Channel 120
Chapter 2: Randland

by Mark Bollman-->

Channel 120 was written Mark Bollman--> as his hobby assignment for Winter Camp XVII. It remains the seminal work of Winter Camp Fiction

Seen in retrospect, the sequence of events which led to the creation of Randland was--as is the case with most retrospective viewing--completely predictable.

While the first two years of his presidency had been good ones for Bill Clinton, and indeed for the entire country, the same good fortune was not felt in the U.S. Congress. And if the American public had been infected in 1992 with an anti-incumbent fever, it was a full-blown epidemic that surged through the nation just two years later. It was argued at the time that the 103rd Congress was no more insulated from the concerns of most Americans than any of its more recent predecessors. Nonetheless, the conviction prevailed that that body, elected as they were on a platform of change, ought to be held to a higher set of standards. Fully 300 members of the House of Representatives either chose not to seek re-election or were defeated--most of them soundly--in their efforts to return to Washington. Moreover, this influx of new members placed the lower chamber squarely in Republican hands. Much the same was true in the Senate, where the biennial replacement of one-third of the membership left a 51-49 split, with the Democrats clinging most tenuously to control.

More disturbing to many Americans than this return to divided government was the astonishing rise of the religious right wing in the Republican Party. The family values crusade which had failed to return George Bush to the White House in 1992 found new recruits in the wake of the new Congress' inability to police itself or to take steps to lessen American class division. Their activist crusade succeeded in 1994 where earlier efforts had failed, no doubt with the benefit of two years' fresh evidence of the perils of "the radical secular humanist agenda", as Congress' efforts had been tagged.

Additionally, the right wing advocates had learned to select their issues with more care. Realizing that the issue of abortion was entirely too complex to portray in absolutist black and white tones, they abandoned it as a paramount mission and instead set out to "re-establish American moral eminence throughout all Creation" through a collection of actions, generally more symbol than substance.

One of these, the major flashpoint between the executive and legislative branches in 1995, was the Moral Reform Act. The MRA aspired to legitimize the religious right's agenda by codifying their ethical standards into law. It was phrased so vaguely that anyone who dared oppose the Right could be attacked with any of a variety of unsavory charges, yet it had a chilling impact across America. While President Clinton's broad popular support enabled him to veto the legislation confidently, he saw his action overridden. The net result was a wave of assaults on the newly defined deviant morality and a climate of fear which reached staggering proportions.

Court challenges there were, but the federal court system remained squarely in the hands of Republican appointees. When Ronald Reagan died on July 4, 1995, his still-numerous supporters pointed to the MRA as a lasting memorial to his presidency and life--and in so doing created a climate that few judges dared to challenge.

While Jeff Rand was not himself aligned with the religious right, he was known as an exceptionally shrewd operator, and so his quick move to capitalize on the economic fallout of the MRA was by no means out of character. What surprised even him was the direction in which his new enterprises took him, for few expected that the Boy Scouts of America would fall victim to the new repression brought on by the MRA.

Indeed, the pro-religion, anti-homosexual code which the BSA took as its guiding principles made the organization appear to be a shining example of what the right wing sought for America. Nonetheless, while "physically strong" and "morally straight" were two components of the Scout Oath of which the new righteousness of the 1990's approved, it was the middle point in that closing line, "mentally awake", that posed problems. The new arch-conservatives saw themselves as the guardians of American intellectual life after the MRA, and inquisitive Americans were held in disregard. While the organization was rumored to be thriving in an underground movement of Scouting alumni, its 85th anniversary year was, openly and officially, its last.

The impact of the BSA's demise on metropolitan Lapeer was dramatic. Not far from the city sat what was once one of the country's proudest Scout camps, D-A Scout Ranch. Upon the BSA's 1995 shutdown, 1470 acres of essentially undeveloped land suddenly came on the market. Rand saw a chance to broaden his insurance business into real estate speculation, and quickly snapped up the property at a near-fire sale price. Exactly what his intentions were was never revealed to the public, though, due to the work of a coalition of former Scouts on the Lapeer County Planning Board. This alliance, which included Lapeer mayor Ron Donohue, successfully blocked his 1996 plan to have the acreage rezoned for some sort of commercial development. While few doubted his eventual intentions to build on the property, it was temporarily in use as an athletic park and nature preserve. The Randathon Races, a series of cross-country events run at the camp during the summer, were well supported and well received by the community. Rumors that several monuments to the departed BSA were secretly located in distant corners of the ranch flourished, but no evidence was ever located.

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