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October 24th, 2017

Insight

Mr. Fury vs. Miss Reason

Paul Greenberg

By Paul Greenberg

Published Dec. 1, 2014

     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 falls somewhere between a Titian and El Greco, and the crisp air is filled with autumnal nostalgia, maybe cries of a youthful game of touch football somewhere in the distance, and general sociability.

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.

"My goodness, you're looking even more dapper than usual," she continued, "though you always cut a dashing figure." He ignored her effrontery, pretending he hadn't heard the compliment, though later he would repeat it to himself word for word while deciding whether to wear his gray or blue tie with his businessman's blue serge, and grudgingly allowing himself to smile at his reflection in the closet mirror.

But this sunny Sunday, as was his habit, he went on expecting the worst, while Miss Reason, he knew, would always be one of those maddening types who always expected the best. (Curiously enough, each found exactly what they were always looking for.) 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, we've got a president who acts more like an emperor, ignoring law and order and precedent, and letting these foreigners run all over the rest of us, speaking their own language instead of American, giving them special privileges like work permits so they can take our jobs, a shiftless bunch who'll never put in a day's work, and who need to be sent back to where they came from, and furthermore...."

"It's always so 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.

"Dear me," Miss Reason went on to say, as if just musing, "I really must pay more attention to the news, for I had no idea all that was going on. I just keep my nose in dusty old history books, you know, and here I thought there was ample law and precedent for the president's executive order, the one deferring deportation for some of those here illegally. I even seem to vaguely recall a statute that expressly authorizes such executive actions. One that goes back to the Reagan administration, and that every president since has used to defer deportations for humanitarian reasons. And didn't Mr. Reagan even extend the practice to cover the children of such immigrants...."

"Bah, humbug," retorted Mr. Fury. "Reagan! I never was fond of that matinee idol with that movie-actor smile of his, that Democrat in Republican's clothing, that great pretender, that RINO, that sellout...."

"And even before him," Miss Reason was saying, as if searching her memory, "President Eisenhower wouldn't deport refugees from Communist countries, if I recall...."

"Another softie!" Mr. Fury snorted. "If anything, he was even worse than Reagan. I never did like Ike -- with that grin of his, certainly not after he stole the party's nomination from Sen. Taft and deprived us of another satisfying defeat...."

"I'm sure Mr. Taft was a fine gentleman," soothed Miss Fury, who never seemed to have a bad word to say about anyone. "But he couldn't be as agreeable as you always are, Mr. Fury. It's such a pleasure to see you, and 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 should think so, thought Mr. Fury, telling himself the girl wasn't really such a bad sort if someone would just take her in hand and show her the true, rocky path in these matters. Instead, she took all this church talk about Do Unto Others and Love Thy Neighbor and the Least of These entirely too seriously. Which was all very well in church, and that's where it ought to stay. It's one thing to hear the Gospel preached, but quite another when someone like Miss Reason wanted to follow it in real life. That was going too far.

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

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