Vignette: The Dictator’s Punishment

When they finally extricated The Dictator from his home, they stood him on the front porch and surrounded him with their guns aloft, the barrels creating a starburst pattern around his crimson faux-military getup. And from there he had to watch as they deployed his punishment:

With the flip of a small red switch, it all happened at once. Streets named after him were rechristened with the names of the people who died under his policies. Portraits of him in government offices were taken down. The buildings he had prominently displayed his name on Lost their signage to become just another skyscraper, just another hotel. Every internet post and social media account bearing his name was wiped clean. Book publishers replaced his name in every draft with just “A Man” and pulled existing copies containing his identity from the shelves.

Nobody eradicated the facts of what he had done and how he had ruined everything he touched during his rule. They didn’t ignore the ways he had come into power. To forget history doomed the country to repeat it, and no one wanted that.

What they did do was remove the memory of his name. They denied The Dictator a legacy. Because in the end, he was never concerned with doing good for the country. He was only concerned with implanting his name in its history, raising it in ten-foot letters across the fruited plains and purple mountains majesty.

Once they barred him from re-entering the home, they let The Dictator walk freely among the people he had once ruled. The Dictator waited for someone to yell something, throw something — anything to assure him they knew who he was and remembered that he once had power.

But no one did anything. No one spoke to him directly or whispered his name. A woman hustled past him with a quick “excuse me” that he heard her reiterate to other strangers on the street in the same tone.

The Dictator wasn’t special anymore. He was just another person on the street, and it was the worst torture a man like him could ever be asked to endure.

Vignette: “McCabe and Mrs. Miller”

They killed him because he defended his wife from their slander.

They beat his skull in and threw him in the snow because he spoke up when one of them said his wife, Shelley Duvall, worked for the local brothel run by Julie Christie and Warren Beatty. And that scene just got to her. The rest of “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” was weak as far as Westerns, New Cinema era films, Warren Beatty projects and movies about prostitutes go, but that scene? What an indictment of modern man. Modern men.

Watching a man’s brain turned to pulp because he dared to speak out against liars wouldn’t have had as much an effect on her if she hadn’t spent the previous day watching a woman’s brain be probed, questioned and discounted because she dared to speak out against a liar. Meanwhile, the accused’s friends allowed him a platform where he could cry, yell, wrongfully define the law, and contend that the system is rigged against him, when all he’s ever done in his life is take advantage of a system built by men who look like him, for men who look like him.

No wonder the back of her neck tingled with rage as he brought up his daughters praying for “the woman” — not even “the Doctor,” yes, “Doctor Blasey Ford.” He couldn’t even grant her the humanity that a name and title afford, even though she was forced to speak his name again and again throughout her testimony.

Suddenly that movie from 1971 seemed to predict 1991, which reappeared in 2018 and would, inevitably, end the same way. Anyone who dares speak in defense of a woman against vicious lies gets left in the snow to die, and the animals that laid him to waste get to walk free.