Note that this is satire.
The Democrats in Congress introduced legislation to build a clock. The Republicans immediately proclaimed their opposition to the clock, to clocks in general, and to the lascivious notion that time exists.
The Democrats, while working on their bill, decided the clock should beep loudly every five minutes, all hours of the day. And also at random intervals during the last week of every month. They say this would promote awareness of the fleeting nature of existence. The people didn’t like the idea, but they do want a clock.
The media initially covered how everyone agrees America needs a new clock. The polls showed people would like to know what time it is. The beeping issue didn’t get much coverage, but something else did.
The Republican media and the more extreme Republican House members started a campaign against Roman numerals. “The Pope’s in Rome, but this clock is going to be in America,” they pointed out, seeming proud to know where the Pope was headquartered. “American clocks should have American numbers!” their rallying cry went. The Democrats retreated to regular numbers, but when a caller on C-SPAN mentioned they preferred Arabic numerals anyway, the whole issue blew up again.
The media taught the controversy around the numbers on the clock. Some experts raised the question of whether analog clocks are the best way to tell time. Digital clocks were considered, but abandoned when they realized in case of a power outage or malfunction the clock would be down. “Analog is more classy, anyway, and if something goes wrong, at least it will say a time, if not the time,” the House majority leader said.
The Democrats added to their proposal that only clean energy may be used to wind it, and that the materials used in its construction must be conflict-free. The business lobby and carbon fuel lobby bristled against these new provisions. The business media and US Chamber of Commerce condemned them as a tax. They said that hardworking Americans would be late for work and would miss their daughters’ alphabet-burping recitals if the clock couldn’t be wound using carbon fuel energy. They added that the conflict-free provision would cost too much and that China would use it to corner a large part of the market, making America less competitive.
The Republicans all cheered on these calls for paring back the bill, while progressive activists clamored for stronger labor provisions. A prominent West Virginia Senator weighed in, saying he thought the clock should be wound using coal, but he was in favor of the beeping. “ ‘The people of West Virginia love a good beep. Really tingles in the ear, if you know what I mean,’ the gentleman said Thursday,” a major publication reported.
There was an op-ed by a science think-tank calling for it to be an atomic clock, which caused immediate alarm and confusion online. Half the people seemed to think it was a call for the clock to be powered by nuclear fission, and most of them didn’t like that. The other half argued about whether the clock needs to be that accurate, or whether it could be set using atomic time without being an atomic clock, per se.
A second op-ed, this one by an evangelical-type, revived the hour label issue. “Roman numerals are for Super Bowls only,” she wrote. “America’s clock should feature the English names of the hours, not some fuddy foreign symbols.”
The word-based clock mockups got passed around online, with people commenting how the words were too small or the clock face too big. There were arguments about handling the words at three and nine, lest people have to turn their heads too much to read them. Others suggested the clock itself turn to show the hour, while the minute hand moves independently. But the conservatives said this would entice Americans to idleness, creating a welfare state. “Americans can turn their heads. Look at that Regan MacNeil—turned her head with the real vigor of American exceptionalism. The younger generation is grown soft,” one conservative pundit said.
Mainstream commentators did not know what to make of the fact that Regan MacNeil was the fictitious girl possessed by the enemy in The Exorcist (William Peter Blatty, 1971). But conservatives rally to the idea, posting videos of themselves trying to twist their own heads farther and farther around. Republican media explodes with advertisements for natural extracts to help turn your head like a real American should, including one made from owl feces.
A counter-proposal for the hour labels briefly gained traction, with right-wing radio fawning at the idea that every hour to be named for a president. Noon would be Ronald Reagan, six would be Lincoln, and so on. Once it was pointed out that the clock also represents night hours, the proposal fizzled. “We can’t have Ronnie be associated with midnight—the witching hour!” said one southern Republican senator, nearly fainting and fanning himself with a hankie.
At the eleventh hour, the Democrats added a new rider to the bill, which would empower the president to declare any hour a celebration or memorial of a cause. The Republicans immediately sought to amend to allow sponsorship by corporations and religious groups instead. More, they want a declaration that the clock not be used for menstrual-related math or contraception calculations. When Democrats point out using a clock as a calendar would be stupid, one Republican countered that time is time, and a clock’s just a short-term calendar.
Not satisfied, the Republicans pushed for another change: that the clock not be used to wake people from slumber. “We got this new problem called woke and it’s weakening our nation,” a former sitcom star tweeted. “If people can wake up other than from their butler bringing them breakfast, who knows where that leads.”
The Democrats went on to pass the bill, which included several other provisions:
- a prescription-drug plan that has the federal government pick up the cost of the bottle labels (paid for by a tax on pool noodles)
- a copyright provision that extends any outstanding copyright by one year for every dollar paid to a political campaign
- a requirement that all state official paperwork begin dotting their lowercase Is with hearts or smiley faces, or optionally hearts with smiley faces inside
The clock will be built over the next ten years, assuming funding is added every year until then. Once completed, the clock will initially operate on weekdays between noon and six pm. After the first year, service will expand to weekends and other hours of the day, budget allowing.