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"French revolution: before and after: satirical drawing by French draftsman Caran d'Ache, 1898, in the middle of the Dreyfus affair and the foundation of Action Française. Although the Ancien Régime is not shown as idyllic, the contemporary situation is shown as an increase of oppression, which technical improvements (notice the plowshare) don't lighten, and to which financial capitalism (the banker with his top hat and his wallet), the Freemason (with his set square and plumb bob) and the Jew (with a curved nose) are contributors." (Wikipedia)
" … they, too, know not what in the Hell they're doing. Neither do I."

My neighbor Larry, a perfectly lovely family man with Bible verses posted on his front door, also has a dirty little secret he's a little too enthusiastic to share. We might be quietly conversing about his RV, which he uses maybe four times a year and has never felt competent to drive, and with which he's managed to a) back into a telephone pole, b) back into the door panel of a parked pickup, and c) pull the rear bumper off of after catching it on a gas station's concrete pillar, when his secret comes out. He keeps the RV because twice each year his family, now numbering thirty-five counting great grand kids, decamps to camp somewhere for a week and he and his wife need a place to sleep then. A man needs a certain amount of aggravation in his life, and for me, that RV might fully satisfy my minimum daily requirement, but Larry's little secret compounds his despair. You see, he's also a Conspiracist.

He might be dropping off a couple of dozen eggs, which he delivers gratis, from his chickens, and the topic springs up from nowhere. "If you just read the mainstream news, you'd never know that anything was going on, but they're trying to make us socialist.
They're trying to get everyone trained to refuse to work by sending them checks." The pandemic, of course, has been overblown. He thinks it's just a flu amplified out beyond reason for nefarious purposes to make us socialist. My heart sinks whenever Larry starts in, for my impression of him when I first met him twenty years ago was that he was at root a decent man. Sure, he took the Be Fruitful and Multiply Clause as permission to engage in procreative exponentiation, but all of his many, many kids grew up to be decent citizens with families of their own. This family's more American than apple pie ever aspired to become, and it saddens me to see their patriarch spout such bitterness. Even if any of it held even a shred of truth, the perspective just seems so ungenerous.

Jesus is said to have said that the poor will always be with us. He could have said precisely the same thing about the Conspiracist. Word is that a conspiracy finally did him in, too, and that he foresaw it coming, but he would have had to have been blind to miss it, or hypnotized by mainstream Pharicees or something. Larry doesn't read the NYTimes because he knows it's full of lies. How he knows this he can't precisely describe, but he knows what he knows, evidently from other than mainstream sources, and so he holds that glint in his eye, that same gimlet glint the all-knowing always exhibit. It says, "I've got a secret and you're a sucker if you don't believe it." I recognize that glimmer as evidence of a sense of power, an advantage over others. Everyone else might be heading for Hell and certain damnation, but he's heading toward Heaven. It's a greedy glance, the sort he might most closely associate with a socialist. It's unbecoming on anyone, but tragic to me on him.

If I didn't know better, I'd say that Larry and his lovely wife already live in Heaven, or at least in an earth-bound equivalent. I do not know better. Sure, she had a hip replaced last winter and he had to have a pacemaker put in, but they're both back home more or less continuing their lives apace. He's comfortably retired with a fine yard, chickens, and an old pickup, and she's always watching grandkids or baking, or hosting family gatherings. Their entire extended family lives nearby and it seems as though they're always stopping by, though the dining table Larry and his sons built to seat sixteen won't quite seat thirty-five. But there's a fly in even their blessed ointment. Evil lurks at the gate and demands constant vigilance. The government stands against the people who constituted it. They want to do away with the world we've known and mastered and we're honor-bound to stand against them. I've tried to get Larry to disclose precisely who's an us and who's a them, but the specifics get fuzzy though that glint in his eye never dims.

I tell Larry that I might have to disagree with him on that point before shuffling away disappointed. I'd thought better of him but I won't curse or fear him. I can't stop revering him and his presence, though I find his mean streak more than a little annoying. He's basically meek as a lamb whenever I've felt the need to confront him. He quickly conceded. He seems to need this one annoying little indulgence, though, which has metastasized into a lifestyle. He knows what he knows because he knows it and for no other reason. He speaks with a certainty only absolute falsehoods ever engender. I cannot believe that he'd actually take up arms. He can't even seem to raise his voice. As Jesus never said, the Conspiracist will always be with us. Jesus himself might have counseled ever increasing generosity toward them, for they, too, know not what in the Hell they're doing. Neither do I.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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