Wake Up Buddy
Screenplay by Alan Nafzger
Neal is an African-American freshman in the U.S. House of Representatives. He did grow up poor and the son of a single mother but was an exceptional student and won a scholarship to an Ivy League college. He has escaped poverty. He was an investment banker and also worked for the treasury department. He is a member of the majority party. He has a wife and a son.
Neal is coached by his political party that if he wants to get anything he must get along and go along with the older members. He sees his party members using their positions to create perpetual power. The incumbents are almost never defeated. He sees members of the minority party struggle to get anything done. He can’t dream of crossing over the isle and for a short time he does everything the senior members tell him to do.
Neal’s best friend in Congress actually sits on the other side of the aisle and is the longest serving member of Congress in history. Ninety-year-old Sam Hall adopts Neal, and as they visit, they discover that Hall and Neal’s grandfather served on the same ship in World War II. Neal’s grandfather, of course, was a cook and Sam was a pilot. They laugh a bit about that… and how far they have come in 60 years. Ignoring their opposite ideology, they immediate bond and form a solid friendship.
Neal is shocked when he hears the message from a party caucus. The word inside the caucus is that “we know the economy isn’t growing, but we are going to all go on television and put out the positive message.”
When he points out that the party’s policies are causing the economic hardships, they reject him and threaten to oppose him in his reelection. They tell him he will be a one-term congressman if he doesn’t shut up.
When he hears incumbent politicians make outrageous claims on television and finds evidence that the government’s official economic statistics have been falsified, he takes action. He announces that he is taking a weeklong junket to Africa to examine the conditions in the third world.
Neal boards a Greyhound bus from Washington D.C. to Ohio with just $40, a backpack, some clothes and a toothbrush with one objective find a job. His son loans Neal his Panasonic HX-A100 which is concealed in his baseball cap. He also has a smart phone but has promised only to use it in case of emergency.
This miniature “spy” camera has a built-in WiFi functions that allows the congressman to broadcast live video with simultaneous Full-HD recording. He uploads videos to various Social Networking Services using his smartphone.
Neal offers to do anything — wash dishes, sweep floors, pack boxes, cook meals, anything. He records everything. He is smart and articulate, but he can’t find a job.
He goes to dozens of businesses in search of a job but isn’t able to get work. In seven days, he doesn’t see a single ‘Help Wanted’ sign, but he notices plenty of signs that fast-food outlets now accept food stamps.
Neal sleeps on the street and in homeless shelters. He visits a church in a low-income area.
Neal has never had to live on the street. However, he must adapt his thinking to survive on the streets. With some help and advice from the people he meets he does learn some tricks.
While living on the street, Neal is beaten up, his shoes are stolen and he becomes ill. Police, public hospitals and other government services are useless in helping him. The only indication that he is a congressman is that he speaks about the budgets of the various agencies and departments he comes into contact with.
Neal finds himself marching in a gay-pride parade.
Neal meets a young woman who is contemplating an abortion.
Neal witnesses a dog breeder’s perfectly healthy animals being in seized by the government and given to animal rights activists who sell them for a profit. He later learns that dogs were show dogs in excellent condition and that the arrangement is for the government to seize the animals in exchange for political support form the SPCA in the next election. Corruption!
Neal does find friends who help him. A veterinarian takes a chance and gives him antibiotics when he is turned away from the hospital. A kind woman bandages his cuts. Various people give him food. Another homeless man helps him steal his shoes back from the thief. The government, who spends trillions of dollars to “help people” does nothing to help. In fact, Neal soon can argue that all of this spending and regulation is the cause of harm.
Neal is confronted with an alarming truth. He was raised to think that the purpose of government was to help people. He remembers liberal high school teachers, left-wing professors and he remembers his first boss when he began working. They put progressive ideas in his head, but now Neal sees clearly that it is not working.
Neal also ran one of the federal government’s Wall Street bank bailouts. He has flashbacks and comes to the realization that the money never filtered down to the population. The money has disappeared into politicians pockets and and into the bank accounts of the friends of politicians.
Particularly revolting to Neal is what the welfare state has done to his own community. He sees the nation’s welfare policies as particularly damaging to the black community and the black family unit. Neal sees first hand the poverty, dysfunction, the black illegitimacy rate and drug addiction.
Neal speaks with fellow African-Americans and expereses his doubt about the progressive left-wing ideology, instead of listening to the arguments the immediate reaction is rejection and name-calling. Neal is called an “Uncle Tom” for pointing out that the government policies are only making matters worse. He is beaten up again, this time it is black on black violence.
Nearly everyone that Neal encounters is harmed by the government — nurses, retired individuals, teachers, farmers, doctors, businessmen, and waitresses. The entire economy is going down the tubes, everything is against the law and the only wealthy people work for the government. The government has become one giant parasite.
Neal articulates his findings to his new traveling friend. Max owned a Mexican restaurant in Corpus Christi before it was seized by the IRS. He is honest and should be a productive member of society. However, Max has been on the street for a very long time and his physical and mental abilities have been seriously degraded. Max is Neal’s sounding board.
When the anonymous video he is recording goes viral, politicians in his own political party begin hunting him. The leaders, seriously embarrassed and sinking lower in the public opinion polls, send out “private investigators” (actually mercenaries) to find the source of the video and eliminate it.
The “private investigators” use the video to identify the location of the maker, and there are some close calls where Neal must avoid them. Then the “private investigators” trace the source illegally using the National Security Agency. The “private investigators” come closer to finding Neal.
Neal fumbles for money to buy a pair of bananas and sleeps on park benches and in private parking lots. Looking ragged in a t-shirt and baseball cap, and sporting a five o’clock shadow, he wakes up on the steps of a courthouse being doused by the sprinklers. And then around one o’clock the cops came and said I had to leave. “Hey, wake up buddy,” they say.
The video, which calls to mind Morgan Spurlock’s CNN show “Inside Man” and CBS’ “Undercover Boss,” show some revealing one-on-one interviews with locals struggling to make ends meet. A young woman stops by a food bank for her mother and a middle-aged man lambasts politicians for declaring that the state has rebounded.
While the politicians who run the nation pat themselves on the back and claim a “economic comeback,” they willfully ignore the 300 million Americans. Many people are living in poverty; no new factories are built, nor are there any new innovations. The United States is on a slow spiral to third world status.
Neal through his travels outlines the harms of redistribution of wealth, the nationalization of entire industries and the social control the population is subjected to.
There is some ambiguity about what the “private investigators” will do if they find Neal. When Neal says, “These problems are of our own making,” in the video, the “private investigators” are authorized to use deadly force.
“That means they are within our capacity to solve.”
The conclusion of the film is a chase from Ohio back to Washington D.C. If Neal is able to return to the capital, get his ID and resume his role as a member of the House, then he feels like he may be safe.
Sam, who is Neal’s friend and a member of the opposite party, insightfully figures out what is happening and sends his own “private investigators” to bring him safely home to Washington. Neal is nearly killed, but is rescued at the last moment.
The final scene is Neal reaches his House Office. He showers and cleans up. He walks to the House floor, past the “private investigators” who have been looking to harm him. He whispers something to the minority leader.
Neal takes the rostrum. He gives a speech like something from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, “I’m fed up with politics.” He doesn’t reveal that the videos were done by him, but the speech is rousing, patriotic and educational.
When the speech is over, Neal sits with the minority party. He is given a standing ovation and even the members of the majority party applaud his intellectual honesty and bravery.
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