Sorry I’m a bit off my game today, but I spent late last night and early this morning trying to calm down Chuck Q. Farley. He rushed to my house past midnight in a panic because… well, just listen in on our conversation.
“Drackler!” he shouted as he banged on my door, “the President’s done found out what I said about him back at New Year’s and he’s mad at me! I got a letter back from him! He hates me!”
I let him in as soon as I recognized his voice, and I tried to comfort him as I scanned the note. “Aw, Chuck Q., there’s no need to worry,” I said. “You seen any Secret Service people around?”
“If they air, they’re hid good,” he responded, glancing around nervously.
“Well, the return address on this is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, sure enough, but the postmark’s local to here. I don’t think the President writes with any pen name like ‘Buck Q. Fuddy’ the way this person does. He’d rather Tweet. Besides, the letter and envelope are written in pencil! I’m jealous, though. I’ve not gotten one letter of fan mail yet, and here’s your first.” I clapped his shoulder and grinned at him.
He blinked. “FAN mail? Can’t you see how bad he’s a-tryin’ to make me feel?”
“How can you tell it’s a he? Somebody, male or female, just made up this name as a play on yours to hide his—or her—own. This isn’t from the President. Likely it’s just somebody around here that’s been encouraged to be rude by his way of talking on Tweets and in speeches and who’s trying to mimic him for some reason.”
Chuck Q. shook his head. “Ever’ word he can think up to try and make me feel about two inches tall,” he sighed. “Castin’ all them aspirations on me! All them stupid names! Just because he thinks I don’t agree with what he believes. Or she, I know. But you coulda warned me about the risk of such as this,” he added with a reproachful look at me.
“Well, Chuck Q., newspapers feel like no publicity is bad publicity. They’ll let almost anything go in an opinion piece as long as it doesn’t violate State and Federal law. And personally, I think your ideas about the makeup and undertakers weren’t half bad. Maybe it’s just the way you—and I—stated ‘em. But this,” I continued, re-scanning the letter, “the most charitable way I can look at it is the writer could be tryin’ to sound like a drill instructor. A drill instructor always worries that his recruits might go to battle after basic training and get killed because he didn’t teach them how to do something right. So these harsh words, even in the best light they could have been spoken, are based on fear and insecurity, drill instructor or not.”
“How you figure?” he asked.
“Unless two people completely lose their tempers and start calling each other names out of rage, any time an adult uses this kind of demeaning talk to another adult it means that the first adult is trying to cover up a mighty powerful insecurity. I think that’s why so many people around here put such hope in the President. Times are changing and they’re insecure and scared. They’re religious, but their faith seems to have gotten just like that song about the Vietnam vet: ‘One minute I’d kneel down and pray and the next I’d stand and curse.’ Anyhow, hearing the President talk smack like that makes them feel good about themselves somehow, and so they ape him.”
“Well, I like the way the President talks, myself!”
“Sure, till this letter came and you got talked to that way yourself. When the shoe’s on the other foot it’s different.Try to forget this stupid thing, but if you can’t help thinking about all the mean names the writer called you, just keep in mind how many nights a week he—or she—maybe lying awake till dawn dreading something. Or maybe dreading nothing, which is actually scarier.”
Chuck Q. looked at me. “Awful preacherly talk for somebody that ain’t preachin’ no more,” he grumbled. “You sure you shouldn’t go back at it?”
“Chuck Q., I think the ‘Prosperity Gospel’ is hogwash, and I’ve seen too much out of too many people ever to believe ‘Name It and Claim It’ again. No way for me to succeed, feeling like that. But don’t worry. We’ll just try to survive whatever comes, I guess like cockroaches and Keith Richards always manage to do.”