The Tool

For years, I’ve had this long, 90˚ offset screwdriver. For those of you who have never tried to adjust the tiny mixture and idle screws used to synchronize the four Mikuni carburetors of a big Japanese motorcycle, consider this: Without that specialized $25 tool, it’s a near impossible, hand scorching task, since the alternative is having to reach into a confined space right next to a really hot engine. Ouch!

But I’m done with carburetors. I would never again buy any vehicle that wasn’t fuel-injected…or electric. So I decided to de-access that tool, as I have done recently with lots of the stuff we’ve accumulated over our long existence. And Craigslist has been “Berry, berry, good to me” in that capacity.

So, having just watched the 5 PM offerings on MSNBC, detailing the slime that is now the pro-Trump disembodiment of what was once the Grand Old Party, the doorbell rang. The guy who had previously emailed me with his interest was here to pick up that tool. I thought he’d said Thursday. This was only Wednesday. So I eschewed the normal front porch exchange, invited him in and headed for the basement to get the item.

He certainly seemed innocent enough. I always insist on a phone call when selling online, having confidence in my ability to filter out the scammers and crooks one inevitably encounters in digital space. Despite the fact that he looked every bit like any of the January 6 malcontents I’d just been watching on the tube, I wasn’t really concerned until I returned, tool in hand, and noticed that his baseball-style cap was adorned with the words “Let’s Go Brandon.”

Jesus! Now what do I do? Do I take his money and just wish this hadn’t happened? Do I berate him and cast him from my house? Suddenly a $12 transaction has turned into a philosophical dilemma of biblical dimension.

Unfortunately, this is a situation, in microcosm, that is facing the entire nation–at least its more progressive side. According to the chatter on the airwaves, the whole of the progressive movement is currently wrestling with the idea that maybe its time to more aggressively respond during encounters like this. We have realized that not only is all the craziness not going away, it is expanding. And the very foundation of our democracy is in jeopardy if we simply stand idly by and mutter to ourselves that “This too shall pass.”

When it comes to that “Defenders of Democracy Merit Badge” test, I failed miserably this time. I pocketed the money and bid the guy a “Good Evening,” in effort to get him out my sight as quickly as possible. But, it left me with an emptiness–a feeling of abrogated duty. I saw this guy as what my Mom used to call “a poor soul.” That was Depression-speak for someone without means, without hope–someone lost beyond redemption. I almost felt sorry for him.

Maybe I should have asked him if he’d like to stay a bit, have a beer. Maybe I should have made the effort to try to engage with him and try to counter his “Let’s Go, Brandon” mentality. But, it was just a momentary encounter. And I guess I thought it not worthy of effort.

And that’s where we are failing. Momentary encounters upon momentary encounters, without suitable response, begin to build until it’s finally too late and we are buried. In that sense, by not seizing the opportunity to strike out, it was I who was the tool in this transaction. The tool of something extremely dangerous.

©2022, David B Bucher

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