Friday, February 3, 2017

We Are Not As We Were....

“Life sucks,” said Lady, rather uncharacteristically, since she normally is quite cheery. “Everything sucks after Donald Trump.”

“I know what you mean,” I told her. “I’ve decided, I can’t do Facebook any more than once a day: otherwise, I’ll be in a total funk. And that goes for the news, as well. But the big question is: what to do? Call my representative? Jennifer González? Who has no vote? Am I deadened already? It’s just two weeks now since the brute took office, and I’m feeling completely beaten down.”

We move to the back of the gift shop, where there are sofas and a half-moon stage.

“Can I tell Marc your story?” Lady asked a woman sitting nearby; the woman didn’t respond.

“It’s OK,” I told her. “Everybody has the right to keep their own story private….”

Lady tells me anyway: the woman’s children got taken away from her.

“She’s a wonderful mom,” said Lady. “The kids are very happy, you can tell.”

The lady begins to cry. A man comes in, and hugs her.

“Husband?” I whisper to Lady.

“Boyfriend,” she mouths back.

I go off in search of a paper towel.

When I come back, the boyfriend is explaining: this is why he is not a Federalist.

Well, neither Lady nor I had much of an idea of what a Federalist might be, but it soon became clear. The boyfriend, it turned out, was against any government intervention, and was indignant that his home state—Mississippi—had been forced to enact seatbelt legislation.

“We had to do it to get funding for the highways,” explained the boyfriend.

“But that’s a good thing: seatbelts save lives,” said Lady.

“Well, if you want to be a damned fool, you should have the right to be,” said the boyfriend. And then he went on to tell us more of his philosophy. In fact, it soon became apparent: the philosophy was vastly more interesting than the woman’s children.

That’s when I got up to leave….

“She lives in the projects,” Lady told me later. “So she’s in the system….”

Lady clearly has absorbed a bit of anti-Federalism. Or maybe not…who am I to say.

“Anyway, some of her neighbors got pissed that she was going to move with the boyfriend to Mississippi, so they told the Family Department that she was neglecting her children. So they set up a sting, luring her to a local park, and then taking the children…..”

She says it matter-of-factly, as if children being taken from a mother were a normal thing.

I ponder it all: the woman who is weeping in the back of a gift shop, the children who are who-knows-where, the boyfriend who values his philosophy seemingly more than his girlfriend’s children. Does any of this make sense? Are we at the point where children can be ripped from a mother’s grasp?

There’s nothing to be done, it seems, about the woman’s children, since she has now left, and her boyfriend as well (though apparently separately). But then I violate my oath, and turn guiltily to Facebook. And that’s when I learn that prayers are being sought for the pregnant wife of an elder at the Third Presbyterian Church in Staunton. This because an old friend is either the minister or in some way connected to the church.

I wrote to my friend and asked: what about a lawyer? (As an atheist, I’m a little weak in the prayer department….) And that’s when I learn that they’re working on it, but it’s a rather specialized field, and the hearing will be in Alexandria.

Somehow, it all seems to make sense, I think, since the point of it all is that nothing makes sense.  And the other point?

We’ve stopped reacting, and that’s what they want. The government takes children away from a mother? The government bans a pregnant woman from entering the country? Even after the most rigorous vetting process in the world? Even after they take fingerprints and DNA samples? Even after the UN, for good sakes, does the initial interview?

Non sum qualis eram,” I told Lady, and she completed the line: “bonae sub Regno Cynarae.”

We are not as we were under the realm of the good Cynara.

Yes, I thought. Cynara took a good look around her, and then took off? Who can blame her? Wouldn’t I, or perhaps even you, do the same? Yes, Cynara took off, leaving only the merest hint of her Alexandrine verse behind her, and who knows Dowson anymore? It will soon be, I tell myself, all quite normal: people will start to disappear, the news will turn astonishingly and consistently glorious about the Trump administration, and how happy we’ll all be, when the EPA is gutted and corporations become not just citizens but privileged citizens, or super citizens! Yes, yes—we’ll be smiling as we get down, five times a day, to pray toward Washington, home of our spiritual and political leader, Donald J. Trump.

Odd—the first thing I think of when I wake in the morning is that Trump is president.

Odd—I no longer remember Cynara’s face…..