Posted: January 20, 2018
Well, there is a catchy title. And not a bad measure to live by in these strange times.
This account I have worked on for a bit of time but have decided to post it today based on the one year anniversary of Inauguration of Donald Trump. While it has always been the case, I think that today especially we need good role models in the world, not homophobic, racist liars who cheat on their taxes and burn business partners and contractors. Donald Trump was not respected in the real estate investment industry because of his unethical behavior.
When he was elected over a year ago most critics thought that once in office there would be one of two outcomes: he would be impeached, or that he would otherwise rise to the occasion and perform in a way that the office he holds deserves. Well to date he is still in office and by most accounts has become less statesmanlike. The groups he gave indications during the campaign he did not respect- the LGBTQ community, Americans of any colour other than white, the poor, and anyone who ever voted Democrat, were now fair game for his intolerance. Members of those groups who as loyal Republicans voted for him and thought he might change after the election (perhaps with some encouragement from other elected Republicans) are now seeing their voting error turn into a horror.
Leopards don’t change their spots. While this has been a horrendous year with him in office, with good civil servants running for the door and taking early retirement and positions being filled with opportunists I am afraid this is only the beginning of his reign of terror and that he will continue to divide the country and diminish its role in the world even more.
The American people have made peculiar choices at times. When George W. Bush was elected the first time, it was just a fluke but to elect him the second time knowing what he was like and having seen the way he handled things in his first term is baffling for most of us as outside observers. I recall when Ronald Regan was elected and Jane Fonda was asked what she thought of “an actor in the Whitehouse” and her response was that the significance was not that he was an actor, but “so bad an actor” on all levels. Sometimes the American people get it right – Barack Obama as a recent example, but Trump? Yikes!
So back to the topic at hand. I have met Margaret Atwood a few times and can definitively report that it was more of a thrill for me than for her.
On her writing I am a picky fan, loving some, liking most and some, well not so much. On her role as an activist, dissident and staunch supporter of good causes however I am immensely proud of her and other than one letter of support for a University of British Columbia professor who did not deserve it has had an impeccable record of calling it right and fighting the good fight.
In Canada, she is of course viewed as a national treasure.
The piece below is fictional I have to say for legal reasons but based rather faithfully on a true event. A few details have been altered to make it fictional and to keep me out of jail. I have spent a few nights in jail cells and they are not recommended for anyone, but especially for anyone with an older back. The food is also not recommended. They also have a nasty tendency to leave the lights on all night, and not to provide pillows.
It is a story about the challenge of celebrity and persona, an issue to be grappled with by any person in the public eye, and the associated responsibility not only for the person involved but even for those who might somehow represent them.
WHAT WOULD MARGARET ATWOOD DO?
It was October 2014 and the event was not a regular one on the New York arts calendar. The celebration of The Books to Film Centers move to their new facility was both an acknowledgment of the work that everyone had put in, the financial support of the donors to date and a final push to fill the last gap in the funds needed.
And then it happened, The Donald arrived with his posse. The room all seemed to inhale simultaneously at the arrival and if the facial expressions could be frozen in time it would be a snapshot of shock and awe.
While she had no particular role at the event one small woman in her seventies with a crown of curly grey hair was pensive. “What would Margaret Atwood do?” she thought to herself. She was often taken for the writer, particularly in Canada or at literary events. Originally Peggy was amused by the attention and instead of embarrassing the person doing the asking she would simply smile, shake a hand, and on rare occasions sign a book. She had never been seen with Margaret Atwood, and it was a good thing as they didn’t look all that much alike in her opinion. If anyone had seen them together she felt it would be obvious that she was younger, better looking and a bit “hot” in a seniors way. She had thought often of doing her hair differently or dressing differently than she and Margaret Atwood typically dressed but had not made the change for some reason.
Most of the time she found the attention positive or amusing but often, being interpreted as the celebrated author and advocate for various causes, had its burdens. She would be letting Margaret Atwood and her public down to not act in character in some difficult situations.
“What would Margaret Atwood do?” she thought again to herself as he began walking her way. Yes, it was going to be another encounter with this ass. The last time she had run into this arrogant bully all he could say was ” I seen a movie made from one of your books”. What an insightful, and grammatically innovative comment she had thought at the time and had conjured up her best impression of what she thought Margaret Atwood would say “Well I hope you are the better for it”.
So here he was again, pushing his way toward another experience with a writing legend whose work he had not read, but felt compelled to speak to – one legend to another. What would Margaret Atwood do? Peggy smiled as she thought of some of the possibilities in this evening where many had put on skits acting out famous scenes from books and film in support of the cause. The images that ran through her head included pretending to pick her nose while he spoke to her, crouching down as if on a toilet as he approached, and pretending to snort cocaine. These all made her smile, which he noticed and brought out a smile on him as he loomed closer.
No, none of these things she would do, as clearly, they were not things that Margaret Atwood would do. With only moments to go and as his hand began to move upward to shake hands, Peggy turned around to put her back to him and was immediately joined by her friend to the right and and then her friend to the left and others as they closed in to make a circle, tightly packed shoulder-to-shoulder and one started telling a story so they could all be engrossed in the moment and stay an inwardly focused and very tight group. Seconds later other groups started doing the same as The Donald hunted the room. From above it would have looked like synchronized snubbing. He turned a little rouge, put his chin up and reflected for a moment while massaging the front of his neck, then pivoted, and after conversing with part of his entourage briefly and he was off to another event.
Peggy had averted another disaster, and after some polite chats with the host and a few others headed off herself, with both her and Margaret Atwood’s reputations intact.
A note to readers: I don’t have a problem with this or any other piece of mine you read here being reproduced, but please attribute it to me. Thanks. Django