“Look, Elie, I’ve been thinking about this too, obviously,” said the skeleton of my father from his grave at the First Hebrew Congregation of Peekskill cemetery. “I think, if you want to sell your book, you have to set my lifelong, losing struggle to see justice and fairness in America against the lifelong winning struggle of my near contemporaries, Charles and David Koch, to make sure that justice and fairness, such as they will be allowed at all, are exclusively on terms advantageous to their vast fortune.”
I don’t say no, I think it’s probably a good idea to seize the political moment, make it topical, that may really be the likeliest way to market your life, the way to properly brand you, but… you know, the other critique I sometimes get is that too much of what I’ve written is too political, too historical, filled with too much contemporary news-driven drama that will soon make it dated.
“Dated,” said the skeleton, “no idea is sadder to a dead man than that…”
A Westchester County turkey vulture made a lazy circle in the sky overhead.
“OK, obviously, we don’t need to talk directly about the horrors being wrought by this wealthy hateful imbecile and his ass-licking inner circle. But the long arc of my life is fair game, the things that were going on during my long life led directly to this point in history. How many people, do you suppose, know the ongoing history of the backlash against Brown?
“You were a baby when the shit started really hitting the fan on that one, as I was pelted with rotten eggs for the temerity to speak, in New York City public schools, mind you, in favor of the desegregation of our public schools. That’s a book right there, the struggle of white people not to have their children sit next to black children in schools, a struggle being fought as vigorously today, on the segregation side, as it was in 1955.
“Since every movement needs a name, some racist cracker, Senator Byrd from Virginia, I think, coined “massive resistance”– that was their rallying cry, the principled men and women who opposed federal tyranny and resisted the Supreme Court order to desegregate the schools ‘with all deliberate speed’, a phrase that has become as ridiculous, over the many decades, as “fair and balanced” as the motto of right wing state TV.
“You remember I told you and your sister not to buy Sugar Daddies, Sugar Mamas and Sugar Babies? Robert Welch, the guy who owned that candy company, got together with Fred Koch and a few other rich reactionaries and founded a society of extremists called the John Birch Society. I know you remember me telling you about that, and you and your sister stopped buying that candy, though you both loved it.
“You know, reading about the John Birch Society and its roots never occurred to me when I was alive and had a computer, but you can ask Jeeves who John Birch was, I forget. I think he was some fundamentalist martyr, a Christian shahid, but I don’t recall the specifics.”
Pretty close, this from the John Birch Society website:
Put simply, John Birch was a devoted Christian missionary who heroically served in World War II and was killed by Chinese Communists 10 days after the end of the war, when he was only 27. Communists that were supposedly WWII allies with the U.S.
“Just like a fucking commie, isn’t it, Elie?” said the skeleton, face as deadpan as a grinning skeleton’s face can be.
As your friend Robert Welch told the assembled at the founding meeting of the John Birch Society, the increasing evil in the world:
… has caused me to give up business career and income and any prospect of ever having any peace or leisure again during my lifetime, is due in large part to my admiration for John Birch; to my feeling that I simply had to pick up and carry, to the utmost of my ability and energy, the torch of a humane righteousness which he was carrying so well and so faithfully when the Communists struck him down.”
“Ah, the ‘torch of a humane righteousness’– what the world needs now, like love, sweet love itself. Yeah, baby. You know, that first meeting was the year your little sister was born. Basically, for your entire lives there has been a passionate movement, gathering steam, funded by the inheritors of vast wealth, finally attaining the power to make this great American experiment in democracy a done deal. It’s taken them the span of your lifetime, but they are finally in a position now to impose, as Lenin did, a one-party state. If only they can nail down a few loose corners before they die, put at least one last conservative think tank trained zealot on the Supreme Court, they will die with smiles on their humane, righteous faces.”
As if on cue, the turkey vulture released a long stream of excrement. As the plume fell to earth my father’s skeleton pointed.
“I rest my case, Elie, restrict immigration.”
Do we know if vultures shit while flying?
“I assure you that your boy Walter Mosley would not lose a second of sleep wondering about a detail like that,” said the skeleton. The skeleton, I believe, was also a fan of Mosley’s. He loved Elmore Leonard too.