Friday, April 28, 2017

Toffile Barre

Josh Marshall writes that the current White House has a "Mailer Problem." It's not that they know General Flynn is not to be looked into because of something specific. Rather, they just figure that there will be something there, if investigations look long and hard enough. This is apparently because the White House knows they did not vet General Flynn for his job, but just figured that since he had a job with the previous administration, he was vetted. He wasn't National Security Advisor back then. It wasn't the job of the Obama Administration to vet him for National Security Advisor. And there's also the detail that he was fired by the Obama Administration. This is the moment when ignorance merges with responsibility.

Toffile Barre had only one criticism of his wife. She went to sleep before she went to bed. Or something like that. Once long long ago he murdered the wild colonial boy rather than murder her. She and Toffile buried the boy in the cellar. One night the skeleton climbed the stairs and stood at the door to the living room, waiting for things to "happen in their favor."

My first impulse was to get to the knob
And hold the door. But the bones didn’t try
The door; they halted helpless on the landing,
Waiting for things to happen in their favor.
The faintest restless rustling ran all through them.
I never could have done the thing I did
If the wish hadn’t been too strong in me
To see how they were mounted for this walk.
I had a vision of them put together
Not like a man, but like a chandelier.

I wonder if little Donald, a boy of 8 in knickers, frequently allowed his curiosity to win the day. No doubt his dad, Fred, whipped the hell out of him when the wrong door got opened. Donald didn't stop opening doors. He probably learned, better and better as time went on, to find the better suspect. He didn't have the bad luck to open the wrong door.

I knew a kid like that. He was in the Boy Scouts, in the same Troop as me. He was about eleven when, on a Saturday, he got into a crane at a work site about half way between my house and his. Somehow he got the crane cranked up and started messing with the various controls. It was something he would do. He was always pissing off the Scout Master for not following rules or orders. He got the derrick moving, swung it around to where it hit some electric lines that ran along the street beside the construction site, which was I think a church along Clarke Avenue, in Raleigh. When he hit the power lines he was electrocuted.

This happened about 1954 or so. They'd already electrocuted Julius and Ethel Rosenberg I think, although that didn't come up in the weekly Troop Meetings. We did do a lot of marching, in the side yard of the West Raleigh Presbyterian Church where the Troop met. There was probably by then an Atomic Merit Badge, but aside from the marching around we mostly were in it for the camping trips. One time we did three days of the Appalachian Trail, a still memorable thing that occupies a good deal of space in my mental photograph album. We camped the first night near some rapids, on a rock shelf. The next day we hiked all day. The last day we ran out of water, and the map we were using didn't mention that good water points might be dry in the summer, so we were pretty damn dry when we finally got to our pickup on the highway. I remember the best milkshake I ever had at the end of that trip, and a great hamburger. The adult leaders were ready to get home. When some kid said they had to stop for a pee, the driver said "at least you're not a girl, you've got something to hold on to." I can imagine Fred Trump saying something like that to little Donald.

All during this time, the Russians had enough missiles to obliterate every city in the United States, not to mention Fort Bragg, which was just down the road and the home of the 82nd Airborne, and a place we'd go camp on short weekend trips. How did the United States manage to deal with this significant restriction on it's field of movement and action. It's a wonder. There were various hot spots in the decades of my youth. The Suez Crisis. Hungary. The Cuban Missile Crisis. The Bay of Pigs. The assassination of John F. Kennedy. That was a pretty damn big one. But even after that the Civil Rights Movement continued, and found some significant end points in the Voting Rights Act and the various other public accommodations rulings and legislations that at least addressed the most obvious surface issues of being black in America in 1963. And there was no nuclear war.

Now little Donald has grown up, and hears the rattle of bones on the other side of the cellar door. He always got what he wanted, and never knew a thing about why he wanted it. I want to crank this crane. When the colonial boy's skeleton hand reaches for Toffile's wife after she's opened the door, she slaps it away, and the little finger bones scatter across the living room floor. She keeps one in her button box even "now," but cannot find it, only the gesture of looking for it to "prove" to the narrator that her story about the ghost bones is true.

The rustling at the cellar door is insistent. It has taken men and women of significant perspicacity to consider the implications of opening that door. We've been over the years quite lucky, really. John Adams predicted, in 1814, that our democracy would be short-lived. Democracies commit suicide he said. Perhaps his historian descendant Henry expected this to be the conclusion of the Civil War when he opined that they should have hung Robert E. Lee. Root out the treason, Henry thought.
History went differently. Oppenheimer ran the operation to build the atomic bomb, and it worked, and when he said mankind had opened the door to oblivion he lost his security clearance.

My guess is, Donald Trump doesn't know this history. When Frost tells him that in the morning, as he is leaving the old crone's cottage, he sees on the mailbox, "Toffile Barre," Donald is convinced. There is a finger bone in that button box.

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