A woman in a black and white minidress and black spiked heels walked up to the podium. The crowd grew silent.


“What we as a country have lost is our intestinal fortitude. I’m entering this race for the Presidency of these United States to Return America To Sanity (RATS for short), to regain our intestinal fortitude.


Ronnie Saint Dee looked at the crowd in front of her. She saw the confusion, the disbelief, the wry smiles.


“Let me explain,” she said. “Intestinal fortitude is the courage and determination to do something difficult or unpleasant. Most of you know very little about me. Let me tell you why I believe I am uniquely qualified to solve this country’s most important problem, to restore its intestinal fortitude.”


The crowd went silent. They were now primed and ready to listen.


“For many years, a decade and a half to be precise, I cheffed in my own restaurant in California, a restaurant that at its pinnacle was voted the best family restaurant in the state. Why? Because of our no frills common sense home cooking. We were crushed by the pandemic but not before I realized that things were changing for the worse not just in my business but all over America.”


The crowd began to fidget. Time to move to her main point.


“I determined the catalyst stirring up the trouble … spicy food.”


Here Ronnie waited for just a few seconds to let the revelation sink in.


“No one has ever been killed by monotony. Bland over-cooked, soggy vegetables, tasteless starches, boiled meats—these are the time honored ingredients that have historically made America great. As your President I pledge to Return America To Sanity (RATS) by banning spicy foods.”


A few people shifted in their seats. Saint Dee saw the skepticism in the crowd. She needed to use her sharp knife to carve the crowd into submission.


“Spicy foods are stimulants just like caffeine and alcohol. Through a domino effect they lead to cocaine and heroin and fentanyl. If you consume Mexican chilies or Indian curries, Jamaican jerk chicken or Jambalaya you are on your way to opiate addiction. There is no doubt about it. I, and I alone, can fix it. Under my Presidency America will be the country where spicy foods go to die!”


She clinched her fist and shot it into the air at the word “die.”


Gasps and whispers passed through the crowd. Then, slowly, a thunderous applause arose. This is the biggest crowd ever for a Presidential coming out speech, Saint Dee thought to herself.


“Go bland and the fortitude in your intestines will return.” Again she flung her fist into the air.


A few people made their way to the restrooms. A few others stood away from the crowd and smoked. But most stayed riveted to their seats.


“It’s time to bring back jello salads to the dinner table and Lima beans and round steak, mashed potatoes and milk gravy, and creamed corn. Enough with the fancy French sauces, frog legs and snails. No more putrid Chinese food with that disgusting bug juice. I will remove Chun King from the supermarkets. Away with the sriracha. These foreign invasions are bad for the digestion of this great country.”


“Just look at the favorite foods of our Presidents. Washington ate hoecakes, John Adams loved his New England boiled dinner, John Quincy Adams stuck with America’s fresh fruit, Lincoln liked corn cakes, Grant rice pudding. Franklin Roosevelt, bless his heart loved his grilled cheese sandwiches, Truman corn bread, Eisenhower beef stew, LBJ barbecued ribs, Nixon cottage cheese, Carter cheesy grits, Reagan jelly beans. You don’t see any spicy foods anywhere on the list. Intestinal fortitude, friends, requires three square simple meals a day.”


“Chili-spiced potato chips and soy-flavored rice crackers are edible Trojan horses designed to destroy our culture from the inside out. Hardtack was a wholesome snack for our pioneers and its still good for us today.”


A dark-skinned foreigner raised his hand and asked Saint Dee a question. “What about those of us who want to eat the snacks we grew up with?”


“You must choose, honey. America or your home country. Countries that eat together stay together. Got that? We must protect our American culture, a culture that has made us great. We will engender our intestinal fortitude through wholesome eating. We will preserve our values even if that means foregoing kimchee.”


“I don’t eat kimchee, I eat chapulines,” said the man with a confused look.


“In Mexico you can eat grasshoppers,” said Saint Dee with a smirk. “Real Americans eat popcorn and steak. We don’t eat insects. Get over it.”


The man sank down in his seat while several members of the crowd glared at him.


“Look,” said Saint Dee. “We know what spicy foods do. They make our men weak and our women frivolous. This leads to casual sex. Sex is serious business. Our population growth and economy depend on it. I will eradicate the curse of spicy food in America. You can count on it.”


“On my first day I will ban all cookbooks with recipes for spicy foods and those with elaborate preparations. Food should be easy to make and safe to eat. Cooking shows on television will be monitored for references to spicy foods that encourage mothers to corrupt the intestinal fortitude of our children. Eating is not entertainment. Make no mistake about it, we will Return America To Sanity and take our country back. RATS is our rallying cry!”


“Right under our noses spicy foods are pouring across our borders. Under my administration I will enforce a complete shake out of these foreign invasions. We will bring back “American” and remove “ethnic”. We will defund the sanctuary cities that harbor those who encourage the consumption of spicy foods. My staff has uncovered hidden cells across the country that are stockpiling Middle Eastern spices like harissa designed to bring terror to American stomachs. Make no mistake, a vote for Saint Dee is a vote to restore American sanity!”


“When Americans go out to eat they should not have to worry that habanero chilis in their salad will lead them to opiates or that hot paprika sprinkled on their oatmeal will turn them into fentanyl addicts. No sir! The Saint Dee government will not allow it.”


“Milk toast is about as comforting and nourishing as it gets. I used to serve it on my menu. We also served such American greats as hamburgers, liver and onions, and steak sandwiches. These are the foods that create intestinal fortitude.”


“Spicy foods are a form of cultural propaganda designed to keep the population in a perpetual stupor. Don’t be fooled. Spicy foods are at war with our intestinal fortitude. They have infected and corrupted our society because our leaders are weak or nefarious. We’ve got to be willing to fight against spicy food at every turn. I, and I alone, can fix it. Under my Presidency America will be the country where spicy foods go to die! And yes, I will Restore America To Sanity and the intestinal fortitude that made our country great will once again reign from sea to shining sea.”


Thunderous applause broke out. Hoots and yells from a crowd mobilized, standing on their seats.


“Saint Dee! Saint Dee! Saint Dee! Saint Dee!”


Ronnie Saint Dee couldn’t hide the smile on her face. She had won them over. She waved goodbye to the crowd, climbed down from the podium and was quickly escorted to her bulletproof red, white and blue Hummer. There were more stops to make, more crowds to face. Giant RATS signs would soon be plastered all over America. But first, lunch. She walked into her hotel and up to her private penthouse suite.


“I do not want to be disturbed until I call you.”


“Yes, Miss Dee. We will post guards outside your door. Rest well. No worries.”


When she was alone, Ronnie Saint Dee changed into a comfortable hot pink pant suit. She left through a private door in the back of the penthouse making sure not to be seen and made her way to Room 304. She pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and dialed Pepperfire Hot Chicken.


“I want to order the jumbo hot chicken plate. Yes, the large one. Hottest sauce. To go, yes. Room 304 Conrad Hotel.”


Intestinal fortitude, she laughed to herself. The courage and determination to do something difficult or unpleasant. “Hot damn,” she said out loud. “I sure do love that spicy chicken.”


Sitting back in her chair, her mouth watered in anticipation of the food to come. She made a decision to take the rest of the day and night off. She called her staff and told them she needed the afternoon and night alone in her room. Then he took off the wig and the false eyelashes and the make up, the tight girdle, the breast prosthesis and the other enhancements that created Saint Dee. He put on a pair of jeans, a white t-shirt and a pair of Nike Airs.

Might as well relax and enjoy the night, he said to himself. I’ve earned it!