward as the auditorium began to fill, and by the time the last student had taken a seat, he was pushing up with his quivering arms to his feet and legs now snarled by his experience. He hesitated a moment, then shuffled forward to the podium, his silent voice, repeating inwardly, "How can I tell them? How can I make them understand?"

Reaching into his dress white jacket, he laid a padd with his prepared speech before him, glancing at the Cadets in the audience. Today they were filled with promise, full of life and expectation, but tomorrow they could be dying at the hands of their own brothers. Clearing his throat of the lump that threaten to choke him, he began, "I'm Admiral Winston Tulane."

At his pronouncement, the cadets stood, giving him a heartfelt ovation, which he tried to squelch quickly, but they continued, much to his embarrassment. Finally, lifting his hands, he quieted them, “Thank you.” Waiting until the last one was seated and the hush complete, he began citing his commencement speech.

"The words of one of Earth's greatest statesman, Abraham Lincoln, comes to mind . . . , 'Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.' " He paused, studying his audience, then picked up his padd and tossed it to the floor, deciding the truth was the only way they would see the fallacy of the raging civil war.

"But I am not Lincoln. He was an honorable man, an idealist, in search of a perfect world in a Galaxy filled with imperfections, flawed by superior races who put themselves above all that they deemed defective. And because of this, he failed. I failed. You will fail. And like Lincoln, we will all die in vain.”

Murmurs from the audience echoed in the room, not understanding his point, but he was not dissuaded.

Quietly, he continued, "At your age, my body was that of a Gladiator; my mind, clear of all wrong doing; my hands, unmarred by battle scars. I was flawless, living in the purity of an Universe conceived in innocence by the Federation of Planets. All humanoids were deemed equal, free to live the lives that they chose. We did not taint the innocence of new species. They were as free as we were to live unfettered by prejudged attitudes. We even crafted a perfect statement that welcomed all peoples regardless of 'color, race, gender, creed, nationality, religion, health status, culture, form of birth, sexual orientation, educational level, age, genetic heritage or native language,' but then in our quest for perfection, we qualified that statement by adding, 'provided that they meet and satisfy, and continue to satisfy, the criteria of admission.' And this was the basis of the civil war that we fight daily."

Stopping to let them digest what he had said, he poured a glass of water, and drank deeply, contemplating his next revelation.::

"I can't tell you how much pleasure it brought me to slay the men who deemed me flawed. I watched as their blood pumped from their bodies, reveling in the fact they had been so wrong. Unfortunately, my satisfaction was short-lived. Nothing changed, and those ‘perfect’ men were replaced tenfold,” he dropped his head sadly, “and when I was reenforced equally, a war that pitted us against ourselves was declared.”

"When I introduced myself, you applauded the man who fostered our rebellion. The man who was first to stand up to right a wrong that he thought had been done to him. A man who could not, and would not, accept an unjust procedure. Is your apathy so complete that you cannot question the validity of his motivations?”

He waited for someone . . . anyone . . . to comment, but the cadets only looked at each other questioningly.

Taking in a long disheartened breath, Tulane, sarcastically, answered his own question, “Of course not. You live in a perfect Universe, where to question would only show weakness.” He could have left it at that, but he wanted to tell them the whole truth so they would see the futility of the war. “The motivation was simple. It started with two friends playing a game of air ball in a holodeck. One won, and chided the other in jest for being too slow. They threw a couple of friendly punches then left the holodeck, laughing and teasing each other as they always did.

A few days later they were called before the review board. Someone had heard the comment . . . or saw the mock fight, and suddenly the entire incident had mushroomed as the gossip spread. We, my friend Jeff and I, tried to explain, but our crew mates had already taken sides. The lines were drawn, and when the tribunal ruled, I was chastised along with those rebellious few who championed my cause."

Pausing, he reflected on the events that followed, fighting the emotions they brought forth. After a long moment, he choked them out.

"I'll never forget the sadness in my friend's eyes when I left that room, nor will I forget the sadness in mine when we next met on the battlefield." Tears trickled down his cheeks as he continued to speak. "After the decisive blow, I held Jeff in my arms until his last breath. On it, he whispered, 'Perfection is flawed.' "

Composing himself, he wiped his eyes with the back of his hand, then stood rigid on his conviction. “Tomorrow you will face blameless enemies . . . as will they. As evidenced by my friends dying words, they know as we do that perfection is not resolute. If I had not been so blinded by my own fury, I would have seen that in my friend before I killed him. We fight a battle that is never ending. I charge you on this, your graduation day, to embrace your imperfections and those of your enemies. Lay down your arms and stop the utter intolerance of prejudice. Stop judging others by your standards of what you think is ideal.”

From the back of the auditorium, a voice rose above his. “And who are YOU to judge US by your standards?”

Stating his case clearly, “I’m the man who fostered our rebellion. The man who was first to stand up to right a wrong that he thought had been done to him. The same man who now only finds perfection in peace, but knows that history will repeat itself no matter how perfect we let ourselves think we are. The man who knows that his only true peace will come with the death of perfection.” Nodding to the cadets, he ended his speech. "Go into the Universe, and seek to bring peace."

As the cadets filed out of the auditorium, Admiral Tulane bent to pick up the padd he had tossed to the floor, but half way down a young man came up with it. "Here you go, sir."

"Thank you," he returned with a glimmer of recognition in his eye.

"Nice speech, Sir. I wish my father could have been here to hear it." Swiftly the cadet drove his blade into Tulane's chest, then held him close until his last breath. On it, Tulane whispered, "Your father was right, 'Perfection is flawed.' "

Letting Tulane slide to the floor, "Yes, I know. Too bad it took you so long to realize it."


Edited by Toni
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