April 23rd, 2019


Mr. Fury vs. Miss Reason

Paul Greenberg

By Paul Greenberg

Published Oct. 12, 2015

   Mr. Fury vs. Miss Reason

It was one of those glorious fall Sundays here in Arkansas when the leaves rustle like music, the golden light softens everything in sight and the crisp air is filled with autumnal nostalgia. If you listen carefully, you may hear the sound of a youthful game of touch football somewhere in the distance. ... Oblivious to it all yet somehow affected by this best of seasons, Mr. Fury's usual mix of anger and dyspepsia seemed strangely muted as he strode down the church steps after services. Perhaps it was the communion wine. An insurance adjuster, he was accustomed to reckoning the costs of damages and always expecting the worst.

The halcyon skies and gentle winds had already made him decidedly uneasy by the time he encountered Miss Reason, the history teacher at the local high school. She would probably say something infuriating, he thought, always picking a fight for no good reason, the way women do, and he was in no mood to put up with it, whatever the weather.

"Good morning," she said. Aha! he thought. Just like her, for nothing upset him like ordinary pleasantries, and the blithe smile she always seemed to have. Unless it was women who didn't know their place.

Good morning indeed, he harrumphed to himself. "What's good about it?" Mr. Fury wanted to know, speaking with his usual asperity. "The country is being overrun by all this riffraff, and we've got a president who invites all these foreigners to just run all over the rest of us, a shiftless bunch who'll never put in a day's work, and who need to be sent back to where they came from...."

"It's always enlightening to hear your well-informed views on current events," said Miss Reason without a trace of irony, for she had grown accustomed to dealing with the occasional cocksure adolescent in one of her classes who was determined to display his ignorance at high volume and considerable length. By now she thought of them as just another occupational hazard, and had learned to humor them.

"Just listen to what Donald Trump has to say about it," said Mr. Fury, whipping out his iPhone to find The Donald's latest lament about the deplorable state of the Union and how the average man doesn't have a chance anymore because the deck is stacked against him. And against black Americans in particular, who can't find jobs because of these foreigners swamping the labor market: " 'For black Americans without high-school diplomas, the bottom has fallen out: More than 70 percent were employed in 1960, compared to less than 40 percent in 2000. Across the economy, the percentage of adults in the labor force has collapsed to a level not experienced in generations.' Now that's my kind of candidate. He tells it like it is."

"Goodness," said Miss Reason. "I had no idea. Here I thought the rise in the number of black Americans without jobs started long before the arrival of these millions of immigrants legal and otherwise, and had quite different causes. Like the collapse of the black family and black church over the years. And that actually the number of illegal immigrants has fallen in recent years, thanks to better law enforcement on our southern border and the Great Recession of 2008, which eliminated so many jobs.

"As I understand it," she continued, "Mexico isn't even the principal source of this latest wave of immigration to our shores but countries like China and India. But the one thing that hasn't changed is many Americans' reaction to each successive wave of new immigrants: These people are different from us. They'll never assimilate. So let's pull up the ladder now that we're aboard. You'd think our xenophobes would be able to come up with something more original, but they haven't. Mr. Trump is just the latest in a long line to decry immigration to this country and all the dangers it supposedly represents. In the 19th century, it was the Germans and the Irish who were about to swamp us, and in the early 20th century, it was the New Immigration from southern and eastern Europe -- Jews, Italians, Poles ... who would never become good Americans like the rest of us. They'd never learn English, they'd bring crime and disease with them, and steal jobs from the native- born. In short, just the sort of thing these latest immigrants are accused of."

"Please don't try to confuse me with the facts," harrumphed Mr. Fury. "I know what I think and, more important, what I feel. And I'm in no mood to go into all that history. It just interferes with my dissatisfaction with things in general and spoils my day. If I didn't have somebody to blame my troubles on, I'd be lost."

"Of course," soothed Miss Fury. "I'm sure you know more about these things than a political novice like me ever will, which is why it's so good to have you enlighten me. It's a real education."

"I'm sure it is," said Mr. Fury, before stomping off, thoroughly enjoying his bad mood on a beautiful day, and taking some satisfaction in having straightened out Miss Reason at last.

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Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.