My Turn: Please, allow me to retort

For the Monitor
Published: 8/2/2020 6:00:16 AM

I’ve been thinking of the movie Pulp Fiction, specifically the scene where Vincent and Jules take over the apartment of a small group of young guys who have apparently not been honest in their dealings with Mr. Marsellus Wallace. Cowering in a good deal of fear after one of them is shot dead, Brett, the main guy, attempts to explain what happened. Then Jules hollers with palpable menace, “Oh, you were finished? Well, allow me to retort.”

The term is apt for my feelings at the moment. So, allow me to retort. Bluntly retort. More bluntly than is my comfort zone to retort.

At the moment I am trying to figure out what I was watching: a Saturday morning kids show, or did the president of the United States really express his bewilderment about Dr. Anthony Fauci being so popular. Is this real, I ask? And then came the sad, sad lament from the mystified leader of our country, “Nobody seems to like me.”

Please, allow me to retort.

Boo hoo hoo, hoo hoo hoo. Don’t look for my tears, they are busy falling for the 150,000 United States citizens now dead, or the everyone in America who has had their life disrupted because of this virus and the constant feeling of being unsafe around anyone we come in contact with, and this man’s singular obsession with only his ratings.

Never in my life did I ever think a president of our beloved country could be so lacking in compassion, so incompetent, so narcissistic, so immature, so cowardly, so utterly incapable of being truthful, so greedy, so ruinous to the most basic values of our dear country and democracy, so divisive, so full of B.S. on an hourly basis. I flit back and forth from being ashamed and embarrassed at his actions to anger at what they represent under the surface.

I could go on, because there is much to retort, so much to retort. But let me park that for a bit. For the most part, up until now I have tried to be respectful, tried to understand how this happened. Did I have a role in helping him get elected? Could I have played more of a role in not getting him elected?

In fact, over the last five years, yes five, I have written over a dozen pieces for the Monitor dancing around my contempt for this man and all he stands for. Maybe I was being too subtle, maybe I need to be bolder in my pronouncements. I had a rule in all that I wrote, including this latest piece right here – I took pride in never, ever using his name. My small swipe at the ego we must contend with.

I have also been hesitant about offending those who still find him to be worthy, some of you who are my friends. I see the shrines around town, the temples of worship to someone who really doesn’t care a hoot about you.

Just last week he made a new campaign promise: He will bar low-income housing from the suburbs. Can a person really be so low as to think this could be a solution to anything other than a tweak to benign racism? Sowing fear is his No. 1 tactic.

I think about Franklin Roosevelt, who said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” This guy, struggling for your vote and mine, says, “The only thing you have to fear is everything, and everyone.” Especially those low-income people (who might not be white) who might be plotting to bring down the neighborhood.

Just to be clear, I don’t see people struggling to make their lives better as a threat. I see them as people wanting the same things that I want.

Elie Wiesel used to talk about the unfounded fear we have of the “other,” and how misplaced it is. We need to look past that fear to see the humanity, the commonality. Don’t turn them into demons. And don’t make excuses for those who preach hate.

What about my friends who used to, and maybe still do, care about the environment. I wonder about you. How can you balance your support for the damage this president has done to the future of our world’s environment and the concerns you once had to protect all that he is destroying? Sorry, I just don’t get it. I would never sell myself out to someone who is opposed to everything I once believed in, and still do.

Please, allow me to continue retorting. But no, maybe I need to take a moment to listen, to think about my friends and those I don’t know but who disagree with me. Let me be clear: I am not against you. I don’t mean any animus. I am not interested in becoming Jules and raging on about injustices against Marsellus Wallace before emptying my gun. I don’t even have a gun. All I have is a mind full of perplexing questions about why anyone would want to live another four years in this hell that demonizes and destroys everything our country holds of value.

Please understand that I care deeply about the America we all share. It breaks my heart to see it torn apart so violently just to satisfy one person’s ego. I never would have believed it could happen, but here it is. I flash on the words of former congressman Tom Lantos: “The veneer of civilization is paper thin. We are its guardians. And we can never rest.”

There is no retort to that. It is very simple and direct. We are the guardians.

(John Gfroerer of Concord owns a video production company based at the Capitol Center for the Arts.)


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